Displaced citizens in a Chiapas camp say they will stay. Displaced citizens in a Chiapas camp say they will stay.

Court ruling fails to end territorial dispute

Displaced Tzotzil indigenous people vow to remain in camps, call ruling 'a government lie'

A ruling handed down by an agrarian court looks unlikely to end a longstanding territorial dispute in the mountains of Chiapas that has displaced thousands and indirectly caused the death of nine people from hunger and exposure to the cold.

The Unitary Agrarian Tribunal (TUA) decreed Wednesday that 365 hectares of contested land be returned to the municipality of Chenalhó but authorities from neighboring Chalchihuitán say that they will appeal the decision in the Supreme Court.

The ruling illegally revoked a presidential resolution from 1976 that set the boundaries between the two feuding municipalities, the authorities argued.

A spokesman for the Chalchihuitán land holders who fled their homes due to the threat of violence said that contrary to the views of the state government and Chenalhó Mayor Rosa Pérez, the ruling doesn’t favor either municipality.

“What the tribunal is ordering is that the job of marking the boundaries between both municipalities has to be done again; that means that the ruling doesn’t favor anyone, legally it doesn’t guarantee the triumph of anyone,” Nicodermo Aguilar Sánchez said.

Pérez said Wednesday that the ruling, which includes compensation and new housing for Chalchihuitán residents, was a win for her municipality. Those displaced have accused the mayor of supplying weapons to the alleged aggressors who forced them off their land.

In contrast, appealing the decision in the Supreme Court was a way of defending their land and rights without resorting to violence, Aguilar said.

“No to violence, no to aggression, we are indigenous brothers, there is no need to proceed with violence,” he insisted.

Aguilar and other Chalchihuitán authorities also took aim at state Governor Manuel Velasco for the displacement and deaths that have occurred, claiming that the ruling was made more than a month ago, on November 6, but was not made known until this week, a day before judges were due to go on vacation.

“The forced internal displacement of the indigenous people who are still sick, living in the mountain and putting up with temperatures as low as four degrees without food should have been avoided, as well as the roadblock, the firearm attacks, the threats and the terror,” he said.

The court should be independent and not comply with the whims of the government, he added.

There was hope that the court’s ruling would bring peace to the region, allowing displaced persons living in the various camps scattered around the region to leave.

But the residents themselves say they are staying put because their safety is still not guaranteed. They also remain defiant, with people in one camp in Pom called the court’s ruling “a government lie.”

“The lands of Chalchihuitán are not for sale and we will not leave even with the verdict of the TUA,” Ausencio Pérez Paciencia said.

“In a peaceful way, we’re going to try to recover what is ours . . . we have the plans of those lands [and] the presidential resolution that confirms us as the legitimate owners of the 365 hectares.”

Source: El Universal (sp)

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