60 Chiapas communities reject dam on Usumacinta River

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“According to researchers, the construction of dams across Mexico has displaced some 200,000 people, while advocacy groups warn that the country’s new water law will just continue to make the situation worse. Many of Mexico’s 4,462 dams registered in official records are in Indigenous and campesino communities.” TeleSur

By: Elio Henríquez, Correspondent

San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas

Representatives of more than 60 communities from seven municipios in the Northern Zone and Jungle regions of Chiapas and from the Petén Front Against Dams of Guatemala issued statements against the construction of the bi-national Boca del Cerro hydroelectric dam, on the Usumacinta River, because it will invade their lands and the communities will be evicted.

In a statement published this Saturday, the almost 300 attendees at the Fourth Forum of resistances and alternatives of peoples of the Northern Zone of Chiapas said that construction work has already started on the containment walls on both sides of the Usumacinta, which divides Mexico from Guatemala, for an expanse of 40 kilometres.

The gathering, called by the Peoples Light and Power Civil Resistance Organization of the Northern Region, an adherent to the EZLN’s Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle, was held on April 6 and 7 in the Victórico Grajales Ejido, Palenque Municipio, Chiapas, one of the municipios affected together with Tenosique, Tabasco, and communities in the Department of El Petén, Guatemala.

The bi-national Boca del Cerro hydroelectric dam is one of the five dams planned on the waterway that divides Mexico from Guatemala. According to data from the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE), the works are planned over four years and will have a maximum height of 55.5 meters (approximately 182 feet).

The total surface of the reservoir contemplates 4,443 acres; 1,746 acres are within the municipio of Tenosique and 2,697 within the municipio of Palenque.

Those who attended the Forum pointed out that the start of the work will immediately result in: “the San Carlos Boca del Cerro community, Tenosique, will disappear because it will be converted into the offices and camp of the company that constructs the dam’s curtain.”

Their concern, they stated, is because in addition to all the damage that the dam will cause, “the government will not indemnify us for our lands, the cost of living will increase and we, Chols and Tzeltals, will disappear from the region as indigenous peoples.”

They made clear that the federal government is imposing the dam on them and violating Article 2 of the Mexican Constitution and Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization (ILO), which refers to the autonomy of Native peoples and their right to consultation.

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Due to the above, they committed to applying a work plan for stopping construction of the Boca del Cerro Dam and pledged solidarity “with the actions of sister organizations that are fighting to stop projects for mining, highways, hydroelectric dams and to expel from our lands the owners of the big companies who want to dispossess us of our territory.”

They reported that they agreed to apply actions that permit them to put into practice the control and care of their territory, because this project would contaminate the river and the fish.

They also stated their opposition to the construction of other dams projected for Chiapas territory, because “they would affect the life of the peoples, and the profits that they would generate would be used to enrich foreign companies, the result of the energy reform, at the expense of the eviction of our peoples and of our lands.”

They also demanded justice for the murder of the activist Berta Cáceres Flores, coordinator of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, “and for respect of the human rights and the lives of those that fight against the megaprojects and against dams, in Mexico, Central America and other places in the world.”

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Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Sunday, April 10, 2016

En español: http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2016/04/10/estados/024n1est

Re-published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

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