from Frontera NorteSur
When land conflicts in Mexico make the US news at all, they are generally in the impoverished deep-south states of Chiapas, Oaxaca and Guerrero, while violence in Mexico’s industrialized north more often concerns the drug cartel wars. But the struggle between an untitled community and local land barons at Lomas de Poleo, just outside the border city of Juárez, brings this issue right to the United States’ southern frontier. El Paso-based Frontera NorteSur news service has the latest development.
Tensions in a land dispute that pits members of a prominent Ciudad Juárez family against long-time residents of a poor neighborhood and their supporters were revved up a notch the weekend of Oct. 20. A citizen’s forum scheduled for that Saturday, at a school in Lomas de Poleo, a working-class settlement on the outskirts of Ciudad Juárez, was prevented from convening by guards employed by Pedro and Jorge Zaragoza. Members of non-governmental organizations from Mexico and the United States arrived at Lomas de Poleo to discuss the land ownership battle only to find access to the neighborhood blocked by Zaragoza security personnel.
Zaragoza representative Catarino del Rio Camacho argued that as private property owners his bosses had a right to prevent outsiders from entering the legally contested lands. “The people who live here have free access but those who come to create conflict can’t enter because we don’t see any reason for them to be here.”
Forum organizers earlier said they planned to conduct a peaceful meeting between NGOs and Lomas de Poleo residents. Groups supporting Lomas de Poleo residents include the Border Agricultural Workers Union, Paso del Sur Group, Pastoral Obrera, Mexico Solidarity Network, Rezizte, the Other Campaign, and many others.
In a statement distributed late Oct. 19 evening, Lomas de Poleo residents and their supporters denounced the presence of large numbers of armed men who were surrounding the neighborhood in an apparent attempt to thwart the next day’s planned forum. The statement criticized the deployment as an escalation of the violence which has punctuated the land dispute during the last few years.
“One resident has been murdered, [and] two children have been burned to death inside a home purposely set on fire as part of the demolitions of more than 40 homes by the Zaragoza guards,” the statement charged. “The Lomas de Poleo inhabitants have been cut off from the rest of the city and are currently within a state of siege at the hands of the powerful developers mentioned above.”
Once a wind-swept, largely forgotten mesa that housed maquiladora workers and others trying to get by in Ciudad Juárez, Lomas de Poleo is now a prime chunk of real estate as city development creeps towards the planned binational city of Jeronimo-Santa Teresa. Lomas de Poleo is also close to Sunland Park, New Mexico, which could see a new international crossing and become a border business hub within the next few years. In 1996, Lomas de Poleo gained international notoriety as one of the places where the bodies of raped and murdered women were dumped.
As a result of Saturday’s incident, the official Chihuaha State Human Rights Commission initiated an investigation to determine possible violations of residents’ and supporters’ rights, including the right to free transit. “The people have showed me the authorization of the director of the school to hold this event and the gate stops it from happening,” said commission representative Gustavo de la Rosa Hickerson.
This story first appeared Oct. 21 on Frontera NorteSur and El Paso’s Newspaper Tree.
From our Daily Report:
Mexico: narco-killing spree in Ciudad Juárez —and throughout country
WW4 Report, Oct. 14, 2008
Reprinted by World War 4 Report, Nov. 1, 2008
Reprinting permissible with attribution