Territorial dispute delays new Oaxaca highway
The construction of a highway connecting the city of Oaxaca to the resort town of Puerto Escondido encountered a problem due to a land dispute between rival towns in the Sierra of Oaxaca.
Residents of the neighboring municipalities of Villa Sola de Vega and San Vicente Coatlán, both located about 95 kilometers south of the city of Oaxaca, have a long-standing dispute over 20,000 hectares of land, which is delaying the construction of 13 kilometers of the Barranca Larga-Ventanilla highway, which the authorities plan to open in August next year.
A 2003 court ruling assigned the territory to Sola de Vega, but the residents of San Vicente Coatlán have not given up on their claim to the area. The conflict has often turned violent, as it did more recently in April, when seven people were killed in a clash between communities in the two municipalities.
According to the newspaper Reforma, the conflict has claimed more than 50 lives in about 60 years. Residents of the two municipalities at different times in 2021 blocked various federal highway construction projects in an attempt to bring the conflict to the attention of state and federal governments.
Agrarian conflicts of this type are common in the largely rural state. At On Sunday, in another part of the state, part of a road leading to a remote village on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec – which had been paved via a federal public works program – was destroyed by rival villagers due a land conflict, cutting off eight more rural communities.
President López Obrador addressed the dispute during his morning press conference in the city of Oaxaca on Monday. The people of San Vicente »I don’t want the work to end, ”he said. In June, he visited the municipality on a tour of infrastructure projects in the region and pledged to help resolve the conflict in exchange for residents lifting the blockade of another construction project – l the Oaxaca-Isthmus highway, Reforma reported at the time.
“I have already met them. They did well and we came to an agreement to find a solution, but the problem is not the road but an agrarian problem, a conflict over the boundaries of Sola de Vega and San Vicente Coatlán, which dates back to there a long time, ”López Obrador mentioned.
He claimed that, according to their goodwill and good faith, the section would be completed in December and the highway inaugurated in August 2022.
The 20-year-old project has seen presidents come and go: Vicente Fox, Felipe Calderón and Enrique Peña Nieto have not kept their promises to bring it to fruition.
The people of Sola de Vega share their neighbors’ tendency to take matters into their own hands. In January, residents put a rope around the neck of their mayor, Esaú Núñez, and threatened to hang him, claiming he was corrupt and had done nothing for the community.
With reports from Proceso