The following are testimonies given to the "Bridge to Hope"
caravan* on 30 December 1997 in the autonomous connumity of Polho, Chenalho,
Chiapas. The testimonies, translated from Tzotzil, were given by refugees
who had fled to Polho from many neighboring communities, including survivors
of the Acteal massacre of 22 December.
"I have an older sister who was shot in Acteal. She was pregnant. When she died, I personally saw how they opened her stomach to cut out the baby. They also shot my sister-in-law and took her body into the revine. I am worried and very sad because my sister and sister-in-law died. They weren't doiong anything. They were iinnocent. I also have other family members among the 45 who died. The killers are PRIista groups who were armed and all of them, the paramilitaries, got away."
Woman surviror of Acteal
"When the authorities saw the people from the Zapatista base communities leaving they started to sell the belongings of each person, our land, and they burned our houses. They sold everything amongst themselves. They say if we return to the community they will kill us. We fled because we heard the PRIistas say 'We're not afraid because the governor of Chiapas has sent us. He bought us lots of Goat Horns (AK-47s). We have enough bullets to kill all the Zapatistas."
"When we left our houses the shooting started. We fled into the mountains. I show you here the skin of my little boy, which is burned from the bullets. I had another boy that died today from the cold and the illnesses that are common here in the mountains. We covered the mouths of our children with cloth so that the soldiers, state police, and the paramilitararies couldn't hear us. I had my coffee field, my barn, my animals. I had everything, but what happened? They stole everything. Who took my belongings? The state police and all the armed proups.... I have a big store with many valuable things and they took everything out and burned my house.... Thank you for your presence here and please take all this information to the national and international press."
"I am not afraid to say my name. I have gone to make my statement in many offices so that all nations will here what is happening here. My name is Yolanda Tortuj Jimenez. They killed eight members of my family. First my father died, then my brother, my little brother and then the rest of my family. I am not affraid. I came to this land. I didn't come to live, I came to die. These are my complaints: my little brother, Alejandro, was innocent. He used to work in the store. We had a store that supported us. We earned 50 thousand pesos. We had all kinds of things for sale, and they took everything. I am not afraid to expose them. This is my anger: listen to the damned lies of the government. It is a bad government the ordered them to rob my store, that ordreed them to kill my father. the public security police came to make sure that they had stolen everything from our store. The same government and the municipal president sent the public security. That is what I want to tell the public and the world."
Woman from Tzajalukum
Another man added:
"Everything she says is true. They had a truck to supply the store. who burned it? The public security police. They took everything from the store. I was able to escape but my wife remained. Fifteen days ago I was able to rescue my wife, but when they found out they tried to kill me. I'm not scared to tell everyone what I saw. I'm not afraid to speak before the government, before the offices. The government's attorney's office would not accept my complaint. They didn't believe me. They asked for my statement and I gave it completely, but the public minister does not beleive me. The public minister says it is a lie. they asked me for witnesses but what witnesses are there? I saw it, I am the witness of what I saw. The public minister said: 'No. I want another witness."