Women displaced by paramilitary violence from the indigenous Triqui village of San Juan Copala began a hunger strike on Monday, September 20th, calling on authorities to ensure the safety of those attempting to leave the town.
They lifted the strike on Thursday, September 23rd saying all but the most elderly of their supporters were able to escape on foot. Some of the newly-displaced spent upwards of 2 days hidden in the hills before finding shelter in nearby towns. In the past 10 days, two young men were killed and 3 women and 1 teen were wounded by gunfire while attempting to flee.
Paramilitaries allegedly affiliated with two Triqui organizations – the MULT and the UBISORT – took control of the town on September 13th. They reportedly burned the homes of autonomy supporters this week. On Thursday, around 100 women from the MULT organization set up camp in the same plaza where women displaced from Copala have been living since mid-August.
San Juan Copala is a key ceremonial center for Triqui culture at the heart of a 3-way factional struggle for territory and regional power. The region is home to productive agricultural land, rich forests, and is rumored to contain significant mineral wealth.
The UBISORT has issued a message to repopulate Copala and to recognize their authority in the town hall. The MULT denies participating in paramilitary actions in Copala and claims to seek a peaceful outcome. Sympathizers of the autonomous municipality have fled to nearby Triqui communities and to the state and national capital cities.
A peaceful resolution to the conflict remains elusive.