Tag Archives: mexico

Women in the Zapatista movement

Note: A belated celebration of International Women’s Day!

-The GJEP Team

March 7, 2014. Source: Schools for Chiapas

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Filed under Chiapas, Indigenous Peoples, Latin America-Caribbean, Rights, Resilience, and Restoration

Communities in Veracruz, Mexico resist plans to build 112 dams

February 11, 2014. Source: Radio Mundo Real

“They are going to flood us,” fear the inhabitants that protested the dam. Photo: AVC Noticias

“They are going to flood us,” fear the inhabitants that protested the dam. Photo: AVC Noticias

In Veracruz, to the South of Mexico, there are plans to build 112 dams and 6 hydroelectric power plants without authorization by communities, who in the past weeks have mobilized in different municipalities of La Antigua River basin and managed to get the government to intervene throught an inspection of Odebrecht construction company, whose works could cause flooding in several territories.

In addition to not having authorization from the National Water Commission (CONAGUA), La Antigua dam will be built in an area where there is a seismic fault and therefore it would be a time bomb for the communities living by La Antigua River and other tributaries.

The inhabitants of the region had access four years ago to documents expressing the intention to building this dam by the Brazilian multinational construction company, although they did not obtain information from official sources.

Even today, with the company established in the area and carrying out exploration activities, which have already accumulated materials by the riverbed, risking the population of Jalcomulco, Apazapan, La Antigua, Paso de Ovejas, Emiliano Zapata, Teocelo, Xico and Ixhuacán de los Reyes, totaling 1.2 million people, the Evironment and Natural Resources Secretariat (SEMARNAT) of the Mexican Union stated that “there is no project” since there hasn’t been a request for an environmental impact assessment. Continue reading

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Filed under Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Green Economy, Hydroelectric dams, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean, Water

New report shows record decline in Monarch Butterflies: Monsanto a major culprit

By Larissa Walker, January 29, 2014. Source: Center for Food Safety

Photo: Center for Food Safety

Photo: Center for Food Safety

We hate to be the bearer of bad news, again, but the 2013-2014 overwintering population numbers for Monarch butterflies in Mexico were just released this morning, confirming our bleak predictions from a few months ago: the situation is worsening. Last year’s overwintering numbers were an all-time low, with monarchs occupying 1.19 hectares. The area occupied by monarchs this year is a frightening 0.67 hectares – a 44% decline in just the past year. So what does that number actually mean for the population size of monarchs? An average estimate of about 50 million butterflies per hectare would mean there are roughly 33.5 million monarchs – a huge drop from just one year ago. Another way to visualize this downward spiral is to look at the trend of declining overwintering numbers in Mexico throughout the past two decades:

These data points and trends, compiled by World Wildlife Fund Mexico, clearly illustrate North American Monarch butterfly populations are in serious trouble, and it’s only going to continue to get worse unless we make some big changes to our agricultural system. Continue reading

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Indigenous Nahuas reject mine in Colima, Mexico

By Mónica Montalvo, Translated by Scott Campbell January 7, 2014. Source: El Enemigo Común

For our indigenous people, the land is not merely an object of possession and production.

The integral relationship between our people’s spiritual life and our lands has many profound implications. Furthermore, our land and our water are not commodities to be appropriated, but a common good which we and our children should freely enjoy.

-Indigenous Council for the Defense of the Territory of Zacualpan


In recent weeks, the town of Zacualpan, in the municipality of Comala, has joined the growing number of farming and indigenous communities facing conflicts over mining. A few months ago, this indigenous Nahua community began hearing about a plan to build a mine – backed by Rigoberto Verduzco Rodríguez – from which gold, silver, copper and manganese would be extracted, without an environmental impact study or any approval process or permits in the offices of the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) in Colima.

The planned mine is one kilometer from a water spring that supplies the metropolitan area of Colima-Villa de Álvarez, which would mean contaminating the water source in an area known as Cerro Gordo, which is important from a biological and geological point of view and where there is a large number of species at risk of extinction. This would translate into putting at risk the water supply for 260,000 people in the state.

