Part of a road to an isolated village in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, recently paved through a federal public works program, was destroyed by rival villagers on Sunday due to a conflict over land, cutting off another eight rural communities.
A group of people from Magdalena Tequisistlán left an impassable trench in the road to Asunción Tlacolulita, preventing its 700 inhabitants from accessing the highway 20 kilometers away. Tequisistlán is closer to the highway, which is the only route to Tehuantepec at 50 kilometers away.
The two villages have a long running agrarian dispute over 250 hectares of land. Rural disputes of this kind are common in Oaxaca.
The conflict resurfaced in September when inhabitants of Tlacolulita began to carry out road widening works, without requesting prior consent. In response, Tequisistlán residents blockaded the highway.
That argument was resolved after federal authorities helped mediate the situation, but the conflict flared up again last week.
One Tlacolulita resident said the obstruction caused urgent difficulties: “These actions represent an attack on transport channels that undermine the free movement of food and medicine for our families, formed mostly of elderly people.”
“We categorically hold this group of community members responsible for any type of aggression that our families in Asunción Tlacolulita may suffer,” added another resident.
Village authorities have requested the support of the state government, the the National Institute of Indigenous Peoples (INPI) and the Agrarian Attorney General’s Office to help restore access to the highway.
The road was laid as part of the Ministry of Transport’s Paving Rural Roads to Municipal Capitals program.