Divergence Caused by 200 Hectares
By Jesús Aguado
The bone of contention among the residents of Loma de Cabras (Xuan Xidó) emerged with the possible sale of 200 hectares of common land where, in the future, a clinic, a school, or other facilities for the benefit of the residents could be constructed. Those who allegedly “want to sell” assure that Cabras is not for sale; those who are against the sale assure that the plans for selling the land exist.
Adela Monzón, daughter of an ejidatario who is the owner of a share in common lands, is the main defender of the area. She does not want the sale because “the sale would cause environmental and ecological damage in the area.”
The ejido, land belonging to people who received it after the revolution, is made up of 62 ejidatarios. Most of them want to sell the common property. Adela Monzón, who represents her father’s interests, commented that rock paintings in that area have been destroyed. Furthermore, if the land is sold, the flora and fauna could also be damaged.
On Thursday, March 17, the ejidatarios held a meeting to determine whether or not they would sell the property. Since it takes only one negative vote to stop the sale, and the person who is against the sale is Adela’s father, the meeting was canceled until new notice is given.
“We were born here, we grew up here, and now that it is beautiful, everybody wants to buy. It is sad that they just want to come to destroy our environment. We do have microsystems, and we cannot play with that. We do not even have enough water,” said Monzón. Her father told Atención that his children have found more rock paintings in the upper part of the mountain that others want to sell. “One of them looks like a map, and the others are just little animals,” said Don Monzón.
Señora Adela added that until now, those who are promoting the sale have not disclosed who is buying, and they have disclosed neither the projects nor the price. She blamed ejidatarios Policarpo Cázares, Florencio Cázares, and Alejandro Elías for convincing everybody to sell and said that she and her father have been threatened with murder.
An eight-year conflict
The problem in the community of Cabras exploded in 2008 when Adela Monzón announced that the ejidatarios wanted to sell 1,200 hectares for the construction of a five star hotel and a golf camp to be constructed by Cordell Funding Mexicana.
At that time, even the mayor visited the residents to present the proposal for selling their land for 20 pesos per square meter. Nothing occurred then. Now, the conflict comes to the surface again, and Adela Monzón says that not even regular citizens can do anything—only the ejidatarios. To prevent disturbances during the meeting, police officers, as well as army troops patrolled the community. Monzón says that she will file criminal complaints and will ask for help from the local, state, and federal governments.
According to the residents in the zone, then mayor Jesús Correa visited the community in 2008 and tried to convince the ejidatarios to sell their land for 20 pesos a square meter. The sale did not take place.
Atención interviewed former mayor Jesús Correa (2006-2009) about his participation in promoting the land sale for 20 pesos a square meter. He said that the ejidatarios are very important to him and historically the ejidos have lost their purpose because they are sold for developments. In the end, those who were ejidatarios have neither money nor land and remain in the same poverty cycle. That is the reason, he said, he went to the community when the company wanted to buy.
“The president ought to be an agent. I went to the community and talked with the people. I told them that if they wanted to sell, they have to be organized so they can have money and land. I recommended to them to be partners of the development. I was trying to help them. That was my intervention. 20 pesos? Please! I do know that there were other people talking with the ejidatarios, but I do not know what they were offering.” Correa added that San Miguel is a city for people with good buying power, enough to generate employment and economic development. “They hire gardeners, painters, housekeepers, plumbers, and more. They need services. So we could achieve development, economy, and investment. That is what I was thinking of, but I never suggested a price for the land,” he concluded.
No Plans to Sell
In the state of Guanajuato, according to information from the National Institute of Statistics, there are 806 ejidos; 38 are in San Miguel and Cabras is one of them. Policarpo Cázares, a retired teacher, who lives in that community, has been accused by his own niece (Adela Monzón) of manipulating the ejidatarios to sell Cabras.
Atención was invited to the Canal 4 television studio when Policarpo Cázares was going to give information about the case on the Constrastes program. He was accused of not being an ejidatario.
Cázares’ mother—Julia López—also appeared on the program. She said that her son will inherit her rights as ejidataria in the near future for Juan Xidó (Cabras). She stated that they are honest people and have not threatened or manipulated anybody. She remarked that the meetings were not for attempts to sell the common land.
On the other hand, the comisariado (president of the ejidatarios in the community), Martín Argote, said that they went to San Luis de la Paz to the Subprocuraduría Agraria (Agricultural Attorney’s Office). There they had an interview with Alfredo Brigada. (Atención tried contacting him, but he never took our call.) Later Brigada went to Cabras to organize the ejidatarios to divide the 200 hectares so everybody could get their share. “There are some who did not agree with this,” said Argote, but the division was made.
