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The site of yesterday's incident in Jalisco. The site of yesterday's incident in Jalisco.

15 government officials held for nine hours over land dispute

Wixárika indigenous community continues its fight over 10,000 hectares of land

The longstanding dispute over land claimed by the indigenous Wixárika people in Jalisco flared up yesterday when residents of a town in Bolaños took 15 federal, state and municipal officials hostage for nine hours.

The incident took place early yesterday morning after the officials arrived in the Wixárika town of San Sebastián Teponahuaxtlán.

But when they failed to deliver documentation regarding the allocation of funds to a social program intended to help solve the territorial conflict, Wixárika representatives suspended the meeting, according to one report.

Wixárika spokesman Ubaldo Valdez said the government representatives arrived with nothing, after which a Jalisco state cabinet secretary was told they would not be leaving until the matter was resolved.

However, Jalisco Interior Secretary Roberto López played down the incident on Twitter, claiming that the officials were not being held against their will but were meeting with a communal assembly under indigenous laws and customs, known as usos y costumbres.

The meeting was a follow-up to agreements that were reached last month after blockades cut off access to 35 communities and closed schools and health clinics.

At the heart of the issue is more than 10,000 hectares of land that was granted to ranchers more than 100 years ago. But the Wixárika, also known as Huichol, claim it is their ancestral territory.

They have won several court judgments but confrontations with ranchers have hampered restitution of any of the land.

The indigenous community has demanded state and federal authorities to guarantee the restitutions ordered by court rulings and address deficiencies in health, education and security. Representatives say their protests will continue until they recover their lost territory.

Source: El Universal (sp), Animal Político (sp)

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