I’m waiting for somebody to become rich and famous by writing a Oaxaca Reality TV series based on REALITY: the daily struggles for citizen space being waged here, not only by the APPO but by many communities who forge ahead on their own.
The announcer won’t preface and postscript each episode by intoning, “Can the APPO regroup and survive? Is the APPO a major player in Oaxaca politics?” and other such teasers which an attentive newspaper reader has already discounted, despite their being posed with total seriousness on commercial outlets. Meaningless and inappropriate for the real real world, they won’t play well where teenage women are aging and losing their teeth, the men are wiry and grim and browned to a crisp, and most of the children go barefoot.
This week’s episodes feature three continuing sagas.
First, the education workers’ union Section 22 is struggling both literally and figuratively to get back the remaining 175 schools held by Section 59 under the auspices of the governor and the PRI national SNTE president, Elba Esther Gordillo. The teachers plan a total strike in three weeks if the Segob doesn’t hand over the schools. The Secretary of Government never complied with several of the proffered deals which Section 22 had accepted to return to classes last October, including a safe return to classrooms.
Episode Two has to be the eviction of ejiditarios (communal land owners and occupants) by the Federal Preventative Police on March 3. According to a press bulletin issued by the Union of Indigenous Communities of the North Zone of the Isthmus (Unión de Comunidades Indígenas de la Zona Norte del Istmo, UCIZONI), more than 300 state (AFI) and federal preventative (PFP) police accompanied by Bancaria Police occupied the property “3rd of April”, a communal territory belonging to Ejido La Venta, in the municipality of Juchitán, Oaxaca.
The ejidatarios are maintaining an encampment in a struggle against the Federal Electric Commission (CFE). Their complaint is that occupation of the communal land was never authorized by an Assembly qualified to do so. The ejidatarios have been camped for ten months now, without confrontations or arrests, although now according to UCIZONI there are arrest warrants out against the entrenched campesinos.
The CFE is imposing on the Istmo de Tehuantepec a megaproject consisting of an wind-generated electric park which took over more than 100 mil hectáreas of the communities and indigenous communal lands of San Francisco and San Dionisio del Mar, Ingenio Santo Domingo, La Mata, El Porvenir Chimalapa, La Ventosa, La Venta y San Mateo del Mar.
The federal and state governments are violating Article 6 of the Treaty 169 of the International Organization for Labor (OIT), which obliges the authorities to inform and consult with the indigenous population about the extent and impact of a project of this magnitude.
An Assembly took place on March 3 in which the ejidatarios decided to undertake a day of mobilizations on next Monday (that would be March 5). Another Asamblea took place in el Porvenir, where the authorities and representatives of San Miguel Chimalapa decided to help the struggle of the ejidatarios of La Venta. Also, a Regional Assembly took place the same day (March 3) in Rincón Viejo, where delegates and authorities of 77 communities of the municipalities of Cotzocón, Mazatlán, Guichicovi, Juchitan, Santa María Petapa, Matias Romero, El Barrio de la Soledad, Tehuantepec and Santiago Yaveo, all members of UCIZONI, decided to express their active solidarity with the Zapotec ejidatarios of La Venta.
Project La Venta II built by the Spanish transnational Iberdrola is in a testing phase, and a geat quantity of migratory birds, some of them endangered species like the royal eagle, have already died. Although many studies show that wind generators are generally not dangerous to birds, the present argument insists that here, because of the density of the generators and the vast number of birds flying a migratory route, the birds are losing.
The ejidatarios of La Venta and UCIZONI are putting out an urgent call to indigenous organizations, campesinas (women) and environmentalists to show their rejection of the despoilment and ecocide which the megaproject Plan Puebla Panama is causing.
The third episode of the Reality Oaxaca program focuses on the planned construction of the dam “Paso de la Reina”.
On February 14 the indigenous Mixtecos and Chatinos of the area declared themselves opposed to a multiuse dam and hydroelectric project . Reported by Las Noticias, the indigenous residents of the area oppose the Río Verde dam because it will alter their territories which are the essence and the space for the continuation of their life and culture.
Participants in the Forum for the Defense of Water, Territory and Development of the Indigenous Peoples petitioned the same FCE to suspend the work being carried out on the flow of the Río Verde and leave the areas on which they established encampments without the consent of the communities. The municipal and communal authorities of the municipalities Santiago Ixctayutla, Tataltepec de Valdés, Santiago ago, Santiago Amoltepec and San Francisco Cosoaltepec, organizations Services for Alternative Education and the Center for Human Rights “Ñu ‘u Ji Kandii”, as well as a group from the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary demanded that the federal and state government carry out the process of information and consultation within the community assemblies, before beginning any project in this region.
They demanded that the government comply with Treaty 69 regarding the Indigenous Peoples and Tribes of the OIT. At the same time they rejected whatever attempt to inform and consult through pretense, manipulation and confrontation of the communities involved in the project. Also they requested that the government consult them and take them into account as they propose their own model of development, in harmony with its regional setting.
During the forum held February 10 and 11 in the community of La Humedad, belonging to (the municipality of) Santiago Ixtayutla, they recalled that a decade ago the intention was made clear, to construct a dam to generate electric energy on the Río Verde, and since then, the personnel of the Federal Electric Commission (CFE) have carried out different studies on it but without informing the communities.
Finally the CFE held a series of meetings with the authorities of the region to let them know about the “benefits” of their project.
The indigenous peoples of this region believe their territories are the essence and the space for the maintaining their culture, where they live in harmony and with respect for nature, but above all with the land and the water that gives them life. The communities understand that the CFE will try to alter the natural course of the Río Verde, seeing in it potentially huge economic profits.
