Around 10 a.m. on April 11, more than 800 personnel from State of Mexico evicted residents of the community of San Francisco Xochicuautla, State of Mexico, a rural community about 35 miles west of Mexico City.
San Francisco Xochicuautla lies between Mexico City and Toluca, State of Mexico, and on the path of the proposed Mexico-Toluca highway, to be built by the HIGA Group. The HIGA Group’s owner, Juan Armando Hinojosa Cantú, was at the center of the “Casa Blanca” scandal in 2015 related to his ties to President Enrique Peña Nieto.
The police encircled the community and forced occupants out of houses that lie on the proposed highway’s route, after which they destroyed those houses. Residents who resisted being removed from their houses were beaten by police, including 64-year-old Isabel Hernández, a member of the Supreme Indigenous Council of Xochicuautla. The eviction left 4 Otomí residents of the community injured.
The residents of San Francisco Xochicuautla have been in a long legal battle to prevent the construction of the Mexico-Toluca highway in their community. In 2015, they won two injunctions preventing them from being deprived of their land. In March 2016, a federal judge ruled in their favor, suspending the construction of the highway until the end of the judicial processes. The ruling stated that the Otomí residents of San Fernando Xochicuautla have legal possession of the land on the proposed highway route, and that neither the government nor the Higa Group have a legal basis to take it from them.
The National Campaign in Defense of Mother Earth and Territory, a grouping of 179 Mexican communities united to defend their territories, released a statement characterizing the evictions as illegal and blaming the governments of President Enrique Peña Nieto and Governor Eruviel Ávila Villegas.
“The actions taken this morning by the government of the State of Mexico not only constitute an attack against the will of the people of San Fernando Xochicuautla, but also violate Mexico’s own laws. Even though the community has legal support to stop the advance of the highway, the government of the State of Mexico, using public security forces, is imposing the highway project, destroying houses and threatening ancestral forests,” the release reads. “Such events are evidence of the lack of access to justice for indigenous communities and the policies of terror and criminalization towards them.”