The case of Zacualpan is one of the first conflicts emerging in the state, but it will not be the last, as in Colima alone there are 360 mining concessions covering virtually the entire state with the exception of the volcanos. There is already an example that shows all the negative implications of these extractive projects: the Peña Colorado mine. This mine, operated by an Italian-Argentinian-Indian firm, has been in operation for the past 44 years on the border between Colima and Jalisco and has caused severe environmental damage, territorial displacement and human rights violations in the Nahua communities. The Peña Colorado mine has also meant threats, assassinations and disappearances, as in the case of the indigenous Nahua Celedonio Monroy Prudencio, member of the Ayotitlan Council of Elders.
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Filed under Actions / Protest, Corporate Globalization, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean, Mining, Victory!, Water

Chiapas: Localities declare ban against mining, hydroelectric development

December 29, 2013. Source: World War 4 Report

Eight municipalities in southern Mexico’s Chiapas state on Dec. 10 were declared territories free of mineral or hydro-electric development, asserting principles of local autonomy and prior consultation. The joint statement was issued by 56 communities, ejidos (communal agricultural settlements) and popular organizations in the municipalities of Tapachula, Motozintla, Huehuetán, Cacahoatán, Mazapa, Comalapa, Chicomuselo and Tuzantán.

The officially notarized statement directed to President Enrique Peña Nieto, Chiapas Gov. Manuel Velasco Coello and other authorities protested illegal entry onto communal lands by personnel from development interests, attempts at corruption of local officials, the pending neoliberal reform of the energy sector, and high electric rates. The statement was read aloud in a public gathering in the central plaza of Tapachula—after which, hundreds of attendees occupied the town’s municipal palace to demand that the mayor endorse the statement.

“Official” authorities in the eight municipalities generally did not endorse the statement. The municipalities are in the state’s rugged Sierra Madre, headwaters of the Rio Grijalva, already under major hydro-electric exploitation. The Grijalva hydro-dams are a major source of power for Mexico, yet impoverished Chiapas is the state’s least electrified state, and high rates have repeatedly sparked protests. (Rebelión, Dec. 24)

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Chiapas, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Hydroelectric dams, Mining

Mexican communities on guard against thirst for oil

By Emilio Godoy, December 31, 2013. Source: Inter Press Service

Bird covered with oil in the Gulf of Mexico. Photo: Susan Keith/IPS

Bird covered with oil in the Gulf of Mexico. Photo: Susan Keith/IPS

The Terra 123 oil and gas well in the southeastern Mexican state of Tabasco was in flames since late October, just 1.5 km from a community of 1,500 Oxiacaque indigenous villagers, who were never evacuated.

The gas leak, which Pemex only managed to get under control on Dec. 21, caused irreversible damage, said Hugo Ireta, an activist with the Santo Tomás Ecological Association, dedicated to working with local populations in Tabasco that have suffered environmental, health and economic impacts of the state-run oil company’s operations.

The reform of articles 25, 27 and 28 of the constitution, approved by Congress in December, paved the way for private national and foreign investment in the oil industry.

The government will now be able to grant private companies permits for prospecting and drilling – a mechanism used in several countries of Latin America, such as Argentina, Ecuador and Peru, where conflicts with local communities are frequent.
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On the 20th Anniversary of the Zapatista Uprising

by Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project

Twenty years ago today an army of Indigenous Peoples, some using only wooden cut outs as guns, emerged from the jungles of Chiapas, Mexico. They took over municipalities around the Mexican state, including the city of San Cristobal de Las Casas, in defiance of the enactment of NAFTA – the North American Free Trade Agreement.


La Realidad, 1996.  PhotoLangelle.org

The Zapatistas had condemned NAFTA as “a death sentence for the Indigenous Peoples of Mexico” due to many of its unjust provisions, but especially that which eliminated Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution.

Article 27, which guaranteed the rights to communal lands in Mexico was an outcome of the revolution led by Emilano Zapata – after whom the Zapatistas took their name – in the early part of the 20th century.

But in order for NAFTA – the free trade agreement between Canada, the US and Mexico – to be passed, Article 27 had to be eliminated.  The eradication of this hard-won victory was accomplished by Edward Krobaker, the CEO of International Paper.  Why did a multinational paper corporation care about this?  Because most of Mexico’s forests were on ejido (communal) lands, which meant they could not easily be obtained or controlled by multinational corporations such as IP.

