On 24 April, 2013, Juan Vázquez Guzmán, indigenous Tzeltal, aged only 32, father of two small children aged four and seven, human rights defender and much-loved community leader, was gunned down in the doorway of his home. The territory and community for which Juan gave his life was the communal landholding (ejido) of San Sebastián Bachajón, in the jungle region of the state of Chiapas in South-East Mexico.
Juan was the Secretary General of the adherents to the Sixth in San Sebastián Bachajón, Chilón municipality.
At the time of his assassination neighbors said that Juan was attacked just when he was arriving at his home, and the attackers escaped aboard a red double-cabin pickup truck, which took the highway that leads to the Sitalá municipal headquarters.
Describing what led up to his murder the Wellington, New Zealand Zapatista Support Committee wrote:
Since 2007, the ejidatarios of San Sebastián Bachajón have suffered violence and repression at the hands of Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI)-backed authorities and paramilitary organizations. Their resistance to the take-over of Tzeltal traditional lands for transnational projects, particularly the site of the Agua Azul waterfalls which the ejidatarios have been responsibly and sustainably managing for many years, has placed them squarely in the firing line of those who seek to dispossess them of their lands for commercial gain.
Concerted attempts to break up the community and its resistance began in 2009, with the detention of eight ejidatarios and adherents to the Other Campaign by state and federal police, and the arrest and vicious assault of Ricardo Lagunes at a PRI paramilitary checkpoint after he left a meeting in Bachajón. Two years later in 2011, 117 ejidatarios were arbitrarily detained by police during an eviction attempt at the toll booth at the entrance to the Agua Azul area. Ten, including Pérez Álvaro, remained political prisoners for an extended period of time.
Physical violence and repression have been coupled with legal and judicial abuses, including court decisions denying the rights of ejidatarios, and their arrests and eviction in 2011 enabling authorities to take control of the collectively-owned lands.
The ongoing assaults on Bachajón autonomy culminated on the night of April 24, 2013 in the assassination of Juan Vázquez Guzmán in the doorway of his home.
Last July, the Fray Bartolome de Las Casas Center for Human Rights (CDHFBC) released a statement in which it stressed that,
“Juan Vázquez together with thousands of ejidatarios who adhere to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandona Jungle have distinguished themselves through their struggle for the defense of territory, despite the reprisals of the Mexican government by means of the legal repression of their process toward autonomy. It is important to stress that before the murder of Juan Vázquez, a branch of the large tree of the conscious and dignified struggle of the Ch’ol and Tseltal peoples of the region had been cut. However, this branch has left its remnants and pathway which has eased the process and sprouts elesewhere in other struggles and comrades who join the defense of their people in the construction of autonomy and self-determination for life: a life that flows through the rivers, the wind of the jungle, smell of dignity that is inspired in each breath taken by humanity.”
On March 21st, 2014, Juan Carlos Gómez Silvano, aged only 22, was shot down. At the time of his death, he held the post of regional Coordinator of the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle for the ejido San Sebastián Bachajón and was the father of a baby aged six months.
A Communiqué from the Ejido San Sebastian Bachajon, Adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, Chiapas Mexicoa read in part,
They, those from above, think they know how to damage our rebellion, they are almost certain that by ravaging our compañerxs, tearing up their bodies, they will spread fear and terror and we will stop fighting. We, those from below, we think that dignity, strength, and fighting in the defence of the reproduction of life have deep roots, and cannot be finished off with bullets because the body is something other, it is a collective body, remembering our dead not with nostalgia but by naming them when walking in confrontation against the bad government and the economic groups who exploit, dispossess, despise and repress us.
Juan Carlos Gómez Silvano was killed yesterday, March 21st, in the official municipality of Chilón in the state of Chiapas, trying to stain the spring with blood. They pierced his body with more than twenty bullets of power, bullets of profit, bullets of deception, the bullets of the war against the people which does not end. But they have not killed his history of struggle.
Since we founded the communities of Nah Choj and Virgen de Dolores in 2010, our organization has been harassed at various times by the army and state preventive police, threatening us with eviction because of pressures from those who say they are the owners of the property, among them a former municipal president of Chilón, fomenting division and buying the consciences of some ex compañeros with their crumbs, like they did with Carmen Aguilar Gómez and his son of the same name who, when he sold out to Noé Castañón León, the Secretary of Government of Juan Sabines Guerrero, organized for the eviction of our ticket booth on February 2, 2011 and dispossessed us of our lands in complicity with the ex ejidal commissioner of San Sebastián Bachajón Francisco Guzmán Jiménez (alias el goyito).
The bad government wants to finish us off completely by assassinating our compañeros, like they did with Juan Vázquez Guzmán on April 24, 2013, using their paramilitary gunmen, who with complete impunity, whether by night or in the full light of day, are capable of vilely murdering our compañeros who are working and struggling to construct a world in which other worlds fit, and who are daily resisting the attacks of the capitalist system which wants to make us disappear so they can take over our mother earth, water, rivers, waterfalls and all that will serve to make them more money at the cost of our lives and suffering.
The real criminals, assassins and corrupt ones are the party politicians who, despite reaching their position through fraud and buying votes, consider that they are the owners of all that exists in our lands. Every day they want to get richer and it doesn’t matter how many indigenous they have to kill to achieve this. Like the current mayor of Chilón, Leonardo Guirao Aguilar, a member of the Green Ecologist Party, and one of the authors of the dispossession of our lands, because he financed the weapons of the group led by Carmen Aguilar Gómez the elder, Juan Alvaro Gómez and Manuel Jiménez who evicted our compañeros from the ticket booth in February 2011.
There is now a call for a worldwide action this month in the names of these men and to demonstrate that there is nothing that the State, Global Capital, or anyone else can do to stop the struggle of the world's multitudes. At the same time the action will demand justice for the deaths of these two men, and many others like them.
The following is from The Flower of the World Will Not Die.
Call for the “Two Weeks of Worldwide Action: Juan Vázquez Guzmán lives! The Bachajón struggle continues!”
From Thursday, April 24th to Thursday, May 8th, 2014
“Two Weeks of Worldwide Action: Juan Vázquez Guzmán lives! The Bachajón
struggle continues!” from Thursday, April 24th to Thursday, May 8th, 2014
Please confirm your participation by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org