Thousands of residents displaced by violence that intensified this week in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas remained fearful Tuesday of returning to their homes.

Authorities have had to set up camps for more than 4,000 displaced people who fled the town of Tila over the weekend and are working to bring them home, but the displaced are wary.

One of them, Julio César Gómez, fled after armed gangs shot up the town and burned several of his relatives’ homes.

“They tell us to return but who can guarantee that we will be safe, that there won’t be problems?” said Gómez, speaking from a sports court turned camp for the displaced in Yajalon Tuesday. “No one guarantees anything. There is no solution in sight.”

Some residents recounted spending days trapped in their homes before army troops and state police showed up to allow them to leave.

Now, Gómez like many others, doesn’t know what to do.

The criminal gangs burned his father-in-law’s, brother’s, and brother-in-law’s homes, so he fears that if he goes back the gangs will still be there.

“I think I’m going to relocate to a new state, find work in carpentry, painting,” he said. Gómez is one of the few who dared give his name, and complained that authorities are minimizing the problem.

Others among the displaced said the problems in Tila are nothing new, but now they have become more complicated.

Observers said criminal gangs and political interests were behind the clash.

The Digna Ochoa Human Rights Center said a group calling itself the “Autonomos,” or Autonomous Ones, was behind the violence, and said it was linked to drug trafficking.

López Obrador depicted the assault as “a conflict between the very same people” of the town of Tila, an apparent reference to a longstanding land dispute between farmers. He said that many families were saved once the army arrived.

The gangs had also been blamed for extorting residents even to receive basic services like power and water.

The violence in this area and other parts of Chiapas has been growing over the past year.

Battles between rival drug cartels have hit several townships in Chiapas near the Guatemala border, because the area is a main route for smuggling drugs and migrants. López Obrador has long sought to downplay the violence in Chiapas, accusing those who write about it of “sensationalism.”

In 1994, rebels of the Zapatista Indigenous rights movement staged a brief armed uprising in Chiapas and thousands of people were displaced as a result of the fighting between the rebels and the army.

In 1997, the massacre of 45 indigenous villagers in Acteal, sparked by land and political conflicts, also sent thousands of people fleeing.

The state has also seen slower but years long expulsions of residents from some townships due to land or religious disputes.

By Admins

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