Urgent Action on Behalf of the Otomie Indigenous People of Mexico
Urgent Action on Behalf of the Otomie Indigenous People of the Communal
Properties of AMAXAC The Communal Properties of Amaxac, situated in the
municipality of Texcatepec, Veracruz State, Mexico. 20 September 1995
- The Otomie Indigenous people, many years ago, were forcibly moved
to these lands where they now live without communication.
- Last century, they were dispossessed and forced to buy back
their own lands with the application of the
Lerdo Law which
prohibited collective ownership of land by indigenous people.
- After the Mexican Revolution, the lands held by indigenous
people were restored under the title of
Properties. The Presidential Resolution restoring the Communal
Properties of Amaxac to the Otomie people was passed in 1934.
- Nevertheless, the civil servants in the Secretariat for
Agrarian Reform never executed this Presidential order, which then
allowed a handful of
mestizo (lit. Mixed race and usually means
non-indigenous Mexicans. trad.) families to invade and usurp the
- In 1993, a wave of violence was unleashed that resulted in
more than 30 dead, murdered by the caciques (local political bosses).
The murders were all related to land invasions. It was then that the
indigenous people came to ask for our help.
- In December, 1986, Luis Mendoza, the main cacique, was jailed
a few days after having murdered an entire family: father, mother and
3 year old daughter. With this arrest a provisional peace was gained.
- From 1987 to 1991, the indigenous people aided by this
Committee, worked intensively so that the Secretariat for Agrarian
Reform execute the Presidential order of 1934 in favor of the
indigenous people. Followed 5 years of legal processes to attain the
execution of the order which, according to the Resolution itself
should have been executed 15 days after its proclamation. We would
like to note that the National Confederation of Campesinos (CNC
- for the letters in Spanish), which is a body of the governing
political party (PRI), began to take from that time a very active part
in the defense to the limit of the invaders.
- On the 11th of December, 1991, the Resolution was executed.
But the invaders got a staying order against it. In November of 1993,
another hearing in the Collegial Tribunal of Veracruz ruled in favor
of the indigenous people, cancelling the staying order.
- The Government generously recompensed the invaders for their
eviction from the lands that they illegitimately possessed, since they
were the product of invasion, forced evictions and murders. This
recompensation was calculated by the present federal deputy for the
PRI and leader of the state CNC, Mr. Roberto Alvarez Salgado.
- On the 14th of April, 1994, the Governor of Veracruz,
Patricio Chirinos handed over some 1200 hectares to the Otomie people
from the communities of Pericon, Benito Juarez, Papatlar and Amaxac
which constitute the Communal Properties of Amaxac. This, however,
left some 800 hectares still occupied by invaders. From that date,
there began a new wave of invasions of indigenous lands.
- En May, 1994, the State Government, at the insistence of the
CNC, forced the indigenous people to sign an agreement with these
invaders that allowed the invaders to remain with 34 hectares each
despite the fact that each member of the Communal Properties only has
the use of 10 hectares as a result of their equal share. The
agreement was signed.
- The peace was not won. On the 23rd of June, 1994, a young
indigenous man, Santiago Domingo Cristobal was murdered. This crime
still has not been investigated.
- The land invasions continued. In November, the indigenous
people submitted a legal complaint against the invaders. In April,
1995, the State Attorney's Office handed over the investigations
to the Judge, but did not deal with the accusations of illegal
carrying of weapons, of threats and illegal association. The Judge
immediately signed a release of the accused. The indigenous people
asked the Attorney's Office to challenge this failure on the
- On the 14th of September, 1995, the Judge declared that the
sentence in favor of the land invaders had been confirmed by the State
Collegial Tribunal of Justice and that the State Attorney General,
inexplicably, had signed an order of cancellation of the challenge
against their release.
Impunity reigns in the Northern Sierra of Veracruz. Amaxac is proof
of it and, in this case, we have the facts to substantiate it. We
have daily informed the State Governor of what is happening: the acts
of violence in the Sierra, the arbitrary decisions of the
Attorney's Office and of the courts. All useless.
The Government is closing all legal avenues to the indigenous people.
We fear that if the indigenous people take the initiative to take back
their lands, the Government will violently intervene to punish them
for acting outside the law.
For this reason, we are asking you for some international assistance
to defend the Otomie indigenous people of the Northern Sierra of
Veracruz. We vehemently oppose the impunity of the caciques granted
by the Veracruz State Government in this northern region of the State.
Suggestions for Urgent Action:
Mr. Rodolfo Duarte Rivas. Justice Attorney for the State of Veracruz.
Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico.
Dear Mr. Attorney,
We protest in the strongest possible terms the impunity of the crimes
against the Otomie indigenous people of the Communal Properties of
Amaxac. Your cancellation of their legal action appealing against the
release of Gaspar Gomez and his accomplices leaves without punishment
the crimes of invasion, eviction, threats and illegal carrying of fire
arms designated for the exclusive use of the Army and police forces,
and of illegal association.
We are deeply alarmed by this, even more so for the news we have
received of excessive action and, in some cases, violence, on the part
of the police in the municipalities in this northern region of the
State. President Zedillo has promised a renewal of the Justice
institutions in Mexico. You are responsible for the direction of the
most appropriate institution to make that promise reality for the
Otomie people of the Communal Properties of Amaxac. With respect and
insistence, we ask to to act in accordance with the office you hold.
Cc.: Dr. Ernesto Zedillo, President of the United States of Mexico.
Mr. Patricio Chirinos, Governor of the State of Veracruz.
Mr. Jorge Madrazo, President of the National Human Rights
Justice Attorney of the State of Veracruz,
fax: (52 28) 17 0741; 17 6168
Governor of Veracruz, fax: (52 28) 18 9488
President of the Republic, fax: (52 5) 515 8005
President of the National Human Rights Commission, fax: (52 5) 681