Acteal families hold peaceful march of protest (Mexico)

Last Friday in Tuxtla Gutierrez (the state capital of Chiapas), families of The Innocent

of Acteal and several hundred supporters held a peaceful march to the Supreme Court of Justice Hall. The march was held after three months had passed without any progress in the review of the case ordered by President Fox.

The Innocent of Acteal are a group of 80 prisoners (about half of them evangelical Christians) who have been imprisoned for over six years – after being falsely accused of involvement in the Acteal massacre of December 1997.

Some people travelled for over five hours from distant towns to join with the marchers – a tremendous sign of solidarity. Many of the marchers were pastors, church leaders, and people influential in their communities.

At 10:00 a.m. the march began from the central square in Tuxtla, with a prayer and a song together. The marchers sang evangelical choruses, chanted slogans for peace, justice, fair play, and sang a few songs in their native Tzotzil language as well.

Marchers carried banners bearing Bible verses such as Proverbs 12 v 28: In the way of righteousness, there is life, along that path is immortality and Isaiah 32 v 17: The fruit of righteousness will be peace, the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence for ever.

The wives and families of the prisoners were obvious in their distinctive Chenalho outfits, and though they suffered in the heat, they did not falter. When the march arrived at the Supreme Court of Justice Hall, speeches were made, and a small delegation of three people were invited inside to speak with the judge and other officials.

After about 30 minutes, the delegation returned to inform the crowd that they petition had been accepted; the government would evaluate re-opening the Acteal cases, and they could return to their homes. The people closed the march with a prayer and a song, asking the Lord to bless their efforts with success.

A number of press and TV reporters interviewed marchers regarding the march’s purpose, goals, intent, etc. They were informed that it was a peaceful march, to protest the unjust jailings, asking the government to review the cases, and insisting on demonstrating their constitutional rights as evangelicals. The march received positive coverage in Cuarto Poder newspaper.

However, Cuarto Poder also reported the comments of Samuel Ruiz Garcia, the Roman Catholic bishop emeritus of San Cristobal. Bishop Ruiz, who has been a very influential figure sympathetic to the Zapatista movement.

Bishop Ruiz gave a very critical, negative response to the march. He suggested that those asking for judicial review were probably only causing problems, hindering the application of justice and accused them of “feeding in an indirect way the complicity in the Acteal killings”.