Dozens of Hectares of Communal Lands Bought by Rich Mexican Businessman


By: Heriberto Paredes

Personalities of Mexican public life have properties in the wooded zone of the municipality of Lerma, in Mexico state.  These are large areas that are used as occasional ranches, a private soccer field for teams to train or for parties and political meetings.

Such is the case of the businessman Carlos Slim, one of the richest people in the world, Emilio Azcárraga, director of Televisa or Vicente Fernández, oldest son of the singer of the same name.

What the inhabitants of the affected community of Salazar denounce is that these lands were sold illegally, taking advantage of the fact that the lands are in dispute with the municipality of San Mateo Atarasquillo.  According to a resolution of the corresponding agrarian tribunal, these lands—many of them now sold—belong to them and are of communal use.

In Mexico, the reform of article 27 of the constitution in 1992, opened the doors to the buying and selling of lands that were before considered communal.  That is to say, for common use.  Therefore, these lands could not be sold nor rented to individuals, but only be used by inhabitants of the rural communities that inhabited them.

Presently, a large part of the communal lands have already changed regimen, and have become ejidos (a form of property) that can be fragmented to be sold.  The case of Salazar is not the only one in the county but its particularity resides in that its inhabitants, besides fighting for the legal and legitimate restitution of the 217 hectares, also face major businessmen and judicial power, considering there are already eight people imprisoned.

Unjustly Imprisoned

Since August 2017, the moment in which the arrests were made, the community of Salazar has mobilized using legal means and media pressure to be heard and to obtain the freedom of the eight ejiditarios that have since then been imprisoned in the medium security prison of Santiaguito, municipality of Almoloya, Mexico State.

A few days after the agrarian tribunal ruled in favor of the communal recognition of the lands in dispute, on August 31st of 2017, a convoy of 1500 state and federal police, broke into houses of the inhabitants of the community, detaining the eight people without explanation.

These people, according to witnesses, were threatened with firearms, their homes were raided and they were beaten without any authority putting forward an order issued by a judge, like an arrest warrant or search warrant.

Beatriz Pérez Flores, Daneyra Kikey Becerril Villavicencio, Cutberto Vilchos García, Miguel Ángel Vilchis García, Fermín Esquivel Rojas, Francisco Miguel Ceballos Vargas and Miguel Ángel Vilchis Zarza, are the names of the affected.  They are accused of illegal kidnapping, robbery of a cell phone and of injuries.

Esther Goujon, lawyer of the community of Salazar, says that “There was no kidnapping, the resulting medical certificate says there was no injuries, the mentioned cell phone does not appear nor does its invoice.  Thus, there is no way of checking the crimes of which they are accused.  More evidence is being presented and an Amparo has been filed”.

Land Dispossession

Salazar appears in documents as old as 1791 in a map of the region, and according to words of one community member, “The community has had communal possession of the lands since 1880”.  Before this conflict, 217 hectares were legally recognized.  However, at the root of the dispute with Atarasquillo, the agrarian tribunal attempted to recognize only 25 hectares.

It was through a direct Amparo that the result was in favor of the community, dictating a judgement in the agrarian tribunal and assessing again the evidence presented since 2014—the year in which the judicial conflict began.

 Next Steps

“We will govern ourselves by the legal documents that we have” said community member Claudios Vilchis.  “We will continue insisting, putting our confidence in that there must be an institution that legally follows the agrarian judgement 445 that we have, then the actions will be directed toward legality”.

The task is not simple. The community is carrying a double struggle and this is on many occasions exhausting.  Above all if the appeal to the authorities does not have effect.  The community has called on the new governor, Alfredo del Mazo, to bring justice to the agrarian matters and to free the detained people.

Various communities of the region have shown their solidarity with the struggle of Salazar, among them Huixquilucan, Atlapulco, Tultepec, Jalatlaco, Xochicuautla, Ocoyoacac and Acasulco”, says Vilchis, for which they expect good results in the near future.

“We declare ourselves defenders of the land, defenders of the forests and defenders of human rights and we want to be respected and received justice in the freeing of our prisoners and the end of the harassment against us, in the end of our lands being taken”, says Alma Vilchis, whose son and husband are detained.

Translated from the original here: