Agrarian Courts Predict Wave of Lawsuits Challenging Expropriation of Indigenous Lands for Drilling


Alfredo Méndez

La Jornada, August 12th, 2015

Agrarian Court Judges consulted by La Jornada maintain that the majority of lawsuits initiated to challenge the unconstitutionality of secondary legislation derived from the energy reform will have to be resolved by agrarian courts, since they will affect the holders of land in the context of gas and oil extraction. A magistrate who asked that his name be withheld stated: ”As it is, we are already falling behind in half the cases we hear, and now the agrarian courts expect a work overload from the cascade of lawsuits that we believe will be filed starting in 2016.”

Attorney José Luis Amaro, an expert in commercial law, said that judicial proceedings resulting from the appropriation of lands in order to exploit hydrocarbons will focus on issues of agrarian law, such as the constitutional impossibility of exploiting lands in communal use.*

The lawsuits that might may arise between the private sector and landholders in the context of oil and gas extraction will have to be resolved in agrarian courts under the new energy bill. Nationally, there are 55 agrarian courts. Amaro emphasized: "These courts have been overwhelmed by inefficiency and bureaucracy.”

Secondary Energy Legislation Is Inadequate

For his part, Humbertus Pérez Espinoza, advisor to rural associations, said that the wording of the secondary energy legislation ”lacks legal technique, because in order to get expropriation of common goods, they would have first had to reform Constitutional Article 27, Section 7, in order to remove the protection of the legal concept of communal property and human settlements."

Pérez Espinoza said that under the current law of amparo [protection, similar to injunction], which includes new themes of human rights protection, ”the expropriation of hydrocarbons is made impossible and demonstrates legal deficiencies in the presidential energy reform. It is not cutting-edge, since today all the world’s energy legislation is reducing production of fossil energy in order to replace it with renewable.”

He explained that agricultural organizations have to speak out in defence of the ejido, since the Constitution mandates that it will not be possible to expropriate lands that are campesino property: ”It establishes that the resources of the subsoil belong to the nation, but the lands are the property of ejidatarios, neighbours and campesinos.”


Translated by Jane Brundage

*MV Note on communal lands:Mexico has two forms of indigenous collective land ownership: communities and ejidos. Communal lands are lands granted (back) to indigenous communities by the Spanish king after the Conquest (1521). Ejidos are lands expropriated from large landholders and awarded to indigenous communities by the government after the Mexican Revolution (1910-17) in response to the demands of peasants led by Emiliano Zapata.]


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