05 | DIC | 2019
The bloody results of agrarian conflicts in Oaxaca
Since 2017, 78 people have died due to agrarian conflicts in Oaxaca – Photo: Dante de la Vega/EL UNIVERSAL

The bloody results of agrarian conflicts in Oaxaca

30/11/2019
09:29
Juan Carlos Zavala
Mexico City
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There are over 400 ongoing agrarian conflicts in Oaxaca caused mainly by 81.3% of the land being communal

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Since 2017, agrarian conflicts, or those related to land ownership, have left at least 78 people killed, 68 injured, and 12 disappeared in the Mexican state of Oaxaca.

According to the General Interior Ministry (Segego), in Oaxaca, there are over 400 ongoing agrarian or limits conflicts, mainly in the regions of Valles Centrales, Mixteca, and Sierra Sur. This is caused because of the 9,536,400 hectares in the state, 7,784,600 hectares are socially owned and only 751,700 are considered private property.

That is, according to official information, in Oaxaca, 81.3% of the land is communal. Out of 1,588 farming settlements, 853 are common lands (ejidos) and 735 are agrarian communities. In addition, out of the 394,000 communal landowners legally registered in the state, 50% have already died.

For the leader of the organization Unity, Integrity, and Roots of Oaxaca (Unir), Efraín Solano Alinarez, these numbers explain the permanent state of conflict in the state, usually moved by land defense, and show that the collective property system, mainly in indigenous towns, is the first challenge to solve this issue.

He warns that although the territory is part of a population, at the moment of clarifying the rights of the members of a community, they cannot differentiate the three kinds of property and the legal limits that prevail over historical pretensions.

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“There are rights contradictions of those who say they have lost or have not been able to prove what they claim and want to accredit the lands they claim with their primary titles,” he adds.

He identifies that in the distribution of land there was a disorganized growth of human settlements, “creating settlements in adjoining areas, where the common land does not correspond administratively to the municipality of the landlord core.

“The most critical problems take place when small owners face co-proprietors who protect themselves with the Presidential Resolution, like in Los Chimalapas.”

In addition, he explains, discontent in communities and indigenous organizations, mainly in the region of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, due to the presence of foreign capital that, colluded with the state, have achieved the concession of big extensions of land and have entered advantageous contracts, leaving the real owners unprotected.

These situations become complex, adds Solano Alinarez, with the apparition of “client-party [organizations] that, for decades, have translated their leadership into disrupting the fair demands of indigenous groups and farming communities.”

The government’s responsibility
To this complexity, Unir’s leader adds the lack of coordination between the three government agencies that “forget” institutional co-responsibility in these conflicts.

“To be able to deactivate this inertia, we must break with the passiveness, inefficiency, and perversity of the federal and state governments to integrate the strength of the state in a single direction: governance,” he says.

He explains that this is not easy for “many officers act in relation to the political cost-benefit,” hence he says that to address this conflict “close coordination of the agrarian tribunals with the state government” is needed, from the acknowledgment of land ownership being both a state and federal matter.

“Addressing social, political, or economic issues related to the emergence of the agrarian conflict will have to be in a single direction, to get over it with the will of the parties or to respect the determination of the competent authority,” he says.

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Creating a fund
Due to the role of the Federation in these disputes, Unir’s leader warns that from 25 priority programs of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador at least two can accentuate conflicts in Oaxaca: the Transisthmic Corridor, because it will affect this territory, and the mining development, since communities are zealous of the environment and the preservation of their territories.

“In Oaxaca, the triumph or the failure of the President’s social goals will depend on the answer he gives to the agrarian conflicts,” he asserts.

He proposes to identify, based on the archives of federal and state agrarian institutions and sociological and anthropological studies, the most serious conflicts and their possible solutions.

Solano Alinarez warns that just as there are economic funds for natural disasters, there should also be a fund to address and solve agrarian conflicts.

“Agrarian conflicts are social and not of the police, hence, the existing agrarian organisms should be assessed, to redesign them or, given the case, to designate interinstitutional coordination that is in charge of addressing and solving them,” said Unir’s leader.

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