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A demonstration by Wixáritiri over land ownership. A demonstration by Wixáritari over land ownership.

Wixáritari land battle could become violent

Ranchers angered as court awards 148-hectare parcel to indigenous group

A land ownership conflict between the Wixáritari indigenous people of Nayarit and cattle ranchers over 10,000 hectares of land threatens to turn violent while several government agencies appear reluctant to intervene.

Last Thursday, an agricultural court ruled on the first of 13 land restitution cases, which returned 148 hectares to the Wixáritari of San Sebastián Teponahuaxtlán-Tuxpan. The 13 cases will decide the ownership of 2,000 hectares in total.

Following the ruling, the court asked the state government to send police into the area on the grounds that the federal Interior Secretariat views the land dispute as a “serious social conflict.”

Instead, the Nayarit government sent only a couple of investigative police, while a 120-strong force of police remained several kilometers away.

But it was the San Sebastián Wixáritari themselves who managed to take possession of the 148 hectares, despite opposition from ranchers from the town of Huajimic in the municipality of La Yesca.

The ranchers’ dissatisfaction stems from the fact that there are still 24 ongoing land disputes, in addition to the 13 currently being addressed, involving 10,000 hectares of land. They believe the chances of those cases going in their favor are non-existent.

The ranchers, most of them from Huajimic, blocked the entrance to the 148 hectares in order to cut off supplies to a camp which the Wixáritari had established on the land.

They also prevented several court officials, the lawyer representing the Wixáritari and a small group of journalists from leaving the area.

The ranchers have repeatedly demanded intervention by the Secretariat of Agrarian Development and Urban Planning (Sedatu), claiming it is the only government agency that can grant them fair compensation for the land they believe they are about to lose in the courts.

After several tense hours and with stronger police presence the blockade was lifted after the ranchers were promised by the Wixáritari’s lawyer to schedule a meeting and have a “direct dialogue” with the native people and, together, demand the presence of officials from Sedatu.

Ownership of the land was granted to individuals more than 100 years ago based on their having occupied it. But the Wixáritari, also known as Huichol, have since claimed it as their ancestral territory.

Source: El Universal (sp)

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