Chiapas: agrarian authorities accused in land conflicts

The Other Campaign of Jovel—local chapter of the Zapatista civil initiative in the Chiapas highland city of San Cristobal de Las Casas—has turned over to the agrarian authorities in the state capital, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, a critical analysis of land conflicts in the restive southern Mexican state. The analysis accuses the federal Agrarian Reform Secretariat and the local Agrarian Tribunals of favoritism in approving land claims by those seeking to expel Zapatista communities. A statement in support of the analysis is signed by over 200 grassroots and non-governmental organizations, and more than a thousand individuals.

The analysis notes that lands seized by the Zapatistas in their 1994 rebellion were taken under the principle that “the land belongs to those who work it,” and that the Zapatista rebels were often peones (resident farmhands) on the very ranchlands occupied in the uprising. Ranchers and landlords at the time petitioned for a return of their lands, but this was rejected as a precondition for the government’s peace dialogue with the Zapatistas (stalled for several years now). Instead, the land owners were monetarily compensated for their lands by the Mexican federal government’s Fondo 95 and Pro Chiapas programs. Nonetheless, anti-Zapatista groups such as the Organization for the Defense of Indigenous and Campesino Rights (OPDDIC) are now petitioning agrarian authorities for rights to these lands.

An “annex” to the analysis is a statement by several indigenous groups asserting that they are the “inheritors of the original inhabitants of these lands, from which they were evicted by the Spanish crown,” and therefore have “legitimate right to recover these lands.”

The analysis especially looks at the cases of Ejido Mukulum BachajĂłn, in the “official” municipality of ChilĂłn (and Zapatista “autonomous municipality” Olga Isabel), and El Nantze, in “offical” municipality Altamirano (“autonomus municipality” Vicente Guerrero), where OPDDIC adherents have been granted rights to lands occupied by Zapatista communities since 1994. (La Jornada, April 19)

The analysis, prepared in conjunction with the Fray Bartoleme de Las Casas Human Rights Center, found that 296 Zapatista families have been expropriated in favor of a far smaller number of OPDDIC adherents. It demanded that Mukulum BachajĂłn’s registered status as an ejido (collective farming community) be anulled, and the land rights returned to the Zapatistas. (La Jornada, April 20)

Sources archived at Chiapas95

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