Mexican villagers clash, seize police

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Land and property disputes in the southern state of Oaxaca exploded in violence this week, leaving at least two people dead and resulting in the seizure of a police official and his two bodyguards, newspapers reported Tuesday.
On Monday, about 300 Huave Indians from San Francisco del Mar marched to reclaim more than 120,000 acres of land held by Zapotec Indians of Ixhautan, about 160 miles southeast of the tourist center of Oaxaca city, the daily La Jornada reported.
Battles broke out between the two villages and two Huave Indians were killed. Residents of San Francisco then raided part of Ixhuatan and burned several thatch houses. Ixhuatan residents responded with a similar raid.
Ixhuatan inhabitants have held the land for about 30 years, despite a presidential decree in favor of San Francisco, La Jornada said. The government’s Notimex news agency said officials sent 250 state policemen to control violence in the area.
In another ongoing conflict, villagers in the municipality of Santa Maria Chimalapa seized the deputy director of the Oaxaca state judicial police and two bodyguards Monday.
The seizure came as police attempted to rescue 20 people from the nearby town of Cuauhtemoc whom the villagers had been holding captive for more than a week.
The three officials were released after several hours, but the 20 villagers were still being held Tuesday. They were taken hostage after being accused of illegally cutting wood belonging to Santa Maria Chimalapa.
Santa Maria Chimalapa is one of Mexico’s poorest, most remote and conflict-ridden rural areas, near the Chiapas state line.
More than 400 police had gone to the region in hopes of freeing the captives, La Jornada reported.
Oaxaca is one of the poorest states in Mexico, its rugged mountains and valleys home to scores of different Indian groups struggling to survive on poor and isolated lands.