Mexico: Atenco campesinos face new land dispute
While historic leaders of the community protested nearby, an assembly in San Salvador Atenco, a town in México state northeast of Mexico City, voted on June 1 to allow the sale of almost 2,000 hectares of communal land to private parties. Members of the Front of the Peoples in Defense of the Land (FPDT) charged that they had been barred from the assembly, which they said was packed with people who were not participants in the ejido (communal farm) that legally controls the land. According to the FPDT, the June 1 vote was engineered by current ejido president Andrés Ruiz Méndez, a member of the governing centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), as part of the Ciudad Futura ("Future City") development plan for the region, which includes a new international airport for Mexico City and will disrupt the area's traditional farming practices.
The FPDT was formed in 2001 to oppose an earlier plan—heavily promoted by the center-right government of then-president Vicente Fox Quesada (2000-2006)—for a new Mexico City airport. The Atenco group defeated the plan in 2002 but was hit hard by a May 3-4, 2006 confrontation with México state police which resulted in the deaths of two protesters, 209 arrests and accusations that police agents systematically beat and sexually abused prisoners. The state governor at the time was the PRI's Enrique Peña Nieto, now Mexico's president. A state court sentenced 12 FPDT leaders to lengthy prison terms for their role in the incident, but the federal Supreme Court overturned the sentences in June 2010 after an international campaign for the prisoners' release.
FPDT members say they will use the courts to continue their fight for traditional farming. Ciudad Futura "looks pretty on the internet," FPDT member Martha Pérez told the left-leaning daily La Jornada. "But for us it's an invasion, a change of life that we don't want, with these giant condominiums, these business centers…. And with all of this, where will we be, the people?" (LJ, June 1, June 8)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, June 8.