At least five new self-defense forces have sprung up in Chiapas since July 7 in areas east of Tuxtla Gutiérrez.
The most recent group announced its presence in a video uploaded to social media featuring camouflaged indigenous Tzotziles from Santa Martha Chenalhó wearing balaclavas.
The group said it formed to curb the violence over a land dispute with the nearby communty of Aldama which has run for 60 years and has left nearly 20 people dead.
Other forces are more explicitly political in their goals. A group formed in October in Altamirano aims to remove former mayor Roberto Pinto Kanter and his wife, mayor-elect Gabriela Roque Tiapcamú, from power.
In a video similar in design to the first, they stated their accusations: “… we have seen how the rich protect themselves among the rich, how politicians protect themselves among politicians, whatever political stripe they are, they want to deceive us into believing that they have changed their political stripes and are new. What never changes is their indifference towards us, the Tzetal and Tojolabal Indians,” a spokesperson said.
“Here the person that wins an election is the one with the most money,” he added.
Another group called The Machete, which announced its aims on July 7, formed in opposition to Pantelhó Mayor Raquel Trujillo, who it accuses of having links to organized crime. Another group called People of the Forest popped up on September 29 to support The Machete.
A fifth group is called the Armed Force of Simojovel. It demands that mayor-elect Humberto Martínez respect indigenous communities, and end crime and the theft of public resources.
The sparsely populated, rural state is politically fragmented and complex. Aside from self-defense forces the largely indigenous militant Zapatistas (EZLN) control substantial swaths of land, making the authority of the state’s elected politicians questionable.
The EZLN rose in opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994 and demanded that the autonomy of indigenous communities be recognized in the constitution.
With reports from Milenio