The armed conflict in Chiapas crosses borders and hinders Mexican tourism

The armed conflict that Chiapas suffers is becoming a reality beyond its own borders. While the federal and state governments continue to talk about peace, the evidence that large regions of the poorest state in Mexico are controlled by drug trafficking is repeated every day, challenging the official version. The Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), the two most powerful criminal groups in Mexico, fight for the dominance of the plaza in an open war that is especially targeting the civilian, peasant and indigenous population in a very high proportion. The consequences of violence are also beginning to reach the international sphere: travel agencies from France, the United Kingdom and Belgium will stop taking their clients to the Lacandon jungle and the authorities of Guatemala denounce incursions and shootings with members of the CJNG in their territory.

This week, ATC Tour Operators, which defines itself as “the first tourism operator company in Chiapas since 1984”, announced that “the French, British and Belgian agencies that we represent have decided not to continue taking tourists to the entire Lacandon area”, one of the main attractions of the state. The company justifies its decision by arguing that “for more than three months the tourist environment has been drastically violated in some regions of Chiapas” and “derived from situations that occurred with three groups of French people, that we operated in this last fortnight”, without specifying what kind of situations they refer to.

However, in the same statement, disseminated on their social networks, the company talks about incidents with foreign tourists in which the ATC vehicles had to advance “between stones and shootings”. In the writing, the company also refers to the threats and extortions of organized crime. “Armed men, very armed, tell you: ‘Here you can pass with tourists, but this is what you have to pay’, and they tell you the time when you can enter Bonampak [archaeological site], obviously in their cars, that you pay and they tell you that you also have to pay a security guard who accompanies you by force with the title of tourist guide, and they ask you for a thousand pesos and you can’t negotiate anything, because your interlocutor is with a pistol on his waist in plain sight and behind him another guy with a long weapon, and you pay or pay and if there is an ‘operation’, well, you got there for nothing because you don’t pass”.

“And you realize that native Lacandons and Cholets have offensive strength to face the same Mexican Army and the National Guard, openly, you say: ‘This Chiapas is already worthless’”, the text continues. In the affected area to which ATC will no longer make trips are the archaeological sites of Yaxchilán and Bonampak, among other attractions, both ruins of the Maya culture. The US State Department asks its citizens to “exercise extreme caution when traveling to the state of Chiapas due to crime”.

Guatemala looks with suspicion at the border shared with Mexico. The authorities of the Central American country have alerted the Mexican Foreign Ministry about the growing presence of members of the CJNG in their territory. The criminal group has become strong in the region of Frontera Comalapa and Motozintla, municipalities united by a road that the cartel blocks and unblocks at will with its own checkpoints. The population flees from that area, displaced by violence and lack of protection due to the absence of a significant presence of the state and the fear of being killed or recruited by force by organized crime.

Specifically, in recent weeks the CJNG placed a checkpoint on the border between Motozintla, on the Mexican side, and Canton Cheguate, on the Guatemalan side. According to Milenio, the criminals were heavily armed and protected with bulletproof vests. According to the same media, the same members of the cartel starred in the first confrontation against the armed forces of Guatemala in the second week of January. A command crossed into the territory of the Central American country and exchanged fire with a military unit, which counterattacked and managed to capture two of them. Both confessed to being Chiapanecos and members of the CJNG. The police also located two safe houses.

Guatemala has deployed 2,000 soldiers in Canton Cheguate. The strategy is part of an operation that has been underway for months to reinforce the shared border in the face of the lawlessness and violence that reign in Chiapas. Last September, the authorities of the Central American country already announced that more than 300 soldiers had moved to the department of San Marcos, bordering precisely with Motozintla, Amatenango de la Frontera and Mazapa de Madero.

The violent events do not give Chiapas a break, which deals daily with the consequences of the infiltration of organized crime without any counterweights from the government other than a rising militarization that, however, does not manage – or does not try, according to the complaints of many organizations that work on the ground – to tackle the problem. The population displaced by violence is counted in thousands of people, the massacres have become part of the daily vocabulary and, in general, in the region there is a feeling of abandonment and the sensation that the only law that governs the territory is that of the narco.

Even the Church has raised its voice. This is how the Diocese of San Cristóbal de las Casas summarizes it in a statement published this Thursday: “We join our cry to manifest all the outrages and injustices that our peoples and communities live, especially the insecurity, the violence and the territorial dispute caused by organized crime, before which the authorities of the three levels of Government are overwhelmed, permissive or colluded by the system of control that this exercises in the national territory (…) The above brings very strong consequences for our municipalities and our peoples such as: the violence and confrontation generated between armed groups and drug trafficking, which cause kidnappings, disappearances, forced displacements of people and entire families, as well as the loss of their heritage that they have achieved with so much effort (…) And because of the fear of reprisals, impunity and the non-exercise of the rule of law, people do not want to report. It also causes the struggle of powers of organizations, manipulated by political parties, caciquism and business”.

Source: El Pais