Just after mid-day on 23 May 2019 indigenous rights defenders Bartolo Hilario Morales and Isaías Xanteco Ahuejote, indigenous Nahua, members of the Guerrero community police and local promoters of the Indigenous and Popular Council of Guerrero – Emiliano Zapata (CIPOG-EZ), disappeared in the vicinity of Chilapa de Álvarez, in the state of Guerrero, Mexico. On the morning of 24 May 2019 their bodies were found, dismembered and in bags, on the Chilapa-Tlapa highway at a place known as Las Antenas.
This attack and killing of indigenous leaders brings to four the number of members of the Council who were murdered in the month of May 2019 alone. Just 20 days prior to this attack, on 04 May 2019, indigenous rights defenders Lucio Bartolo Faustino and Modesto Verales Sebastián were murdered in the state of Guerrero, Mexico.
A CIPOG-EZ communication issued in the wake of these deaths states that the “crime [of the indigenous people] has been to defend our territory from the extraction of what they call natural resources and for us are sacred hills or springs of water and life”.
The CIPOG-EZ held the three levels of government responsible for the murders; the federal government under Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the state government under Héctor Astudillo Flores and the municipal government under Jesús Parra García, with each level of government doing nothing more than giving continuity to the impunity, passing the responsibility, and claiming that these are problems inherited from past governments.
The following is a powerful extract from the CIPOG-EZ communication:
“Different narco-paramilitary groups have operated for more than twenty-five years in the region of Chilapa, with the complicity of the Mexican State, and today is no exception. The state regime has tried time and again to dismantle our peoples who have resisted the war of extermination for more than five hundred years. Our crime has been to defend our territory from the extraction of what they call natural resources and for us are sacred hills or springs of water and life. We fight to maintain the principle that our grandparents inherited from us, called by us as “usos y costumbres”, a world very different from the one in which the Mexican State has been constituted and which is not compatible with our way of community government.
Our peoples are suffering a systemic violence – our women, children and men disappear or are murdered, and it seems that nothing happens. Everything is left in complete impunity by this government, where one of the strategies of the state is to generate terror in the hearts of our people. Using torture, psychological warfare, death threats, persecution against all the members who serve as promoters of community development.
We as indigenous peoples ask ourselves again and again, why is there so much dehumanization, why is human life no longer worth anything, why are some lives worth less than others? And it seems that those of us below are seen as merchandise. We ask ourselves again and again, how would they, the powerful, the governments with more than 30 million votes, react if this violence happened to one of their relatives? Or are the disappearances, torture, and vile murder only reserved for us?
As a national indigenous movement we struggle to reconstitute the social fabric of our peoples, we struggle to re-establish our communities in peace, and we seek the recognition and reconstitution as indigenous peoples of our languages, our culture and the thinking of our peoples that is interwoven with mother earth.
We demand justice for our murdered brothers: Bartolo Hilario Morales, Isaías Xanteco Ahuejote, Lucio Bartolo Faustino and Modesto Verales Sebastián. May the pain that grips our families, friends and comrades in struggle today not go unpunished or forgotten.”