Changing the Yutya Kuii – Tya Kela Nga’a, as the Río Verde is called, represents a risk to the indigenous population because it will probably deprive them of water, food, and basic material for works construction, to say nothing of placing underwater the area for the dam. Above all it will alter their environmental, social, political, cultural and economic situation.
The region is one of the most poor and neglected in the state, a condition which has pushed emigration and although the offer of the hydroelectric project is promised to better the life conditions of the communities, they believe that “in reality it will bring negative consequences that will affect our communities and flood our lands. In this sense, far from generating sources of permanent employment, it will provoke greater migration and displacement of the communities.”
“Can the APPO regroup and survive? Is the APPO a major player in Oaxaca politics?” are not questions that have any concrete meaning in the present Oaxaca environment. As the slogan has it, “We’re all the APPO”, and as I learned many decades ago, “All politics is local”.
Farmers and Scientists See Risks in Wind Energy
MEXICO CITY, Mar 2 (Tierramérica) – With the blessing of development agencies, transnational corporations and environmentalists, the Mexican government is breaking ground for a big wind energy project. But peasant farmers and bird experts aren’t too happy about it.
The government’s aim is for wind-generated electricity — which now accounts for just 0.005 percent of the energy generated in Mexico — to reach six percent by 2030.
Achieving that goal involves setting up more than 3,000 turbines in Mexico’s windiest zone, the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, in the southern state of Oaxaca, as well as several other wind farms around the country with dozens of turbines each.
But erecting the windmills, tall towers with a 27-metre blade span, requires negotiating with landowners, most of whom are farmers. Some have complained that they were taken advantage of when the first wind farm was created in 1994.
Meanwhile, bird experts warn that many species are at risk of being killed by the giant blades, which could cause an environmental chain reaction across the continent, because various are migratory species.
“Everything is bent towards facilitating the wind farms, but there is not much interest in the birds, which in the long term could bring much broader problems,” Raúl Ortiz-Pulido, spokesman for the Mexican office of the BirdLife International, told Tierramérica.
The scientist acknowledged that the bird issue is taken into account in the development of each wind energy project, but “in an incomplete and incorrect way,” he said.
It is not the same to assess the effect of a project where a few turbines will be erected as it is to assess the impact of several projects together where there will be dozens of turbines, like the site planned for the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Ortiz-Pulido said.
It will be overall effect that will have an impact on the birds, he said.
But the authorities assure that the plans take the environmental question seriously.
“In any project there are people for and against it, but in the long term the experiences in other countries have shown that wind projects bring many benefits to the communities and there are no significant environmental effects,” says Marco Borja, who heads a project to evaluate wind energy resources in Mexico for the state-run but independent Institute for Electricity Research, with the support of the Global Environment Fund (GEF).
In the last two years the government drew up norms to promote wind energy, and since December it has submitted to public review a new regulation for the use of wind energy from the environmental perspective. This could enter into force in March.
For even greater incentive, they obtained a non-repayable credit from GEF for 25 million dollars, granted through the World Bank. That is in addition to what the Institute for Electricity Research receives, and what the GEF has obtained from the United Nations Development Programme — for a total of nearly 30 million dollars.
The aim is to encourage an energy source that is growing worldwide by more than 30 percent a year, reducing reliance on fossil fuels.
In the environmental standards for wind farms now being debated, the officials propose eliminating the environmental impact studies that other projects require. This requirement would be replaced by a “preventive report”, which is of a lower category and reduced scope.
In the introduction of the new norm, which by law must be open for public discussion for 60 days (with the deadline being the end of February), it is recognized that wind turbines can have “impacts on avian fauna”.
It states that the head of the project should make an “inventory of species that utilise the area, detailing their relationships to determine the repercussion of the displacement of some of them, mating seasons, nesting and raising of young.”
But some scientists say it would not be enough for the Isthmus area. Six million birds fly through Tehuantepec each year, including 32 endangered species and nine autochthonous species.
“We’re academics, not activists. We don’t know how to make our warnings reach the authorities, ” said Ortiz-Pulido.
In La Venta, part of the Juchitán municipality in Oaxaca state, is where most of the official plans for wind turbines are concentrated. The impoverished region is home to 150,000 people, most working in farming and livestock.
There, the farmers are also upset with the official plans.
“The landowners were fooled with fixed arrangements, ridiculous payments for rent (for installing the turbines) and impediments to farming. We won’t allow any more plans to be carried out,” Alejo Girón, leader of La Venta Solidarity Group, told Tierramérica.
The first wind project, La Venta I, began operating in 1994, and in the past two years continued with La Venta II. Now the government of Felipe Calderón has announced that it will open bidding for La Venta III, and others will follow, like the Oaxaca and La Ventosa projects.
They are projects in which transnational corporations like Spain’s Iberdrola and France’s Electricité have shown great interest, as have local firms like Cemex cement company, which are considering wind turbines for their own energy needs, and in some cases sell their surplus to the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE).
Finalizing these plans means convincing the landowners, to whom CFE pays for each one of the 100 turbines already installed in La Venta less than 300 dollars a year, which is 10 to 20 times less than what their counterparts in other countries receive, says Girón.
“The wind projects created almost no new jobs and they don’t benefit the residents. Here nothing changed. We remain poor despite the fact that the CFE promised that this would change,” Feliciano Santiago, municipal secretary of Juchitán, told Tierramérica.
(*Originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network. Tierramérica is a specialised news service produced by IPS with the backing of the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Environment Programme.)