On June 29 about 1,000 indigenous Nahuas from the communities of Santa María de Ostula, Coire and Pómaro in the central western Mexican state of Michoacán occupied La Canahuancera, a 700-hectare area near the Pacific coast. According to the Nahuas, men armed with pistols in the employ of local political bosses tried to stop the effort to take the land, and a campesino, Manuel Serrano, was hit by a bullet. The Ostula community police captured eight of the attackers; they released five of them later and turned three others over to state prosecutors on July 5. The Nahuas also set up a roadblock on the Manzanillo-Lázaro Cárdenas highway. The indigenous communities say they have titles to La Canahuancera dating back to 1802; they charge that a group of small landowners from the community of Placita, Aquila municipality, seized the land 45 years ago.
On July 17 Michoacán governance secretary Fidel Calderón Torreblanca and the Nahuas’ legal adviser, Carlos González García, reached an agreement in which the Placita landowners would cede 1,309 hectares of land to the Nahuas and would receive compensation from the state government. The parties ratified the accord on July 18 and also agreed to have the Mexican Navy patrol the area to prevent further violence.
The June 29 land occupation came two weeks after the central Pacific section of the National Indigenous Congress (CNI)—an umbrella organization established in 1996 to bring together all of Mexico’s indigenous groups—met in Ostula for its 25th assembly. On June 13-14 the assembly, in which indigenous groups in nine states were represented, approved the “Ostula Manifesto,” a document asserting that indigenous groups have the right “to organize themselves and to carry out the defense of their lives, their security, their freedoms and basic rights, and their culture and territories.” The assembly based the right to self-defense on article 39 of the Mexican Constitution. (La Jornada, Mexico, July 7, 18; La Jornada de Michoacán, July 18, 19)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, July 19
See our last post on the struggle in Michoacán.