According to anthropologist Dr. Ron Nigh,

In June of 1995, the government received a letter from Edward Krobacker, International Paper CEO (now John Dillon), establishing a series of conditions, some requiring changes in Mexico’s forestry law, to “create a more secure legal framework” for IP’s investment.

According to La Jornada, all of Krobaker’s (original) demands were agreed to and new forestry legislation has been prepared. Upon returning from a Wall Street meeting with Henry Kissinger and other top financial celebrities, Zedillo announced the rejection of  proposed legislation that would have implemented the Zapatista accords.

Instead he presented a counterproposal, designed to be unacceptable, which the Zapatistas rejected.

Shortly thereafter, Environmental Minister Carabias announced a large World Bank loan for “forestry,” i.e. commercial plantations.

Earlier that year, in January 1995 – one year after the passage of NAFTA and while the Zapatista uprising was still fresh and garnering support from all corners of the globe – Chase Manhattan Bank sent a memo to the Mexican government about the Zapatistas which was leaked.  This memo, released in January 1995, urged the Mexican government to “eliminate the Zapatistas to demonstrate their effective control of the national territory and of security policy” or risk  a devaluation of the peso and a fleeing of investors.  The portion of the memo dealing with the Zapatistas is below:



The uprising in the southern state of Chiapas is now one-year old and, apparently, no nearer to resolution. The leader, or spokesman, of the movement, sub-commandante Marcos, remains adamant in his demand that the incumbent PRI governor resign and be replaced by the PRD candidate who, Marcos argues, was deprived of victory by government fraud in the recent election. Marcos continues to lobby for widespread social and economic reform in the state. Incidents continue between the local police and military authorities and those sympathetic to the Zapatista movement, as the insurgency is called, and local peasant groups who are sympathetic to Marcos and his cronies.

While Zedillo is committed to a diplomatic and political solution th the stand-off in Chiapas, it is difficult to imagine that the current environment will yield a peaceful solution. Moreover, to the degree that the monetary crisis limits the resources available to the government for social and economic reforms, it may prove difficult to win popular support for the Zedillo administration’s plans for Chiapas. More relevant, Marcos and his supporters may decide to embarrass the government with an increase in local violence and force the administration to cede to Zapatista demands and accept an embarrassing political defeat. The alternative is a military offensive to defeat the insurgency which would create an international outcry over the use of violence and the suppression of indigenous rights.

While Chiapas, in our opinion, does not pose a fundamental threat to Mexican political stability, it is perceived to be so by many in the investment community. The government will need to eliminate the Zapatistas to demonstrate their effective control of the national territory and of security policy.

Orin Langelle, Board Chair of GJEP, who was then the Co-Coordinator of Native Forest Network Eastern North America (NFN ENA) attended the Chase Manhattan Board meeting that year and read the memo out loud to the stock holders.

What many do not know about the Zapatista struggle, is that it is and was a struggle for the land.  For autonomous Indigenous control over their territories.  NFN ENA put out a video about this aspect of the Zapatista struggle after we were asked to help expose the ecological threats to Chiapas which the Zapatistas were trying to stop–including illegal logging, oil drilling and hydroelectric dams.  The video includes interviews from the first North American Encuentro in the Zapatista stronghold of La Realidad in the summer of 1996.  The video is called “Lacandona: The Zapatistas and Rainforest of Chiapas, Mexico.”

A clip of the video can be viewed here:

Despite massive pressure from governments, multinationals and major banks, twenty years later, the Zapatistas are still organizing.  Maybe you thought they had disappeared, but they have not.  They are just busily doing the work of daily life.  They have their own autonomous form of government, their own schools, and they maintain their rejection of any type of support from the Mexican government.

Today, as social movements around the world continue to resist unjust “free” trade agreements such as the TPP (TransPacific Partnership), the Zapatistas continue to be an inspiration to me and I hope to many others as well.

To view Orin Langelle’s photo exhibit of 15 years of photographs from Chiapas, click here.

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Climate Change, Hydroelectric dams, Illegal logging, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Oil, Posts from Anne Petermann, Rights, Resilience, and Restoration, Victory!

