Cover photo: Press conference outside the House of the Peoples “Samir Flores Soberanes.” Photo: Regina López
In the early morning of Monday, October 16, more than 500 Mexico City riot police surrounded the House of the Peoples and Indigenous Communities “Samir Flores Soberanes,” seeking to evict the members of the Otomí community, who have recently marked three years squatting the building, located in the south of Mexico City.
In the face of the repression, members of the Indigenous community were able to repel state forces, “hundreds of riot police, as if we the Otomí community were the criminals, as if we were the ones with the weapons,” explained Isabel, delegate of the National Indigenous Congress (CNI). As a result of the violent operation, ten people were injured, among them, adolescents, elders, and disabled peoples.
“A 17-year-old was attacked by a group of five riot police who kicked and beat her causing immobility in one of her legs; a 13-year-old girl was beaten by three male riot police who kicked her in the head causing her to faint,” detailed the communique.
The government of Mexico City proclaimed via a communique that the police operation was aimed at merely evicting the street encampment in place since October 12 which is demanding dignified housing for 40 Otomí families. However, the Indigenous community denied that telling of the events, arguing police tried to enter the House of the Peoples.
An hour after the operation, a group of more than six motorcyclists arrived to provoke and insult those present in the encampment on Avenue Mexico-Coyoacán. After another attempted incursion, they threatened members of the Otomí community with firearms.
“This is the response from the government to the demands of the Otomí people,” they denounced, showing the firearm cartridges in evidence of the attack, along with images of the aggressors and license plates of their vehicles. They also denounced the absence of the Human Rights Commission of Mexico City (CDHCM) emphasizing that the police operation was never peaceful.
“Three years after the occupation of the National Institute of Indigenous Peoples, racism, discrimination, and repression are the offers of the fourth transformation,” said members of the Otomí community in a press conference.
“We hold Martí Bartes (Head of Government of Mexico City) responsible for whatever else happens to us. The riot police beat us regardless of there being children, women, and elders. Enough of this discrimination,” said an Otomí woman who was assaulted.
“Having a Roof Over Our Head is a Right”
The primary demand of the Otomí community is the expropriation of two buildings located in the Juarez neighborhood in Mexico City, at the addresses of Roma 18 and Londres 7, to serve as housing for Indigenous families. Since two and a half years ago, the building at Zacatecas 64 was expropriated with the intention to house 40 Otomí families, but there are still no indications of fulfilling the demand.
The Otomíes explained that they are tired of lies from government officials like Juan Gutiérrez and Rodrigo Chavez with whom they held a meeting on October 14, where they offered dialogues “without response, without real commitment, their offers are pure simulation of the fourth transformation.”
“We do not believe their words, because we’ve gone four years of this administration that is on its way out and they still have not given us a response,” explained Isabel, delegate of the National Indigenous Congress, who emphasized that this is a decades-long struggle for dignified housing for the Otomí community.
The Otomí community denounced that, on Saturday, October 14, they were informed that the building could not be expropriated because they are not occupying it. With that, they demanded that the government of Mexico City expropriate the building that they are occupying, that House of the Peoples “Samir Flores Soberanes.”
“We demand the expropriation of this building, because here we are occupying it,” they said. The Otomí community announced that they will not remove the encampment on Avenue Mexico-Coyoacán until the demands are fulfilled for social housing of the Otomí community.
Collectives and organizations from different parts of Mexico City and the country arrived to support the struggle and resistance of the Otomí community.
“That is the struggle, so that they don’t continue handing over our territory to real estate companies, for police and military barracks, that are doing away with our lands…to serve the interests of transnational corporations that come for the minerals, the oil. Here, the occupation of the National Institute of Indigenous Peoples building was necessary. The insurrection was necessary,” explains María de los Angeles Fernández, also known as Doña Fili, organizer for dignified housing in Santo Domingo, Coyoacán.
Doña Fili reminds us that just recently on October 12, cultural activities with children were organized in the House of the Peoples. “How can they attack people who struggle so peacefully? And deny housing to the people,” she asked.
For their part, members of the Coordination of Peoples, Original Neighborhoods, and Districts of Xochimilco denounced that the violent actions against the Otomí community are part of the strategy of Juan Gutiérrez Márquez, General Coordinator of Political Concertation, Prevention, and Good Governance in Mexico City.
“He did it to us as Xochimilcas and he does it again…These actions have been repeated. I raise my voice so that this person is removed from office. In the CDHCM, we filed a complaint for the aggressions against citizens of Xochimilco. The man is a coward…he brings a group of motorcyclists to attack, which we documented and filed the information with the CDHCM,” they said in response to the aggressions.
“We want to denounce the act of violence committed by three riot police causing a 13-year-old girl to lose consciousness…she was savagely beaten, that is what we are saying today, not in 1968, not in Palestine, or in another part of the world, we are saying it here in Mexico City, which claims to have a vanguard government,” said Carlos González, member of the National Indigenous Congress.
González said that the conditions of the different Indigenous peoples residing in Mexico City are inhumane. “The government does not give a damn, it is interested in political control, clientelism, giving handouts, not recognizing nor respecting rights, that is the innovative city of rights that this government is selling us.”
He also pointed out that the violence against Indigenous people is being repeated at the national level. For example, on October 13, two Chol youth, 19-year-old Juan Carlos Jiménez, and 17-year-old Oscar Pérez, both of the community of Tila, “were cowardly assassinated by paramilitary forces in their community…that is the reality that we are living,” denounced González regarding the situation of war in Mexico.
Lastly, the Otomí community called for actions in Querétaro in defense of water and territory and in support of the population of Santiago Mexquititlán.
“This cowardly action is because they are afraid of us, they have to attack us at the cost of life and in favor of the capitalist and real estate interests that have the titles to the land. We will continue struggling together, we will continue organizing, so that this patriarchal power, these transitional companies do not continue to dispossess us,” finalized Isabel, Otomí delegate of the National Indigenous Congress (CNI).