There has been bloodshed in another decades-long territorial conflict between Oaxaca communities, a situation worsened by the alleged intrusion of drug trafficking organizations.
Five people were killed and eight wounded when they were ambushed last week by a gang of 40 heavily armed individuals, allegedly from Santiago Lachivía, who fired on longtime enemies from San Pedro Mártir Quiechapa.
The two communities, located in the state’s southern sierra, have been embroiled in a dispute over some 2,700 hectares of wooded lands for over 40 years.
Last Saturday’s one-sided shooting was triggered by an argument over the rights to a water hole and left five men from Quiechapa dead, including José Barriga, 65, community land owner, and two minors: Adalberto Montes Aquino, 17, and Alexander Montes Aguilar, 16, who had plans to become a priest.
Three of the wounded were in serious condition and had to be transported to the nearby city of Miahuatlán and later to Oaxaca city.
It was several hours later before police and soldiers arrived in Quiechapa, said a report by NVI Noticias.
The fathers of the two young victims, along with a group of citizens and municipal officials from Quiechapa, have denounced their murder and traveled to the city of Oaxaca to demonstrate on Wednesday in the city’s zócalo.
They also protested what they see as scant attention being given to the newly rekindled conflict by Governor Alejandro Murat Hinojosa, and demanded increased security, charging that the 12 police and army personnel deployed in the town, and equipped with just two patrol cars, are not enough to guarantee their safety.
The mayor of Quiechapa claimed that drug trafficking is now part of the territorial conflict: “[the people of Lachivía] grow lots of drugs. They were carrying heavy weapons, and they ambushed us,” said Luis Juárez Pérez.
He requested the intervention of federal forces in the belief that his neighbors are protecting opium poppy and marijuana plantations, and that with their latest armed actions they intend to control more territory, exploit the woodlands for timber and increase drug production.
The mayor lamented that despite a commitment by the governor’s advisor, María del Carmen Ricárdez Vela, to help solve the territorial conflict no action has been taken.
Juárez said the only help they’ve received was the transportation of the injured to a hospital in the state capital.
The town of Santiago Lachivía, population about 1,000, is located in the municipality of San Carlos Yautepec. The rival community of San Pedro Mártir Quiechapa is a town and municipality of the same name. The latter has a population of about 800.
There are currently at least 300 territorial or agrarian conflicts in the state of Oaxaca, 30 of which have escalated and triggered acts of violence.