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Choréachi: Recent Juridical Actions

In February 2007, the Rarámuri community of Choréachi filed a lawsuit at the Joint Agrarian Tribunal (Tribunal Unitario Agrario, or TUA) in the city of Chihuahua in defense of their territory and natural resources. The suit deals with the defense of the collective rights of more than 120 Rarámuri families, represented by 264 indigenous people that are plaintiffs in this agrarian case. Furthermore, the indigenous community, as a collective, is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit through its traditional authority figure, the siríame, or indigenous governor.

In this lawsuit, Choréachi seeks the nullification of a number of governmental resolutions that have imposed limits on their possessions and territories. Additionally, it asks for the nullification of the forest permit that was granted to the agrarian community of Coloradas de los Chávez on territory possessed by Choréachi. The community of Choréachi possesses huge extensions of virgin forest that its inhabitants have preserved for future generations, but that neighboring communities, by different means, have sought to log.

Chronology of Actions and Resolutions

February 15, 2007
Twenty-nine Rarámuri from the community of Choréachi file a lawsuit at the TUA in Chihuahua City pressing for the recognition and titling of their communal lands, as well as the nullification of the forest permit granted by the SEMARNAT to the neighboring agrarian community Coloradas de los Chávez on territory that Choréachi has possessed ancestrally.

April 13, 2007
By order of the TUA, the forest-use permit that had been granted to Coloradas de los Chávez is suspended provisionally until the agrarian controversy is definitively resolved.

January 15, 2008
In order to guarantee that the indigenous community of Choréachi understands all of what transpires in the lawsuit, they ask that the TUA provide a Rarámuri-Spanish interpreter-translator in all the hearings and audiences.

April 9, 2008
A hearing is held at which 140 Rarámuri from Choréachi appear in court so as to be included as plaintiffs through their ratification of the lawsuit.

April 2008
The Second District Judge definitively resolves injunction 1149/2007 put forward by Coloradas de los Chávez (the defendants in the agrarian lawsuit). They are denied the request to lift the suspension that had been passed by the TUA, through which the authorization to log on Choréachi territory had been halted. With this decision, the suspension remains in place and the protection of those ancient forests is guaranteed until such time as a definitive sentence is pronounced in the agrarian lawsuit.

June 10, 2008
Another 95 Rarámuri from Choréachi appear at the TUA to join the ratification of the lawsuit. They, along with the 29 who had initially filed the lawsuit and the 140 who had ratified it in April, total 264 plaintiffs.

August 15, 2008
In response to a precautionary request, the indigenous governor is accredited to be represented in this day's hearing in accordance with the traditions and customs of the Choréachi community. In this way, Cayetano Bustillos Ramos becomes the representative of all the indigenous plaintiffs in the lawsuit. In a related matter, the original lawsuit is expanded with an eye to strengthening and documenting the demands of the community.

October 1, 2008
The TUA issues a ruling in which it declares the defense of lack of authority to represent the opposing party to be groundless and inadmissible. This defense had been introduced by one of the defendants who alleged that the indigenous community lacked legal standing. Nonetheless, the favorable decision for Choréachi is supported by the consolidated jurisprudence on the issue, in the sense that indigenous communities in fact enjoy legal standing and have the capacity to defend their rights before the courts. The defendants appeal that decision.

December 8, 2008
Legal hearing. On this date, the indigenous community of Choréachi ratifies the original lawsuit as well as its amendment and offers evidence in order to prove the community's right to the recognition of its land, territory, and natural resources. Some of the evidence they offer are: admission of facts, testimonials, expert´s reports in the fields of physical, social, and linguistic anthropology and topography, as well as visual inspections in the field.

December 10, 2008
The Second District Judge definitively resolves injunction 840-2008 put forward by Coloradas de los Chávez. They are denied the injunction and it is resolved that the decision made by the Agrarian Judge of conceding legal standing to the Choréachi indigenous people to file their agrarian lawsuit is correct and in line with the law.

March 6, 2009
The TUA resolves that the jurisdictional plea opposed by the defendants is groundless and inadmissible and orders that the proceedings continue.

July 6, 2009
The Judge of the TUA establishes the issue of the controversy, admits the evidence offered by the parties to the case, and sets the dates for the continuation of the hearing for September 4, 2009.

Administrative Actions

Independently of the lawsuits, we continue to administratively denounce any interference by third parties that intend to log the forests of the Choréachi community.

June 18, 2008
We hold a meeting with the representative of the SEMARNAT in Chihuahua in order to formally submit a copy of the Popular Complaint (Denuncia Popular) that the indigenous authorities of Choréachi had presented to PROFEPA. The complaint is against the Pino Gordo Ejido (a co-defendant in the agrarian lawsuit) because they had been logging the forest on lands where the TUA had decreed that the logging permit must be suspended.

August 5, 2008
The Popular Complaint is admitted as number 88/2008. The interested parties are notified that the inspection and surveillance process provided for in the law has been initiated.

November 2008
Inspectors are commissioned and the forest inspection is carried out. Evidence is found of the cutting of unmarked trees and changes in the use of the soil.

July 2009
The legal proceedings await resolution.


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