Federal police in the Mexican state of Michoacan killed four Indigenous campesinos Wednesday, entering their homes and shooting them on site, Ruptura Colectiva reports.
The four victims, whose names have yet to be released, were members of the Arantepacua Communal Property Collective, a grassroots organization that fights for Indigenous land rights in Michoacan. Eight members were left injured and 40 more were arrested, Mexico News Daily reports.
Witnesses also claim police threatened women and children who arrived at the scene of the murder with violence.
Ministry of Public Security officers justified the killings by claiming the victims were allegedly involved in a robbery of 20 vehicles a day earlier in the nearby city of Morelia. Arantepacua Indigenous leaders, however, claim the assassinations may have been in retaliation to their tribe’s ongoing land disputes with wealthy landowners, Ruptura Colectiva also reports.
Thirty-eight Arantepacua activists are currently imprisoned in Michoacan for protesting multinational corporations purchasing and occupying their ancestral lands.
“Since Arantepacua is not in Venezuela, the life of the campesinos is not worth anything to the rest of the world,” Mexican activist Fernandez Noroña wrote on Twitter, criticizing the U.S. government for turning its shoulder on human rights abuses in Mexico.
“How long will we continue to tolerate this bloodbath?”
For decades, the Mexican government has cracked down on Arantepacua social leaders over their attempts to reclaim their stolen lands.
In 1984, former Mexican President Miguel de la Madrid issued a decree that allowed the return of 520 hectares of land back to the Indigenous Arantepacua people, who have inhabited the area for centuries. The state of Michoacan, however, has yet to implement the parameters of the decree, leaving natives with no other option but to protest.
Protest tactics used by campesino leaders include temporarily re-occupying lands purchased by wealthy landowners and blocking roads in the area. Most of the protests against police and businesses in Arantepacua have been peaceful, until now.
“We strongly demand an end to the repression against the Arantepacua people who defend their territory,” Mexico’s National Movement of Indigenous Peoples, Communities and Organizations said in a statement Wednesday.
“Say no to megaprojects and transnational corporations!"