New Mexican vigilante group’s sympathizers set fire to government offices, businesses

Mexican villagers sympathizing with a new indigenous self- defense group torched government offices, businesses and houses in a remote mountainous region in southern Chiapas state this week, protesting rampant insecurity in the area.

The violence in the indigenous Tzotzil
community of Pantelhó late on Monday and
early on Tuesday came less than two weeks
after a group of hooded men, calling themselves El Machete, took up arms in nearby Chenalhó to confront drug-trafficking gangs. It was unclear how many members El Machete has.

“There is no security here, there is no peace, there is no tranquility” said an unidentified El Machete member, his face covered, in a speech before a crowd on Tuesday afternoon in the main square of Pantelhó.

“There is only fear, crying and fear, extortion and intimidation” he added. He said residents of the area, not El Machete, were behind the fires. Two villagers in Pantelho agreed. Local men targeted the houses of people suspected to have links with drug traffickers, the two villagers said. Local authorities could not be reached for comment.

The Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights
Centre last week said that more than 3,000
people in the area have had to abandon their
homes in recent months due to incursions by
criminal groups seeking to take over the territory. Many tens of thousands of people have been killed or disappeared in Mexico since the government embarked on a “war on drugs” in 2006.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he was against groups that take “justice into their own hands.”

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