For the past month, a group of Chiapas Indians had been occupying an archaeological site, demanding a better share of tourism profits. On Friday, state police arrived, killing six of them. Now a video showing the start of the police intervention is circulating on Indian blogs.
Indians from an environmentalist group had been occupying the Chinkultic Maya archaeological site, situated near to Montebello, on the Guatemala border, since 3 September. They were asking for profits from the touristic site to go into local infrastructure construction. On Friday the police came to remove the demonstrators, who had started to collect entrance fees. The Indians defended themselves with sticks and machetes, even managing to capture a large number of officers.
Six of the defenders were killed in the police intervention. The governor of Chiapas was made to publicly explain what happened, and five police officers were arrested on Sunday.
"According to my sources there, the police stopped a car that was taking injured Indians to the hospital, and killed them."
Yvon le Bot is a sociologist specialised in South American studies. He wrote the book, "Le rêve zapatiste" (Seuil) with Subcomandante Marcos.This community is not Zapatista and they don't have any political claim - they're local. They just asked to be able to take part in managing the archaeological site, which is currently managed by the National Institute of Archaeology - probably corrupt like the majority of similar state institutes in Mexico.
According to my sources there, the police stopped a car that was taking injured Indians to the hospital, and killed them. This kind of incident happens often in Mexico. The local media don't mention it because there's no clear political message. The Indians protest and are repressed by the police which are brutal and badly guided. The police functions according to methods inherited from the PRI [the Inistitutional Revoutionary Party], who managed the country in a very authoritarian way between the 1930s and 2000. Even the Chiapas state governor said that there had been a blunder and that it must be investigated.
However, don't think that this is something that shows that the Chiapas Indians are trying to get their independence. The situation over there is nothing like that of the Balkans. Even the Zapatistas are nationalists and are only asking for more autonomy for their region.
Mexico has the largest number of Indians in South America. But they only represent about 10% of the population and they're barely represented in the state. The only Indian movement that held any weight, the Zapatistas, was countered and has been ebbing away since 2001. It still controls the Chiapas communities, but it's lost influence at the national level."
"Seventy of them [the police] were captured by the Indians (...) which explains their nervousness and violence"
Fredy Martin Perez works as a journalist in Chiapas for the daily national El Universal. He followed the story for his paper.The government had suggested to this community to launch touristic and natural-resources projects. But the group wanted to run the site themselves and lower the visiting price from 35 to 25 pesos (€2.10 to €1.20). The authorities didn't think the Indians would be able to manage the site alone. They were worried that the region, which borders Guatemala, would become a trafficking avenue, especially for illegal immigrants.
Between 200 and 250 police officers stepped in at around 2pm on Friday. But around 70 of them were captured by the Indians. So another contingent was sent to help. But the officers were scared that the Indians would use the weapons they had seized - which explains their nervousness and violence during the intervention."
Footage of the police intervention