On the 24th of March of 2016, Juan Carlos Jiménez Velasco was shot dead by several unknown and hooded assailants. Juan Carlos was a teacher and a community leader with the Independent Confederation of Organisations of Civil Association (CIO – AC.) The killing was attributed to a dispute over lands belonging to the former National Indigenous Institute (Instituto Nacional Indigenista or INI,) which have been occupied for over three years.
Juan Carlos’s father, Mariano Jiménez Gómez (ex mayor of the indigenous town of Pantelhó,) Jiménez Velasco and a group of others had participated in the occupation of around 20 hectares of land, where they created the community of Santa Catarina. Located in northern San Cristóbal de las Casas, the land once belonged to the former INI.
Because of a dispute within the community at the end of 2015, dozens of families led by Juan Carlos Jiménez Gómez were expelled, allegedly by members of COMACH (the Environmental Coordination Group for a Better Chiapas or Coordinadora de Organizaciones por el Medio Ambiente para un Chiapas Mejor ) and Almetrach (the Association of Leaseholders of the Traditional Market or Asociación de Locatarios y Mercados Tradicionales de Chiapas.) Rebeca Silvia Pérez López, Juan Carlos’s wife, was seven months pregnant at the time of his death and has accused COMACH members of being responsible for the crime. When demanding justice for her husband, she also stated that she feared for her own life.
Adalberto Hernández Rabanales, coordinator of teachers’ union SNTE (National Coordination of Education Workers or Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación), offered an alternative motive for the killing. The union leader held Almetrach responsible for the killing of of Juan Carlos, saying that he was a teacher and active participant in the teaching profession’s struggle against the recent changes to the education system.
The National Coordinating Group of Education Workers (Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación or CNTE) pointed out Juan Carlos Jiménez Velasco headed the struggle of 50 familes expelled from the community of Santa Catarina de San Cristóbal de las Casas by Almetrach members. A CNTE communiqué points out that on the day of the expulsion, August 10th 2015, Juan Carlos had received several death threats. Through its regional branch, the CNTE expressed concerns for its own members and for the murdered teacher’s family and said that they would hold Almetrach, the city council of San Cristóbal de las Casas and the state and federal governments responsible for anything that might happen to them.