Thirteen people were murdered by citizens of a neighbouring village in what has been branded a massacre in the Sierra Sur of Oaxaca earlier this week.
Believed to have been caused by residents from San Lucas Ixcotepec over an ongoing land dispute with the community of Santa María Ecatepec, a further five people remain missing after the attack.
According to a report from El Financiero, a Spanish-language publication that reports on the country, the attack which took place on Monday is believed to have started when 25 people from the Acatitlan community went into the disputed area to clean up a crop system. An armed attack then ensued on the group of 25 believed to be from the town of Santa Maria Ecatepec, which saw two women and eleven men killed in an ambush-like method. During the attack a vehicle was also set on fire.
Following the attack, the National Emergency Commission and State Police were the first to reach the scene after having travelled from a district two hours away from the site.
Monday’s attack appears to come after a long line of arguments between the communities. According to the report the most recent dispute exists over the ownership of 3,660 hectares of forest land, however the Santa María Ecatepec community also has ownership disputes over another 9,775 hectares and a third concerns 4,409. The Attorney General, Rubén Vasconcelos has since noted that conflict the continues despite proposed resolutions between the warring communities.
In response to the massacre, 42 state police guards have been placed in the community of Santa María Ecatepec in attempt to prevent retaliation attempts from either side.
The Sierra Sur in Oaxaca is a mountainous area which spans 14,000 km2 and consist of over 70 municipalities, some of which are identified as far below the poverty line. The area mainly consists of farming communities, in which the issue of land continues to remain a disputed topic for residents.
There are hundreds of land disputes rife throughout Mexico, predominantly in poorer areas of the country and amongst indigenous communities. For instance at the end of last year it was reported by Al Jazeera that 5,000 people were displaced from their villages after renewed land disputes erupted in the area. As authorities rally to find effective solutions for communities, who desire to take matters into their own hands, it has also been reported that the murder rate in the country is predicted to top 30,000 for this year, the highest recorded annual number in Mexico’s history.