Mexican soldiers in Chiapas
Mexican soldiers in the state of Chiapas AFP

Over 4,000 people who had to flee the Mexican town of Tila, in the southern state of Chiapas due to ongoing violence, haven't returned yet, with negotiations to that end having reached a stalemate as residents don't believe it's safe to go back, local outlet Jornada reported.

The outlet added that authorities haven't been able to quantify damages sustained in the town either due to lack of "adequate conditions." In the meantime, evacuees are staying in camps and wary to return home despite assurances.

One of the residents told The Associated Press that he doesn't believe he will be safe upon return. "There is no solution for this," said Julio César Gómez, who fled after armed gangs shot up the town and burned down several of his relatives' homes. He says he is considering relocating to another state.

Residents and observers say criminal gangs and political interests are behind the latest flare up in violence, which has always existed but became more intense lately. Asides from the over 4,000 evacuees, at least three people have been killed and four wounded.

Outgoing Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador (commonly known as AMLO) said the events were a result of a "conflict between the very same people" of the town. He was seemingly making a reference to a dispute over land, but many rejected the claim and say gangs are even extorting residents to receive basic services like power and water.

Life in Chiapas has been marked by violence as the state, which borders with Guatemala, has become a key route for drug and migrant smuggling. The most recent incident, however, is the largest mass displacement in the state since 1997. Many residents said they spent days trapped in their houses before army troops arrived and assured them it was safe to leave.

"A lot of people left with what they had on their backs, without money, without clothing, they left behind all their possessions, a lot of their pets remained in Tila because they could not be evacuated," a town resident, Víctor Gómez, told The Associated Press.

Local officials are asking residents to go back and said those who want to do it "can rest assured that the Mexican army is in place." "No one is rushing things, we know that trust must be improved."

"For those who have an issue: we stay, we put up a table and listen to each case. Give us a chance to show you and you can go back," the government official added.

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