Everything must travel to San Mateo by boat — even police vehicles. Everything must travel to Santa María by boat — even police vehicles.

Territorial conflicts: 4 dead, 1,000 displaced

Land disputes flare in two regions of Oaxaca, where such conflicts can stretch out for years

Territorial conflicts in two regions of the state of Oaxaca left four fatalities and over 1,000 displaced victims last weekend.

A century-old conflict between two Ikojts, or Huave, communities in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec claimed its most recent victims on Saturday.

Road access to the community of Santa María del Mar has been blocked since 2009 by citizens of San Mateo del Mar, forcing residents of the former to reach their community by water.

On Saturday, eight people were traveling by boat when strong winds caused the vessel to overturn as it crossed the Laguna Superior. Three people lost their lives.

Following the accident the bodies were taken to Santa María, but when authorities from the municipal seat of Juchitán tried to transport two of them by land, the San Mateo blockade stopped them.

“We tried to bring [the bodies] out, but the people of San Mateo opposed us. It was very difficult to bring them to Juchitán because strong wind conditions made it near impossible to travel on Laguna Superior,” said Mayor Gloria Sánchez López.

In the end, continued López in an interview with the newspaper El Universal, the people of Santa María risked their lives again as the wind gusted up to 170 kilometers per hour and carried the victims’ bodies by water to the town of Álvaro Obregón.

The dispute over 1.4 hectares of land between the two Ikojts communities began 100 years ago. In the most recent bout, the people of San Mateo “invaded” their neighbors’ territory in October 2009, interrupting not only land transportation to Santa María, but also the town’s power supply.

In March 2015, a state agrarian court issued a decision on the matter in favor of the people of Santa María, ordering the people of San Mateo to vacate and return the land.

The matter has yet to be settled as the communal authorities of San Mateo contested the court’s decision and filed an injunction against it.

A similar agrarian and territorial dispute between people from Guadalupe Victoria and San Pedro Ocotepec, in the Sierra Juárez region of the state, forced nearly 1,000 Ayuuk, or Mixe, people to flee their homes and seek refuge in neighboring communities.

A fight reported last Friday among the people of Guadalupe Victoria, a community in the municipality of San Juan Juquila Mixe, left nine injured, including a municipal official.

Authorities from San Juan traveled to Guadalupe Victoria the next day to restore order, but were assaulted with firearms. This clash caused the death of a 15-year-old boy and left seven more with gunshot wounds.

The events triggered the exodus of close to 1,000 people. A group of 200 sought shelter in the municipal seat of San Juan, while some 800 more traveled to the neighboring San Pedro Ocotepec municipality.

“The displaced victims fled in fear and traveled more than six hours on foot . . . leaving all their belongings behind,” said municipal officials from San Juan Juquila Mixe.

Source: El Universal (sp)

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