FPDT Atenco on the streets 2nd October
The government of Peña Nieto has revived controversial plans to construct what some are calling Latin America’s largest airport. Intended for an area located east of Mexico City, the facility, "…would cost $9.2 billion, cover 11,400 acres, include six runways and have the capacity to handle 120 million passengers." Some opponents have expressed serious concerns over the ecological footprint of the planned airport which as designed would not only place an extreme burden on scant local water supplies, produce a mountain of waste and emit dangerous toxins in the form of water and air pollution but would also act to endanger over 120 native species. Those opposed to the project also question its placement in a region well known for, "subsidence, flooding and earthquakes."
Construction of just such an airport was first proposed in 2001, but that plan was scrapped following national and international outcry after it became widely known that as then devised it would have displaced over 56,000 people from the community known as San Salvador Atenco, the required land area amounting to in excess of 80 percent of those residents’ ancestral lands. The revived proposal has seen the shift of the airport’s geographic footprint away from ancestral lands and completely onto federally owned land that is located immediately adjacent to Atenco.
But not lost on anyone in Mexico, and in particular on the current and original members of the "People’s Front in Defense of Land" ("FPTD") – the local group that successfully opposed the first airport proposal – is the fact that five years following the rejection of first airport proposal, Mr. Nieto, in his then capacity as the governor of the State of Mexico (and allegedly in retribution for the earlier defeat) presided over one of the most repressive police actions in Mexican history; one that just so happened to take place in the same community that had succeeded in stopping the airport.
At that time, and in the midst of a local dispute involving flower vendors in which local people and members of the FPTD had taken to the streets in support of the vendors, "[e]vents developed rapidly, culminating in an attack infamous for the extreme police brutality, as 3,500 officers from the local, state and federal police and the army surrounded the town of Atenco. The violent repression resulted in two young people dead, 26 women raped by the military police, 217 people arrested, and many injured. Nine leaders of the Atenco farmers [they who had opposed
the airport] were illegally sentenced to 31 years, two for 67 years, and one for 112 years."
Though those convicted and sent to prison were (after four years and a successful domestic and international solidarity campaign) ultimately freed, the events manifested as, "…the shame of [Nieto's] presidential campaign, and haunts him still – as he was greeted at the September 2014 Mexican Independence Day celebrations with cries of “murderer.”"
Fast forward again to the present day and a claim has now been made by the current leader of the FPTD that, "…the July 1 assembly of core communal landowners, which approved the government’s use of the land [for the newly proposed airport], was not held transparently or fairly, making the sale illegal." Most concerning to the head of the FPTD this time around is, "…the [planned] airport’s proximity to Atenco [which] would disrupt…residents’ way of life."
In response to this renewed threat to their way of life, the FPTD has been organizing a series of actions to protest the revived airport plan. The most recent event took place yesterday and, as evidenced by the photos below, resulted in a further display of opposition.