The residents are afraid that once the ejidatarios get their share and legal documents, they can organize to sell almost the entire area because only seven are against the sale. On the TV program, Policarpo Cázares assured that in 2008 there were plans for selling, but there are none currently. He made it clear “nobody has thought of a sale but once they have their documents, if they want to do it, they can do it.”
The Ley Agraria (Agricultural Law) protects them. In article 23, part X, it gives the ejidatarios—through meetings—the right to decide the use and destiny of the common land. In article 56, the same law states that the asamblea—meeting of ejidatarios—can determine the use of the land that has not been distributed among them.
On Contrastes—hosted by Luz María Núñez—the conclusion was that in the community there was misinformation because the meetings of the ejidatarios are always private—a fact regulated by their own rules—and those who are not ejidatarios cannot get into the room. On the program Cázares made the commitment to hold a meeting with the residents of Cabras to inform them what was happening. He also remarked that he would talk with the asamblea to see if a representative of the people could get into the future meetings and present some informative brochures.
The meeting was scheduled for April 7. Núñez attended, as well as the residents of Cabras, but Policarpo never showed up. The same day at 2pm, a meeting with Atención was scheduled with Florencio Cázares, Policarpo Cázares, and Leandro Delgado. However, one hour in advance, they canceled it.
The Final Meetings with Blocking
On Wednesday, May 18, the final asamblea for approving the division of the land was scheduled for 11pm. However, Adela Monzón had launched a call to block the entrance of the community. That was how the members of Cabras, environmentalists, and other people managed to shut off the community to every person related to the meeting.
Finally, Policarpo granted an interview to the members of the press that day and explained that the asamblea was canceled because the notary did not arrive. He also gave the reasons why the land has been divided. He said that there is an uncontrolled number of livestock devastating the area. Vandalism is another reason. People go camping in the community and kill or steal the livestock, and they have also destroyed the rock paintings. “The trees are plagued by parasitic plants as well. If the common space is divided, then every owner has to be responsible for his or her own area,” said Policarpo. Actually, he remarked, the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) will pay them for taking care of the land. “But the sale” he again remarked, “is not in the plans.”
Activist César Arias, who went to the community that day, told Policarpo that “the intention of the division is the sale, and the worst part is that they are hiding information. Your intention is that of major investors who are interested in these lands.”
In the POET (Ecological and Territorial Planning) approved during Núñez’s administration, Cabras is considered in the UGA (Unity of Ecologic Gestion) 51. The document states that Cabras is meant to be preserved, and there can be cultural, rural, and aquatic tourism—without machinery—of low impact. POET acknowledges the existence of archaeological vestiges and rock paintings. The extraction of materials as well as industry is totally forbidden. Conditioned land use permits can be granted by the local government for housing developments.
The zone in dispute is located within the area promoted to be appointed as a Natural Protected Area (NPA) by the state government. Ecologist Mario Hernández told Atención that the only thing lacking was a decree issued by Governor Márquez because all the studies have been conducted. Governor Márquez advised Atención that the topic has to be solved by the local administration and the protection of the area “has to be included in the new POET.”
Hernández said that Governor Marquez’s answer is totally irresponsible “because he is the one who authorized all the studies conducted by the Ecology Institute as well as the Citizens’ Consultation, and now he has to issue the decree. In San Miguel he just does not want to have that responsibility, and there may be other interests involved, like the mescal projects, perhaps,” he said.
Mayor Ricardo Villarreal commented that the zone that has been proposed to be appointed as an NPA also shares a space with the city of Comonfort. “We cannot appoint the zone,” he said. Villarreal commented that the zone of Cabras is currently protected by POET. “We will approve the new POET that is in progress at the Municipal Institute of Planning, and when the time comes, we will invite the citizens to participate. In that plan we will establish the necessary regulations to protect the area.”
About the current conflict in Cabras, Villarreal answered, “I do not know if they want to sell or not. Plans for developing the zone have not been handed over to my administration. It is not a local conflict; the ejidatarios will have to solve their differences before the federal offices.” Finally, Villarreal said that the residents of Cabras have not yet invited him to talk, but if they do, he will attend.
Another Meeting Canceled
Again, Atención was to have a meeting in Cabras with the group led by Policarpo Cázares on Thursday, May 25, at 2pm. The day before, a representative canceled it because, he said, “After what happened in the unsuccessful asamblea, they are depressed and afraid because they have been threatened with murder. That is why we will not do more.” He did not give further explanations.