The Curse of the Thermoelectric

Daliri Oropeza Alvarez

Mural of Samir Flores Soberanes

A run to remember the why of the struggle for land and water. A race in which what is won is life itself. Four years after the assassination of Samir Flores Soberanes, the Peoples Front in Defense of Land and Water of Puebla-Morelos-Tlaxcala organizes a marathon in his memory in Amilcingo, while the thermoelectric plant still does not function.

I saw a photo of Professor Jorge Velazquez in the Almeal of Cuautla, Morelos, four years ago on the social network of the book of faces. 

There is Samir Flores Soberanes, holding two banners, one that reads “Huexca and the people affected definitively cancel the thermoelectric plant!” and the other, “Puebla present! We demand the cancellation of the Morelos Integral Project!” 

Next to them are Teresa Castellanos from Huexca and Professor Jorge from Amilcingo. All of them on top of a makeshift structure, there they stand to face the recently arrived president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and demand that he cancel the gas pipeline, aqueduct and thermoelectric plant. 

They entered the rally with a group of peasants and activists from the Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra y el Agua Puebla-Morelos-Tlaxcala (Peoples’ Front in Defense of Land and Water Puebla-Morelos-Tlaxcala), bypassing the event’s security. With shouts and slogans, 150 meters away from AMLO, they show their discontent with the president’s announcement to hold a consultation for the operation of the Huexca thermoelectric plant. In spite of the fact that in his campaign he promised to cancel it. 

This is a turning point in the president’s relationship with the activists. He called them leftist radicals and conservatives. It was the preamble to a six-year relationship.

“Listen: leftist radicals (he points with the index finger of his right hand)… who for me are nothing more than conservatives. Listen: if the CFE thermoelectric plant of a national company is not used, instead of having the light to illuminate all of Morelos, we would have to continue buying light from foreign companies,” said AMLO. 

“But the gas pipeline is private, it belongs to Spaniards!”, they shouted back, “Palero, palero, palero Madero!”, they chanted.

The event did not remain sonorously clean. The activists’ slogans echoed throughout the area. Also in the transmission through the presidential web page. 

At the end of the disagreement, I interview Samir Flores: 

“It is regrettable what Andrés Manuel mentions today. It reminds me of those years when Madero took power and turned his back on General Zapata. Once he was in power, he told him, ‘Let me work, I am going to do things as I see fit,’ and I think it reminds me of those pages in history.

“It is regrettable how he has referred to us today, how today he is putting aside, in a denigrating manner, the demonstration of those of us who have felt aggrieved since 2012. A project that was not consulted with us.” 

A month before, AMLO visited Morelos for the first time as president. He went to Villa de Ayala, land of Emiliano Zapata, to declare that his first year of government (2019) would be dedicated to the Leader of the Liberating Army of the South. A Maderista paying homage to Zapata.

Ten days after announcing his consultation in Cuautla, Samir Flores was assassinated. One day after going to an event where he confronted the superdelegate Hugo Éric Flores (defender of the paramilitary murderers of the Acteal massacre). 

Ahuehuetes in Amilcingo that Samir defended. Photo: Daliri Oropeza Alvarez

To run for life, to contest memory.

The fourth anniversary of the death of Samir Flores Soberanes has arrived. The Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra y el Agua Puebla-Morelos-Tlaxcala calls for the “First Race for Life and the Memory that Blossoms,” with men’s and women’s divisions. 

The starting point is at 8 a.m. at Amiltzinko Community Radio, which Samir founded and where he had his program Amanecer Ranchero.   

In his village, Samir would set up a loudspeaker every afternoon, on any street corner, to talk about the PIM and what it would destroy, thus denouncing what they were doing. His persistence led him to carry out one of his dreams: to do radio.  With it, he promoted the government of usos y costumbres, recognized in Amilcingo.

“Samir used to run a lot with his girls, here in the ravines. We believe that we also have to keep that part alive, of what we went to plant in the ravines, as an action, so today we consider that the race is also to remember, to demand justice…it is a race that also blossoms,” says Jorge Velázquez, who in addition to being a teacher who fights for labor and educational rights, also defends the land and is part of the People’s Front. 

The Peoples’ Front wants the people of Amilcingo and those who participate in the race to “also know our territory, how beautiful it is, why he was murdered. That it is a territory that belongs to the community. It is a territory that, to this day, is not contaminated, where we can still sow several crops, which are rainfed corn, sorghum, beans, squash, watermelon, amaranth, and peanuts, which we still sow on our lands.”

The goal is the heart of the community of Amilcingo. In the center, next to the elementary school named Samir Flores Soberanes. 

For Professor Jorge, it is important to revive this memory of the territory and to return to love this coexistence with the land. He recalls an anecdote with Samir when he was carrying out the Escuelita Popular with the children of the Nahua community. He tells it from a pedagogical perspective:

“He said that we have to make a different school, a school not of books, not of notebooks. The children are already bored. Let’s make a little popular school, where they can put into practice all the learning they have had at school. Samir took the children to the ravine to sow, to create a school there, in the ravine. It’s all that inspiration that Samir used to give, which was awesome.”

“It is a race for life. Samir fought for life, and he showed us that struggle with his own life.  He understood that life comes first. In that which is life. So he shows us that this life belongs to all of us and that we have to fight for it, as his struggle, his resistance, showed us,” says Teresa Castellanos, member of the People’s Front, who will participate in the race even if at a slow pace.

Although they have done tests, they have activated the thermoelectric plant and AMLO announced its inauguration, they have not started it up.

“The thermoelectric plant is still there polluting, incurring expenses that it should not, taking all the water that it should not, and it is not generating electricity. And it is not going to generate it. First of all, from the beginning there was the struggle of the people in resistance, of the hearts broken by all the violence that they have exerted to carry out this megaproject. And then, because of Samir’s murder, I see no future for the thermoelectric plant, it is the curse that Andrés Manuel López Obrador was given,” describes Teresa Castellanos. 

Flyer for the Run for Life and the Memory that Blossoms, on the 4th Anniversary of the Death of Samir Flores.

Tere reflects, “maybe this is our last chance to save this planet, this Mother Earth.”

“This race for life is to struggle, to resist, to save the planet in one way or another. This is the race for life,” says Tere Castellanos in an interview. 

“After the attack, when our colleague Samir was taken from us, we hold that memory very close. Of everything that has happened and that we lived through in our various struggles with Samir, from the beginning of the thermoelectric plant, until the last day of his life,” affirms professor Jorges.

“He unified us, with that human quality. We need him,” says the teacher.  

Regarding the investigation, both Tere and Profe assure that there is no progress or justice. The Morelos Prosecutor’s Office only approaches the family when the date comes around. It has been more than a year since they arrested a presumed murderer, and since then there has been no more.  They want to make the detainee look like organized crime to support their first hypothesis, and disassociate him from the struggle for land.

The Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra Puebla-Morelos-Tlaxcala invites you to the “First Race for Life and the Memory that Blossoms.”

This article was published in Pie de Página on February 14th, 2023.
English translation by Schools for Chiapas.

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