Rule of Law and Indigenous Rights: In Xochicuautla, State of Mexico, an Affront to Legality
La Jornada: Editorial
13th April, 2016
On Monday, the Autovan company, which is building the Toluca-Naucalpan expressway, demolished several houses in San Francisco Xochicuautla in the municipality of Lerma [in the State of Mexico, just west of Mexico City], with the support of hundreds of members of the State of Mexico police. These demolitions were carried out even though the Otomí are protected by two provisional injunctions issued by district judges. Moreover, the demolition was executed in the presence of members of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which monitors compliance of such injunctions, and in spite of the precautionary measures issued by the National Human Rights Commission on behalf of the locals. The contractor continued the work yesterday using heavy machinery.
The conflict dates back to 2013 when the community received news of plans for an expressway project affecting their land. In July of last year, a presidential decree [by Peña Nieto, former governor of the State of Mexico] ordered the expropriation of almost 38 hectares [94 acres] for the purpose of building the expressway. Since then, federal and state authorities have launched a campaign against the community, which involves the criminalization of its leaders as well as the demolition of several homes.
However, given said judicial injunctions, prior to a definitive injunction, Autovan’s most recent actions, which should have been stopped immediately by the authorities, constitute a clear violation of the legal system. These authorities however, became complicit in the violation by providing police protection for the demolition work carried out by the company.
Beyond the strictly legal aspect, the context in which the attack on San Francisco Xochicuautla occurred must not be forgotten: it is pertinent to recall that Autovan is a subsidiary of The Higa Group, owned by Juan Armando Hinojosa, who faces various accusations as main contractor of the State of Mexico since being governed by the current president, Enrique Peña Nieto. The group also faces accusations as provider of the luxury residences of the president’s wife and Luis Videgaray Caso, head of the Secretariat of the Treasury.
In addition, the businessman’s name was included in the documents of Panama-based firm, Mossack Fonseca, among those who have moved money offshore through shell companies. According to the revelations, which have come to light recently, Hinojosa Cantú moved more than 100 million dollars into opaque institutions in the Caribbean and New Zealand at the precise moments when his real estate transactions were being reviewed by the Secretariat of Public Administration.
Against such a background, the official protection of the atrocities committed by a company which belongs to the contractor is particularly inadmissible. The suspicions amongst society as well as the breakdown of credibility suffered by the federal and State of Mexico institutions, already acute, are reinforced.
The destruction of homes and other properties in San Francisco Xochicuautla must cease immediately and it is important to demand that those who violated the provisional injunctions in support of the members of the indigenous community be investigated and punished, as well as the officials who covered up such an affront, not only to the villagers but also to the national legal system.
Translated by Angela Quick