Mexico: Communal Government of Santa María Ostula Repels Organized Crime from their Territory

Organizations from different states of Mexico recently published a communique recognizing the labor of the Indigenous Communal Government of Santa Maria Ostula, in the municipality of Aquila, Michoacán, in defense of the collective rights of the Indigenous Nahua people, and for ensuring security in their territory.

The Indigenous Nahua community of Santa María Ostula is located in the coastal-sierra region of the state of Michoacán, a region rich in natural resources, minerals and forests. However, it is one of the most violent zones in Mexico. The dispute between different organized crime groups for control over the territory and its resources has resulted in hundreds of assassinations and disappearances.

In this context, inhabitants of the Indigenous Nahua community of Santa Maria Ostula, “have understood that only though unity, community work, strengthening their internal forms of organization, and care for mother earth, can they generate a dignified alternative of life in their territory,” says the communique.

According to decisions made in general assemblies, the maximum authority of government in the community, they have strengthened the Indigenous governing institutions, grounded in their agrarian authorities, communal council, community representative, security, and communal guard.

In this sense, the Indigenous Communal Government of Santa Maria Ostula, “guarantees the legitimacy and capacity of its own institutions, to generate better conditions of life in their territory, which is one of the most secure places in the country, in spite of being located in one of the most violent zones,” explains the organizations.

Given the lack of capacity on part of the state to provide security, the organized crime groups maintain control over extensive territory in the coastal-sierra region of Michoacán and have tried to enter Ostula’s communal territory generating violence and tension.

Despite this, through organization, the community has been able to repel the attacks and has sought dialogue to strengthen alliances with the federal government to address the situation of violence in the region.

According to the organizations, the recent history “has taught us that only with the participation and control, legal and legitimate, of the Indigenous Communal Government of Santa María Ostula, has it been possible to achieve peace and security, which are two of the most sensitive issues we face as Mexican people.”

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