MEXICO CITY ( Associated Press) — The arrest and prison sentence of three students in western Mexico who tried to plant trees on state-owned land that had been sold to a private developer sparked outrage among student and civic groups.
Three students were jailed earlier this week in the western city of Guadalajara, capital of Jalisco state, on charges of illegal land appropriation and possession of weapons.
The charge of carrying a weapon relates to the shovels used by the three youths to dig pits during the week-long protest in 2021, where they will plant trees on the land.
Students and local residents want a park on the vast tract of land, not the luxury apartment buildings envisioned by the developers.
The harshness of the charges against Iván Cisneros, Javier Armenta and José Rojas angered many in Guadalajara.
Cesar Barba, director of higher education at the University of Guadalajara, wrote, “The excessive abuse of state power against young people who demonstrated peacefully, and who were criminals from the beginning, has reached alarming levels that speak of a lack of boundaries and principles.” ” condemning that “anyone who seeks and demands justice and who is paid with imprisonment.”
The issue is sensitive, as the large parcel in question was owned by the city government and earmarked for a public park. But in 2008, in a less transparent transaction, it was handed over to property developers in exchange for public works, which according to local media were never completed.
The real estate developers’ office for Guadalajara Land did not respond to calls or messages.
But attention quickly turned to Enrique Alfaro, the governor of Jalisco state where Guadalajara is located, given prosecutors’ enthusiasm in pursuing the case.
Late Monday, Alfaro issued a statement saying the allegations were justified, but that he would try to get the students released on bail.
“No one has been arrested for protesting,” Alfaro said, noting that “the land these youths call a park is not a park, but private property.”
But the civic group Hagamos Jalisco indicated in a statement that the 2021 protest was peaceful.
The group said, “Their demonstration included reforestation of the site, informing the neighboring people, camping in the vicinity and holding a peaceful protest.” “Subsequently, the protesters were dispensed with the luxury of violence and a legal process was initiated against them.”
The group said keeping the students in jail until a court hearing later this week is a “disproportionate measure based on the lie of the presence of weapons”.