Fracking wins in disputed Mexican energy reform

December 15, 2013. Source: Weekly News Update on the Americas

The Mexican Chamber of Deputies voted 353-134 on Dec. 12 to approve a series of constitutional amendments providing the groundwork for President Enrique Peña Nieto’s controversial “energy reform” [see Update #1202]. The Chamber’s vote completed the amendments’ passage through Congress, since the Senate had approved the measures on Dec. 10. The required ratification of the changes by 17 of the 32 state legislatures is considered certain, since the main sponsors of the “reform,” the governing centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and the center-right National Action Party(PAN), dominate the majority of state legislatures.

Opponents call President Peña Nieto’s program a de facto privatization of the state-owned oil and electrical companies,Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) and the Federal Energy Commission(CFE). In addition to street demonstrations outside the building in Mexico City, the Chamber of Deputies debate on Dec. 11 and 12 was marked by theatrics inside, led by deputies from the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and the small leftist Labor Party(PT). Opposition deputies seized the podium at times, occasionally advising “reform” supporters to privatize their own mothers. While speaking against the amendments, PRD deputy Antonio García Conejo stripped down to his underwear to dramatize his claim that the measures would strip Mexico of its resources. At one point PRD deputy Karen Quiroga punched PRI deputy Landy Berzunza Novelo, who was taken to the infirmary. (La Jornada (Mexico) 12/12/1312/13/13;Milenio (Mexico)12/12/13)

By Dec. 15 the constitutional amendments had already been ratified by 13 state legislatures. As in Mexico City, the votes in the states brought out demonstrations by activists, many from the newly formed center-left National Regeneration Movement (Morena) party. In the western state of Jalisco riot police used tear gas to keep protesters from storming into the legislature, while legislators in the southeastern state of Campeche met in an alternative location to avoid the demonstrations. (LJ 12/15/13)
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Monsanto, Pioneer prohibited from marketing GE corn in Mexico

Note: While this article mentions a ban on GE corn, in reality it’s more like a temporary suspension of new GE corn approvals, while the government continues to discuss it’s potential impacts.  Already granted field trials will continue and are not suspended.

What this means is that the fight is far from over — we know that the biotech industry will use this opportunity to sink millions of dollars into PR campaigns and phony science in attempts to push past this suspension.  Keep an eye out for calls for solidarity from food sovereignty organizers in Mexico as this case moves forward.

-The GJEP Team

By Devon G. Peña, October 11, 2013  Source: Environmental Food & Justice

An October 10 press release with Mexico City byline announced the banning of genetically engineered corn in Mexico. According to the group that issued the press release, La Coperacha, a federal judge has ordered Mexico’s SAGARPA (Secretaría de Agricultura, Ganadería, Desarrollo Rural, Pesca, y Alimentación), which is Mexico’s Secretary of Agriculture, and SEMARNAT (Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales), which is equivalent of the EPA, to immediately “suspend all activities involving the planting of transgenic corn in the country and end the granting of permission for experimental and pilot commercial plantings”.


Some of the native maize varieties from Oaxaca, Mexico

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Filed under Biodiversity, BREAKING NEWS, Climate Change, Commodification of Life, Food Sovereignty, Genetic Engineering, Industrial agriculture, Latin America-Caribbean, Victory!

Rare twin storms batter Mexico, 40 dead

Note: Yet another catastrophic rain event…

17 Sep 2013. Source: Bangkok Post


Mexico reeled Monday from the rare one-two punch of major storms on opposite coasts that triggered floods and landslides, killing at least 40 people while stranding tourists in Acapulco.

The Pacific coast was still being battered by the remnants of tropical storm Manuel, which continued to dump rain after dissipating, while hurricane Ingrid hit the northeast with tropical storm force before being further downgraded.

Thousands of people were evacuated as the two storms set off landslides and floods that damaged bridges, roads and homes across the country.

Water rose to almost 10 feet (three meters) in parts of the Pacific resort of Acapulco, cutting off the main highway to the city and marooning tens of thousands of Mexican and foreign beachgoers.

The last time Mexico was hit by two tropical storms in the span of 24 hours was in 1958, officials said. Never before has it been struck by a hurricane and another storm at the same time.  Continue reading

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