Respect for self-determination, commitment to construct Community Governments
Movement for the Defence of Life and Territory Photo: Chiapas Paralelo
By: Angeles Mariscal
In this state of the Mexican Southeast, the mining industry has been granted concessions to almost 20 percent of the territory, and there are more than 30 governmental authorizations to use tributary rivers for the installation of mini-hydroelectric dams, five projects for constructing dams and an open solicitation for extracting hydrocarbons from 12 wells; the project to construct a gas pipeline is also in the works, and through the decree for creation of the Special Economic Zones they are granted eased tariffs so that corporations consolidate their businesses linked to the extractive industry.
This is the scenario that thousands of indigenous face in Chiapas; and this is why in this month of November residents of the municipios of Salto de Agua, Tumbalá, Yajalón, Chilón, Ocosingo, Altamirano, Oxchuc, San Juan Cancúc, Tenejapa, Huixtán and San Cristóbal de las Casas left their communities to tour the region and demonstrate their rejection of these projects that threaten stability in their territory.
They are from the Tsotsil, Chol and Tseltal indigenous ethnicities, who make up part of the faithful of the Diocese of San Cristóbal de las Casas, grouped together in the Pueblo Creyente (Believing People), and who for four years have been members of the Movement for the Defence of Life and Territory (Movimiento por la Defensa de la Vida y el Territorio, Modevite).
On their 15-day tour, Modevite members met with more than 20,000 different indigenous peoples, with whom they dialogued about the common problems that cross through their territories.
“We have walked to listen to the problems of our communities and the risks that threaten our culture and our Mother Earth with mega-projects and super-highways. We walked to unite us in one single voice. We have been able to converse, reflect and dream as one people,” they explained in a joint pronouncement.
Mines, hydroelectric dams and wells on indigenous lands
“We are at a strategic place regarding the mega-projects. This territory is one of the objectives of extractivism,” they pointed out upon arriving in San Cristóbal de las Casas, in a plaza full of indigenous and mestizos.
There, in the plaza, they said that’ according to the Secretary of Economy, in the last three six-year presidential terms 99 concessions for exploiting minerals that are found on 1.5 million hectares –almost 20 percent of Chiapas territory- have been delivered to corporate investors, the majority lands belonging to indigenous groups that would have to be displaced to make way for the mining industry.
They also said that the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) has identified Chiapas as a state with great hydrology potential, and plans to construct 90 hydroelectric dams with different capacities. Four of those stand out that would directly affect indigenous territory: the Altamirano Dam on the Tzaconejá River; the Livingstone Dam on the Tzaconejá River; the Santo Domingo Rapids Dam (previously Huixtán I) on the Santo Domingo River; and the Santa Elena Dam (previously Huixtán II) on the Santo Domingo River, among others. They emphasized that investors have asked the Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat) for the installation of at least 32 “mini-hydroelectric” dams.
They also said that the perforation of 12 wells for the extraction of gas and oil has been projected for 2017 in the indigenous Zoque zone. This project will affect 845 square kilometres located in two areas within the municipios of Tecpatán, Francisco León, Ixtacomitán and Pichicalco.
Another risk to indigenous territories –they reminded- is the planting of genetically modified seeds (GMOs). From 2010 to the middle of 2016 the Monsanto Company planted genetically modified soy in 13 Chiapas municipios.
They call for strengthening community governments
The inhabitants of the zones where these extractive projects are located pointed out that accepting them would mean being displaced from their territory, and with that also losing their roots.
They started to organize four years ago and since then they have achieved suspending the construction of the San Cristóbal-Palenque Super-Highway. “Now we see that our fight is bigger; we have the job of defender our life, our culture and the commons that there are in our territory,” they underscored.
They said that throughout their tour through indigenous territory, there was agreement that not only must they denounce the affectation to their territory because of the extractivist projects, “but we must also care about the land.”
They said that if the federal, state and municipal governments support and promote the extractive industry, their option is to create community governments that respond to the interests of the indigenous peoples that are being affected.
Therefore, the indigenous agreed to add themselves to the proposal of the National Indigenous Congress (Congreso Nacional Indígena, CNI) and the Zapatista National Liberation Army (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, EZLN), to consult with their communities about the decision to participate in the next national elections with an independent indigenous candidate.
“We share the same objective (as the CNI and EZLN), we believe that it is necessary to strengthen the voice of our indigenous peoples on the political agenda, and therefore we want to take this initiative to our communities and municipios. We can no longer work divided but rather it’s necessary to unite for our peoples, for our territories,” they said.
Modevite members announced that they would strengthen the initiative for constructing autonomous governments as a measure for conserving their territories and their culture. “It’s our right to decide the use of and destiny of our territory,” they said.
Originally Published in Spanish by Chiapas Paralelo
Thursday, December 1, 2016
Re-Published with English interpretation and edits by the Chiapas Support Committee
Posted with minor edits by Dorset Chiapas Solidarity