A longstanding land dispute in the mountains of Nayarit between an indigenous community and local ranchers was further inflamed yesterday, heightening fears that it could spill over into violence.
Yesterday was the day a court order to return 64 hectares of land at Huajimic to the Huichol people was due to be executed, but a roadblock set up by the ranchers prevented personnel from the agricultural tribunal that issued the mandate from reaching the parcel of land in question.
Consequently, Judge Aldo Saul Muñoz was unable to enact the ruling. That means, at least for now, the land remains in the possession of the ranchers.
Muñoz asked the ranchers to remove the blockade but legal representatives for the Huichol people described his attempt to gain access as “tepid” and ultimately it was unheeded. There was no police presence to back him up or disband the roadblock.
Muñoz said that all three levels of government had been notified of the court order and indicated that they would comply with their obligations to guarantee its execution.
But they failed to follow through. Not a single police officer was stationed on the route to the ranch making it impossible to execute the order, he argued.
The lawyer for the indigenous community, Carlos González, blames the state government, which only took office earlier this week.
“We hold the governor of Nayarit, Antonio Echevarría, his interior secretary and his attorney general responsible for the violence that could be provoked by this situation,” he said.
“. . . In the face of the ranchers’ protest with traffic blockades . . . the situation could become untenable.”
About 1,200 Huichol people, also known as Wixáritari, were also prevented from reaching the land where they had hoped to witness the execution of the order and retake possession of it.
The land scheduled to be returned yesterday represents only a fraction of the 10,000 hectares the indigenous people say belongs to them. A land title issued in colonial times proves their ownership, they say, although currently the court order is the most pertinent document.
However, without its execution its value is null.
The Huichol people called the blockade a violation of the rule of law and pledged not to leave until the judge was allowed to proceed and execute the order.
But the ranchers remained equally firm, increasing the possibility that the conflict could ultimately descend into violence as both sides fervently defend what they see as their legal right to the land.
Source: Milenio (sp)