Lawsuit of the indigenous community of Santa Fe de la Laguna for their rights to autonomy, self-government and self-determination to directly manage their municipal public resources


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Santa Fe de la Laguna has been one of the Purépecha indigenous communities of the State of Michoacán that has distinguished itself for its activism in defense of its communal lands, particularly in the decade of the 70’s of the last century, becoming a referent of the Purépecha people .



Most of the original communities of the indigenous people of Mexico in the construction of the nation-state were practically subordinated to the municipal heads. They acquire the character of sub-municipalities by means of which they were marginalized and therefore they have been discriminated in all the areas, particularly in the political and economic issue. Also they they have not been considered in the participación of important decision-making of the municipalities or in the management and distribution of public resources of the municipal finance. Given this background, a series of Purépecha communities of the State of Michoacán initiated in 2015 a process of resistence for the “direct administration of municipal public resources that proportionally corresponds to them”.

Under the solidarity and support of the “Colectivo Emancipaciones” with the social movements, especially the flagged by the original communities and communities of Mexico, in September of the year 2015 we began the political-juridical accompaniment with the community of Pichátaro, the first sub-commune of Michoacán that decided to judicialize their collective rights to autonomy, self-government and self-determination so that, in the exercise of their right to effective political participation in the form of internal organization, they could administrate directly the proportional share of their municipal public resources. This lawsuit was resolved by the Superior Court of the Electoral Tribunal of the Judicial Branch of the Federation in May 2016, becoming the first national judicial precedent for any indigenous community under the “sub-commune” case to appeal to that alternative in the face of the refusal of the town councils to their collective human rights. Thus, Pichátaro has been managing the proportional share of municipal public resources since November 2016.

After this precedent that settled the case of Pichátaro, we continued the political-legal accompaniment almost in parallel with two communities of the Purépecha plateau, San Felipe de los Herreros and Santa Fe de la Laguna.

Both cases were presented and resolved by the Electoral Tribunal of the State of Michoacán, by virtue of the judicial precedent on the Pichátaro case, in which the local electoral courts were obligated to follow the judicial judgment of the Superior  Room of the TEPJF. The San Felipe de los Herreros lawsuit, which was the second after Pichátaro to be resolved, has been relatively one of the fastest to conclud. This process began in March of this year, TEEM resolved in April, in May the sentence was executed and in June 1st. San Felipe de los Herreros, as Pichátaro managed the proportional part of its municipal public resources.



Santa Fe de la Laguna is the third sub-municipality, dependent on the municipality of Quiroga, who has also gone to state courts under the supervision of the Colectivo Emancipaciones to judicialize their collective rights and to manage their own municipal public resources that proportionally corresponds. However, unlike what happened with San Felipe de los Herreros, the process of Santa Fe de la Laguna has been hampered, not only by political institutions such as Quiroga’s own city council, but also by the state’s own courts of justice (TEEM and SCJN). This process began at the end of April 2017, after the municipality of Quiroga refused to authorize the direct delivery of public resources that corresponds proportionally to Santa Fe, so that, by agreement of the General Assembly of the community, they decided to go to court through a JDC (Juicio para la protección de los Derechos Político-Electorales del Ciudadano) against the City of Quiroga, which has been met and resolved the Electoral Court of the State of Michoacán.Two months later, at the end of June of this year, the TEEM resolved under the trialTEEM-JDC-011/2017 in favor of Santa Fe de la Laguna, recognizing their collective rights to autonomy, self-government and self-determination in order to directly administrate the municipal public resources that proportionally corresponds to them. However, this resolution contains a series of inconsistencies in its execution, which evidently violated the community’s right to self-determination. Since a prior, free and informed consultation process was ordered to the traditional authorities, and that this was organized by the city council of Quiroga, when in practice such consultation was unnecessary since the initial request was submitted by agreement of the General Assembly (highest authority in the original communities) and ratified by both the traditional authorities and by more than 50% of comuneros and comuneras of Santa Fe; likewise, the Institution authorized to organize the consultation, at the discretion of the Superior Chamber of the TEPJF in the Pichátaro case, as well as of the Law on Mechanisms for Citizen Participation in Michoacán, is the Electoral Institute of Michoacán (IEM), not the municipality responsible as ordered by TEEM.


Faced with this partial recognition by TEEM of the collective rights of Santa Fe de la Laguna, the community decided to challenge, through a new JDC, the said resolution before the Regional Room Toluca -V Circumscription- of the TEPJF, in order to avoid consultation, or in its absence, was organized in coordination with the community by the Electoral Institute of Michoacán. In mid-July, the Toluca Regional Court ruled on this challenge, in which it affirmed what TEEM said would be a consultation process, but not only the traditional authorities, as originally ordered by TEMM, but which would now be to the whole community gathered in General Assembly, so that the only thing that amended on the TEEM resolution was that the institution authorized to do so would be the Electoral Institute of Michoacán.Again, non-conforming with the decision of the Regional Chamber, the community also decided to challenge that resolution by means of a Reconsideration Resource before the last instance in electoral matters of the Superior Room of the TEPJF. In early September of this year, in favor of the community of Santa Fe de la Laguna, ratified the right of the community, to self-determinationand following the same criteria on the resolution of the case Pichátaro, ordered that the consultation to Santa Fe de la Laguna would only be through its traditional authorities to define the minimum qualitative and quantitative elements related to the transfer of resources and responsibilities.

After all this series of litigation before the courts, and what seemed to be the last stage of the political and legal process of Santa de la Laguna, the TEE, Regional Room Toluca and Superior Room of the TEPJF proceeded to execute the sentence. Immediately, the working groups between the Electoral Institute of Michoacán, a liaison committee of Santa Fe de la Laguna under the supervision of the Colectivo Emancipaciones, and the city council of Quiroga, began to organize the process of free and informed prior consultation of which concluded that on September 27, both stages, informative and consultative, would be held. However, only the information stage was carried out; the consultative phase was suspended only a few minutes before the IEM announced that they had been notified of a TEEM agreement ordering the suspension of the consultation by order of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation after the admition of constitutional controversy brought by the municipality of Quiroga.

Santa Fe-Sala Superior

Later, the community of Santa Fe de la Laguna was notified, where in fact, we noticed that the city council had filed a constitucional against the decision of the Electoral Tribunal of Michoacán TEEM-JDC-011/2017, alleging that said court is not competent to hear this type of litigation in which it involves rights of autonomy and self-determination of native communities, despite Pichátaro’s precedents by SS-TEPJF and San Felipe de los Herreros by TEEM, where the city council requested a precautionary measure suspending any act tending to enforce the judgment of that court, but not properly the consultative stage, which is an act that alone does not imply the transfer of municipal public resources.


However, the community of Santa de la Laguna continues to struggle and reaffirms its commitment to continue this process through all political and legal channels that are available. Likewise, the Emancipations Collective has undertaken to continue hand in hand with this Purépecha community until the rights to autonomy, self-government and self-determination are achieved so that Santa Fe de la Laguna directly manages the proportional part of the municipal public resources that corresponds.

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