Police Arrest Eight Indigenous People for Defending Communal Forest
Xochicuautla (Photo: Más de 131)
Approximately 600 state riot police invaded the territory of the indigenous community of San Francisco Xochicuautla, arresting eight people committed to the defence of the ancestral Otomí-Mexica forest.
Eight Ñatho (Otomi) indigenous people were arrested while peacefully blocking the way of a bulldozer belonging to the Autovan company that is destroying communal forest land to build a super highway from the Toluca Airport to Naucalpan in the central State of Mexico.
A statement issued by the Indigenous Peoples’ Front in Defense of Mother Earth charges that community members were arbitrarily arrested simply for demanding to see documentation that justifies the destruction of the forest in violation of international treaties that protect indigenous rights and protective orders that prevent the destruction of the forest.
The statement also charges that one of the people violently arrested was Armando Garcia Salazar, the community representative to the National Indigenous Congress (CNI). Other people arrested were Venancio Hernandez, Domingo Hernandez, Rosa Saavedra, Felipa Gutierrez Petra, Mauricio Reyes Flores, Francisca Reyes Flores y Jeronimo Martinez, who are being held at the State of Mexico’s Attorney General’s office.
The Front charges that the Toluca-Naucalpan super highway will destroy more than 600,000 square meters of forest land, affecting the production of 250 million liters of water a year.
The highway project also affects the pilgrimage route to the sacred sites of Nacelagua and the Cerro de la Campana. It also threatens hundreds of species of plants and birds, many of which are endemic to the region and in danger of extinction, such as the coyote, the eagle and dozens of species living in the wetlands.
The indigenous community is among the signatories of the document approved at the World Conference of Indigenous Peoples at the United Nations last September 22 and 23.
This is not the first time community people have been arrested while trying to prevent the entry of heavy machinery into their land. Last May 14 a group of 15 men and women from the same community were also violently arrested and accused of blocking a public thoroughfare.
Since October 10 the attempts to proceed with the construction of the highway have been more constant, with threats made against anyone who stands in the way of the Autovan company and their police escorts. Hundreds of trees have already been cut down.
A joint communique sent by the National Indigenous Congress and the EZLN last October 28 demands an end to intromission in the communal lands of the indigenous Ñatho community of San Francisco Xochicuautla and respect for the Otomí-Mexica Forest.