Indigenous communities win land rights victory in Mexico’s federal court
In 2011, the indigenous Júba Wajiín community learned that the government had granted two companies mining rights for the mountain region of Guerrero state. The rights, which would encompass 80% of Júba Wajiín land, had been granted without any consultation with the indigenous community.
The community mounted a legal challenge with assistance from Tlachinollan Centro de Derechos Humanos de La Montaña, seeking to cancel the granted concessions on its territory. At a WITNESS co-hosted Video for Change event in 2013, Tlachinollan activists proposed using video to support the Júba Wajiín’s efforts.
In the subsequent years, the Júba Wajiín created videos to be shown in judicial decision-making spaces and for public distribution and awareness raising.
The group’s organizing and video advocacy strategies have proven successful. The mining companies, Hochschild from Peru and Zalamera from Mexico, relinquished their rights in 2015 before the Supreme Court reviewed the case — a development that benefitted about 240 indigenous communities in addition to the Júba Wajiín.
Last week, the Júba Wajiín and Tlachinollan secured their biggest victory: a federal court ruled the Mexican state has a constitutional obligation to respect indigenous land rights, and that mining operations cannot continue without input from the Júba Wajiín community.
A Tlachinollan representative noted in La Jornada that the ruling is an “unprecedented achievement” for indigenous land rights activists working against open pit mining, adding that, for the first time, the Ministry of Economy “must comply with its constitutional and conventional obligations regarding the rights of indigenous peoples” when considering mining rights.