Mexico: Indigenous Land Defenders Attacked by State Police in San Francisco Xochicuautla
BY ERIN GALLAGHER
Today Mexican state police forcefully entered the village of San Francisco Xochicuatla, attacked indigenous land defenders and destroyed their encampment in order to allow construction of a highway project by Grupo Higa. The owner of Grupo Higa, Juan Armando Hinojosa Cantú, is implicated in the panama papers scandal. The project will cut down much of the Otomí forest which belongs to the indigenous people of the area.
Conflict in the community of San Francisco Xochicuatla began in 2007 when, together with the Huitzizilapan and Ayotuxco communities, members of the Indigenous Peoples’ Front in Defence of Mother Earth opposed the construction of the Naucalpan-Toluca highway, which would affect 138 hectares of the forest that belongs to the three communities.
In 2013 an assembly of commoners illegally approved a change in land use of the Xochicuautla lands. It was revoked by an injunction in 2014. Despite this, construction work continued, which has led to various clashes in the community, the arrest of 11 people in 2013 and 8 people in 2014.
On July 9, 2015, President Peña Nieto published a decree expropriating several hectares which belong to San Francisco Xochicuautla for the construction of the Toluca-Naucalpan highway.
The residents obtained a suspension (file #771/2015) ordering the construction stopped and forcing the authorities to respect the lands. The Indigenous Peoples’ Front in Defence of Mother Earth and the community of San Francisco Xochicuautla have maintained an encampment since July 2015 to defend the Otomí forest.
Today the police burst into the village, destroyed the camp and several homes, assaulted indigenous people and permitted workers to continue with the highway project.
At 10am today, April 11, 2016, around 600 state police officers in 2 vans and 6 pickup trucks entered the community of San Francisco Xochicuautla in Mexico state. They surrounded the encampment that the community has maintained since July 2015 to defend the forest. At 11:30 am, they closed in on the camp. Land defenders, Antonio Reyes, Mauricio Reyes, Lucas Hernández and Andrés Hernández, members of Consejo Supremo Indígena Otomí, resisted the police advances. Antonio Reyes and Lucas Hernández are indigenous peoples, belonging to the Mecanismo Federal de Protección a Personas Defensoras (Federal Protection Mechanism of Defenders.) Lucas Hernández was verbally attacked and threatened with death by an unidentified member of the State Security Forces.
At 13:00 the police entered the area known as El Castillo, owned by Armando García Salazar and beat 64 year old land defender, Isabel Fernández García. Both of them are also members of the Mecanismo Federal de Protección a Personas Defensoras.
Activists were able to deploy a drone to record the police entering San Francisco Xochicuautla and the destruction afterwards.
4 observers from the National Commission on Human Rights arrived after the police attack began and documented the attacks and destruction.
Unfortunately construction equipment was able to pass regardless.
The indigenous communities of San Francisco Xochicuautla will continue to resist. The Human Rights Centre of Zeferino Ladrillero is calling on government officials to respect Articles 1, 2, 6, 7 and 8 of the Mexican Constitution, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Convention 160 of the International Labour Organization, the American Convention on Human Rights and the Law for Protection of Defenders and Journalists and provide the highest protections for life and territory of the Otomí indigenous people of San Francisco Xochicuautla.