Yucatan: police attack peasant protesters

From La Jornada, July 15, translation via Chiapas95:

In a large and violent operation – according to witnesses – the police of Yucatan arrested last Thursday in the community of Caucel more than 40 Maya ejidatarios [communal farmers], who were protesting peacefully against construction works imposed by the government of the PANista [governor] Patricio Patron Laviada in communities next to Merida, among them an airport – still in progress – in Hunucma, whose inhabitants have reiterated that they will not allow the dispossession of their land.

According to information from the Popular Culture Movement, on Thursday morning, inhabitants and ejidatarios of Caucel carried out a protest march against the Commission for the Use of Land in the State of Yucatan (Comision Ordenadora para el Uso del Suelo en el Estado de Yucatan – COUSEY), “which has invaded ejido lands, claiming that they were already sold, but without providing any document to verify this.”

Caucel has been invaded by the urban sprawl, and the greatest part of its ejido [communal] land is already owned by private hands, like CEMEX, and public ones, like the Potable Water Committee, which seeks to build a sewage plant in the immense area that is to be occupied by the Metropolisur project, including the airport in question, as well as plans for the construction of apartment houses, stores and roads, among others.

The Popular Culture Movement, an adherent of the [Zapatista] Other Campaign, states that Metropolisur and the new airport “are the greatest projects of the PAN government, the first phase of the Puebla-Panama Plan on the peninsula, and a great business for all political parties, who have already approved the request of the governor for a loan of 148,800,000 pesos for the construction of the airport. Hunucma and Oxcum are the most organized communities against the million dollars projects of the PAN government and the great foreign and local industrialists (such as the banker Robert Hernandez).”

Likewise detained was the lawyer William Santos Saenz, who attended this and other struggles, like those of the taxi drivers in Motul and the ejidatarios of Caucel. “The march, in which 150 people participated, requested that the COUSEY machinery would abstain from invading the last habitational strip in their possession. The ejidatarios saw a COUSEY functionary going around, shortly before the initiation of the march (around 10:30 AM), and about half an hour later, they already had an operation of the state police with 15 patrols and two anti-riot trucks full of agents, who immediately began to arrest people. Santos walked towards the police to see what was happening when he was handcuffed and arrested, along with 38 more persons, among them a minor, who has been already released.

“Among the detainees are four representatives of Hunucma, including the ejido agent Marcelino Mex Cauich, and Jose Gilberto Koc Canal, both members of the National Indigenous Congress and important personalities of their people, together with Felipe Moo Borges. The other 33 detainees are from Caucel. Among them are older people in bad health and people who did not participate in the protest, as in the case of various campesinos who were returning from the woodland, and are now to be charged with the possession of dangerous weapons (because they were carrying coas [a traditional farming implement] and machetes) and other minor crimes, such as obstructing the passage of the machinery. The prisoners range from participants of the movement to an old collector of plastic bottles who just happened to walk by.”

According to the denouncers, the lawyers were not allowed to speak with the prisoners. Rafael Acosta Solis, defender of several people of Caucel, filed 11 appeals against the isolation of the prisoners, “but after midnight we learned that some of them had already testified, and were forced to sign (we don’t know what), with no other witness besides the legally appointed lawyer. Many of the prisoners did not accept to either testify or sign. This is clearly a political blow meant to instil fear, as well as to moderate the force of the organized answer, and to convey a message to the indigenas of Hunucma’ and Oxcum, to let them know that now things will get serious”.

The authorities “decided to strike in a community like Caucel, where the forces are not as organized as in Hunucma and Oxcum (the three villages are adjacent)”, the denunciation continues.

The attorney Armando Villarreal Guerra, former legal adviser of the state government, received a commission of five persons “whom he told, that their declarations were to be taken, but that it was still unknown why they had been detained (this was around 10:00 in the night, almost 12 hours later), nor what charges were being made against them, but that the offence would be typified in order to be able to take the declarations.” Later on, Villarreal in overbearing manner attacked the lawyers and told them, to stop inciting the people, since the attorney’s office was acting with “legality”.

“We know that the strike against the ejidatarios was planned, and was to be carried out after the elections. The message is clear: the iron fist against dissidence, and by the way, capturing the representatives of the struggle against both gigantic projects”, the denunciation concludes. Today the ejidatarios and inhabitants of Hunucma, Oxcum, Uman and Caucel sought out the state attorney’s office to demand the release of the prisoners.

The Maya Indigenous Other Campaign of Yucatan likewise denounced: “The state government has decided after the elections, to repress the indigenous and the campesinos adhering to the Other Campaign, who took a firm stand on their lands to defend them from the dispossession of the PAN government. Our brothers were arrested with excessive violence by the State Police, when they positioned themselves in front of the machinery waiting to begin the dismantling for the construction of the airport. Their intention was to prevent the dispossession of their lands. The company in charge of this work denounced the indigenous for damage of foreign property, and the government, which appears to have planned this incident, deployed with all speed several police detachments to attack the indigenas”.

The National Indigenous Congress (CNI) reports that a total of 39 were arrested, and most have since been released.

See our last posts on MexicoYucatan and the Other Campaign in Yucatan.

Also note that the current crisis at the Mexico state village of San Salvador Atenco, began with a struggle against the seizing of communal land to build an airport. See WW4 REPORT #60.