The Tlachinollan Human Rights Center (CDHM Tlachinollan) is a human rights organization which has worked in the state of Guerrero since 1993. They promote and defend the rights of the ñuu savi, me'phaa, nauas, nn'anncue and mestizo peoples of the Montaña and Costa Chica regions of Guerrero; among them the collective rights of indigenous peoples; economic, social, cultural and environmental rights; and women's rights.
The state of Guerrero is a territory of interest for the mining sector, due to the 42 mineral deposits it has. Thirty-eight concessions have been delivered by the federal government in order to conduct exploration and mining activities, without taking into account the right to territory, consultation and consent of indigenous peoples. According to Tlachinollan’s latest report, the peoples that inhabit the region have identified mining as one of the main threats to the territory, which is why they have developed a series of opposition strategies and fight both locally and as part of networks. A recent and successful case is that of the San Miguel del Progreso community, Júba Wajíín - in the Me'Phaa language - which, since 2011, has collectively rejected open-pit mining in its territory and who, in June 2017, obtained the final decision that prohibits open-pit mining through injunction (juicio de amparo) number 429/2016. This sentence is the result of a collective process carried out by the community, integrated by more than 3,800 people, who mainly live on their maize and coffee crops, and who continue to fight so that all the parties involved comply with the final decision. Although this sentence is a positive sign in favor of indigenous peoples and their collective rights, the communities are reinforcing their organizational processes to be able to exercise them.
"We are here, because you are fighting"
In the Mountain Region of Guerrero, 20 agrarian nuclei have been organized as a structure of indigenous and agrarian origin to face mining projects that threaten their territory. Since 2012, they have resorted to various legal resources and implemented an intense information campaign targeting the Me'phaa, ñuu savi and suljáa peoples, who belong to more than 200 communities, in order to ensure they have access to reliable information that allows them to understand the consequences and damages caused by the new open-pit mining model. This process has allowed them to make decisions freely in their own community assemblies, which has led to the rejection of this type of projects. To date, the struggle of the Regional Council of Agrarian Authorities in Defense of Territory (CRAADT), has been identified as a regional and national reference, for the force they have shown to prevent the installation of mining projects in the almost 180,000 hectares of territory that they administer and control. Their declarations of municipalities free of mining, together with the injunctions, have created a shield that encourages many other communities to join CRAADT and to prevent foreign companies from depriving them of their natural resources.
In its 2011 report, CDHM Tlachinollan reveals that about 200,000 hectares of the Montaña region have been granted under a concession for exploration and mining exploitation. From the dissemination of this information, an organization process within the agrarian nuclei began in order to care for and defend their territory. In 2012, the federal government announced the "Reserva de la Biosfera de la Montaña de Guerrero" decree. This project was an ANP (Natural Protected Area) of 157 thousand hectares, which affected 13 agrarian nuclei in 5 municipalities. This ANP would be located in the communities with the highest concentration of forest, water and biodiversity and would coincide with the largest mining concessions of the region, which was alarming for the majority of the population. The announcement of the decree sparked the disagreement of the agrarian nuclei and generated a process of collaboration of the same for the defense of their territory before any type of threat that would violate their own internal decision-making processes.
Defense of the territory: Taking care of the lives of future generations
My name is Valerio Amado Solano, I am president of the communal land commission of San Miguel del Progreso, a community where we are all of me'phaa origin. Between 2010 and 2011, we realized that something was happening, because helicopters flew very low, one helicopter entered a community and left, and then another one entered, and so helicopters came and went; and we found out that it was mining. Then in 2011 the commission called a meeting to see what we were going to do with this problem that was coming, and the people issued a letter definitively rejecting mining, which was sent to the national agrarian registry in Chilpancingo (capital of Guerrero), because that was required by Agrarian Law. Then the petition for an injunction was filed in 2013 and it took until 2015 for it to be granted, but as the injunction was in favor of the community, the government, the Ministry of the Economy did not want to accept it. We also wanted the mining law to be reviewed, so that we would have more in favor on our side; but instead, they decided to cancel two concessions: “Reducción Norte” and “Corazón de Tiniebla”.
We already knew that they were going to tell us lies, they proposed building us a cement house, delivering us a car, building us a road, providing us with light, water, all that. The people said no, because they did not want the hills to be destroyed, since we go to the hills and we pray, because they are a sacred place, and the water that supplies the town comes from those hills! We have other sacred places also where we go to hide the bones of the animals that we kill to eat; we have places where we go to get pigweed, we go to get medicinal herbs, and all that in exchange for building a house for us? And how long would that house last? Well… that house would last long enough for us, but would it last for future generations?
One of the main obstacles we had was in the first petition for an injunction is that the government said that we were not indigenous, because if they admitted that we are indigenous, Convention 169 would have supported us. So, to avoid its responsibility the government said “no, you are not indigenous people and you are not organized either.”
Later on, in 2012, the council of authorities in defense of the territory was formed, because other communities were also realizing that their territories were also being granted under a concession. This council is still valid, and is integrated by communities of more than 20 agrarian nuclei of several municipalities and their communities. The declaration of the mining-free zone is for all the people and for all the other communities, by obtaining a favorable resolution in the petition for injunction the first time, seven communities and two municipalities benefited, and this petition for injunction benefits three municipalities and seven agrarian nuclei. What we want is for this to be disseminated, so that in the face of any problem, we already have support from the people. Because what the government wants to do is not OK, to deprive us of our resources, which our ancestors have been able to take care of, and we are doing the same. On whether we would accept an indigenous consultation, then not flatly, not just because I say it or because San Miguel says it, but that it is a regional Costa-Montaña agreement. The thing is that this is about open-pit mining! They are going to devastate the community and several other communities; and we have been to Carrizalillo and we saw how the hills are falling apart there, we saw the problems that the inhabitants face now: organized crime, many people are leaving the place, so, we already have evidence of what can happen to us.
For the indigenous communities in the Mountain region of Guerrero, the mining concessions granted by the Mexican State represent the imposition of a policy that threatens the existence of ways of life rooted in the ancestral world view of the Me`phaa peoples, where nature is understood as something sacred that is cared for and defended. The legal and organizational actions undertaken by San Miguel del Progreso and other communities of the Mountain region of Guerrero are an example for other peoples committed to the exercise and defense of collective rights recognized at the international level in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, in Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization, and in Article 21 of the American Convention on Human Rights, on prior, free and informed consultation, among others. These initiatives have been supported by the Tlachinollan Regional Human Rights Center and implemented through a network of communities themselves.