Megaprojects and Dilemmas

by Francisco López Barcenas

The year comes to a close with bad signs for the future of the indigenous peoples, and they are not letting up. “Our communal land gives water and life to the city. We want respect for the territory, the inheritance from our grandparents.” This is how the inhabitants of Milpa Alta summed up their position in recent days in response to the attempts by Mexico City authorities to deprive them of their water to satisfy the needs of the real estate industry that is drowning it. A few kilometers away, in the municipality of Xochimilco, the residents of San Gregorio Atlapulco rose up to oppose the works to take away their water, which they have been taking care of for years, leaving them city sewage in exchange. The righteousness of the demand generated a great popular support that even put at risk the candidacy of the head of government (Claudia Sheinbaum) for the Presidency of the Republic, and they had to back down.

This is not the only place where the people are dissatisfied with the extractivist policies and megaprojects of the government of change. In the north of the country, the Mayos of Sinaloa, along with the fishermen and inhabitants of the valley of Ohuira, Sinaloa, do not relent in their efforts to stop the construction of an ammonia factory which, according to the government, would support commercial agriculture, but from the point of view of those affected, would destroy their environment and truncate their possibilities of living a dignified future. According to the government, this has already been resolved in a public consultation that was carried out by judicial mandate, but those affected do not agree because, according to them, those who should not have voted did so. It is not insignificant to insist that this project has the endorsement of the federal and state governments, who came to power promising changes to this type of policy.

A little further north, the towns that make up the Yaqui tribe, especially Loma de Bácum, insist that the Agua Prieta Topolobampo gas pipeline, which would supply gas to regional industry, not pass through their sacred territory. Their struggle is bearing some fruit because the Federal Electricity Commission has decided to modify the route so that it does not do so, but to do so they request that the protesters withdraw the injunction, but the latter, distrustful as they are, say that they will do so when the new route of the gas pipeline is defined, has the approval of the towns that could be affected, the charges are withdrawan against their compañero Fidencio Aldama, who is unjustly kept in jail, and the damages have been repaired, as recommended by the National Human Rights Commission. They do not want this to happen to them as it did with the gas pipeline, where they won an injunction, but it continues to operate.

The winds of discontent are also blowing through the south of the country. In the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, the agrarian communities and ejidos formed the Union of Ejidos, Agrarian Communities and Agricultural Settlements as a way of confronting the onslaught of the proponents of the Interoceanic Corridor that the federal government is promoting in the region. “Today we are forming and building a movement in defense of our lands, our biodiversity, our natural and cultural resources. We are more than 28 ejido and communal representative bodies in the northern zone of the Isthmus, and it is precisely our lands that belonged to our ancestors,” they emphasized during the presentation of the new organization, while stressing that all the works that are being promoted flagrantly violate their rights.

In the midst of so much adversity, one positive sign was seen, but it was soon extinguished. The Ministry of Economy publicly acknowledged that mining companies pay almost no taxes, because that is what is determined by the onerous law on the matter, approved in the heyday of neoliberalism, and also permitted by previous governments. The Ministry’s statements did not stop there; as it also said that they were going to charge them. No sooner had it said that when the leader of Morena, the party in power, announced that its candidate for the government of the state of Coahuila will be the current senator Armando Guadiana, who is known as the King of Coal, due to his influence in that sector of the economy. As a senator, he has spoken out in defense of the current mining law, opposing any initiative to reform it.

This is a great dilemma for the self-declared government of the Fourth Transformation, trapped between its discourse, which seems to be its wishes, and the facts that prevent it from carrying them out. It was understandable that this contradiction was present in its first years, and there were even those who thought that as the years went by, when their power would be consolidated, these contradictions would end and they would show that there was no distance between their words and their deeds. That was years ago, but now the fourth year of government has ended and there is no noticeable change, at least not in key issues for the economy and the future of the country. Where changes are beginning to be noticed is in the position of the people, who in the face of so much subjugation, unfulfilled promises and violation of their rights, are no longer willing to wait.

We will see what happens in the coming year.

Originally published in Spanish in La Jornada on December 26th, 2022. English translation by Schools for Chiapas

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