The Escolásticas community in Querétaro state, Mexico, has been subjected to extreme police repression, with 11 people initially arrested in June and three still detained.
Around 300 state and local police surrounded the community, on June 13, stopping people from entering or leaving. Police fired tear gas and threw rocks at community members, used dogs to disperse people and beat and intimidated female protesters. Of the 11 people arrested that day, five suffered injuries such as severe bruising and fractures.
The people who were detained were arrested on trumped-up charges, and included two children.
In Mexico, the majority of land is communally owned by collectives or communities of Indigenous or original land owners. Escolásticas is one such area. There, the communal land owners’ legal right to the land and natural springs is being attacked by private interests who want access to the water so they can sell it for profit.
Last year, Querétaro state joined Puebla city in effectively privatising water, in violation of the Mexican constitution. As Mexico grapples with increasing droughts and water scarcity, transnational and local companies are trying to access water to either sell directly or to use for car, clothing and soft drink production, among other industries, at the expense of residents and small farmers.
In Escolásticas, companies have been operating in cahoots with public security forces and paramilitaries to intimidate locals.
The community has been holding protests to demand the release of the three people still detained. Locals gathered outside the state courts on July 19 to protest the authorities use of death threats in forcing eight of the original detainees to sign commitments to not denounce civil servants.
One of those originally arrested, Teresa Roldán, has been defending land in the region from deforestation and large-scale housing developments since 2016. She has recently received death threats and been subjected to intimidation by suspicious vehicles that follow and monitor her.
The community will hold another protest on July 25 where they will again demand that the political prisoners be freed and denounce the torture and repression the whole community has been subjected to.