The Impacts of Megaprojects in Chiapas
Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Centre, San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, México
5 September 2016
Bulletin Number: 17
The impacts of megaprojects in Chiapas, a report to the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights
Information submitted to the United Nations (UN) Working Group on Business and Human Rights included the responsibility of businesses and the Mexican State in the violation of human rights in communities and towns in Chiapas. This UN body made an official visit to Mexico from 29 August to 7 September 2016 (1).
The Businesses and Human Rights Report, written by a coalition of more than 100 organisations, communities and civil society networks includes documentation of the case of the Chicoasen II hydroelectric dam. This project affects the indigenous Zoque community who were previously displaced and stripped of their communal land in the 1980s by the dam Manuel Moreno Torres, which is better known as Chicoasen I.
The ejido committee representing the Chicoasen communal landowners and the neighbouring landholders (the Ejido Chicoasen Committee from Chiapas) reported to the UN human rights abuses: lack of access to a prior and informed consultation, with culturally appropriate information, and abuse of land and territory. The accused are the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE as it is known by its Spanish initials) and the companies Sinohydro Costa Rica, Omega Construction, Urban Development and Construction and Infrastructure Caabsa. This has been the case since the hydroelectric dam project Chicoasen II began in 2012.
The company Sinohydro Costa Rica, with the parent company headquartered in Beijing, has a history of human rights abuses for its involvement in the hydroelectric dam project Agua Zarca. The Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras (COPINH as it is known by its Spanish initials) denounced the company for the same strategies used in Chicoasen: forging signatures, imposing ejido commissioners, harassing, attacking and threatening local farmers with the complicity of the local authorities. It is also worth remembering that Bertha Cáceres, environmentalist, COPINH leader, human rights defender and winner of the Goldman prize, an environmental award, was killed in March 2016 in the context of the Lenca people’s struggle against the dam. This event raised alarm about the serious risk people defending land face in Latin America.
The criminalisation of human rights defenders was documented as another violation of human rights as in the case of the construction of the hydroelectric dam Chicoasen II. Between 2010 and 2016 the members of the the Ejido Chicoasen Committee have been the subject of threats, attempted arbitrary deprivation of life, arbitrary deprivation of freedom, prosecution, criminalisation of protest and they have had to struggle with internal community divisions. The ejido’s lawyer Arturo Luna Ortega was detained by state police and accused of inciting rioting and held in prison from 21 October 2015 for three months because of a complaint made by the CFE. Further, there are arrest orders for other members of the resistance (2).
Owing to the risks to life, the integrity and security of people opposing the Chicoasen II project, the Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Centre maintains a request for precautionary measures with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
Frayba demonstrated that the megaprojects in Chiapas, in the majority mining, hydroelectric, tourism and plantations follow a strategy of dispossession: implementation of authoritarian processes, lack of a prior and informed consultation with the communities affected, conspiracy between the three levels of government, modification of rules and laws, violence, criminalisation and prosecution for those who resist or oppose their plan.
Historically and in the present, indigenous communities are subject to serious human rights violations. Dispossession has affected community life and the cultural heritage of indigenous communities. Further, the environment in indigenous territory in Chiapas is being affected by the large proportion of the state being held in concession for exploration and exploitation for extractive projects. Therefore the Ejido Chicoasen Committee and Frayba attended the meeting of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights held on 4 September 2016 in the community of San Francisco, Xochicuatla, Mexico state. There we reiterated the obligation of the Mexican State to ensure the protection of human rights globally and universally, including those related to land, territory and the environment. In particular, we want the Mexican State to strengthen and comply with the regulatory framework and control of all business sectors, with an emphasis on those related to large-scale projects and the extractive industry in order to ensure the protection of human rights. The State and companies must comply and respect collective rights, like autonomy and the right to land and territory of the indigenous peoples and communities of African heritage.
(1) México: Empresas y Derechos Humanos. 29 de agosto de 2016. Available at: https://businesshumanrights.org/sites/default/files/documents/Informe_Mx_Empresas_DDHH_68_0.pdf
(2) Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas A.C. Acción Urgente: Detienen al abogado del Comité Ejidal de afectados por la presa Chicoasen II. 23 de octubre de 2015. Available at: http://www.frayba.org.mx/archivo/acciones_urgentes/151023_au_05_chicosen.pdf
Translated by the UK Zapatista Translation Service for Dorset Chiapas Solidarity