(Washington, D.C.)—Mexican authorities should investigate armed attacks in Chiapas that have led to the displacement of more than 5,000 people and provide assistance to those in need, Human Rights Watch said today.
In October, a territorial conflict about communal lands between the municipalities of Chalchihuitán and Chenalhó escalated. A spokesperson for the municipality of Chalchihuitán, Nicodemo Aguilar Sánchez, told Human Rights Watch that on October 18, 2017, members of an armed group killed a man from Chalchihuitán, Samuel Luna Girón. In the following two weeks, he said, armed groups burned at least 12 houses and fired at eight others, which led to more than 5,000 people fleeing their homes.
“The Mexican government urgently needs to attend to the displacement crisis in Chiapas so that people can safely return to their communities as soon as possible,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities should investigate and punish those responsible for any abuses, and ensure that the people who were forced to flee their homes receive the assistance they need.”
Officials from two nongovernmental groups who recently visited the area and the Catholic priest from a nearby parish told Human Rights Watch that the continued presence of armed groups is preventing the residents from returning. A medical mission from two other local aid organizations, Salud y Desarrollo Comunitario and Ixim Antsetic, found that, in addition to the man allegedly killed by members of an armed group, at least six other people have died of illnesses or other causes related to the displacement, such as pneumonia and hypothermia.
Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have expressed their concern about the lack of food, water, and medical attention for the displaced.