Elder Indigenous woman takes part in march for world peace in San Cristobal, Chiapas, Mexico. The Indigenous Peoples’ march was led by Bishop Felipe Arizmendi on March 14, 2003, days before the U.S. began its “official” bombing of Iraq.
Chiapas, Mexico 2003
This photo is relevant today for many reasons. Next month is the 7th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and even though that war has slowed down, the attack on Afghanistan intensifies. This photograph was also taken just after an emergency delegation went to Chiapas regarding forced evictions of Indigenous communities from the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve in the Lacandon jungle. Today in Chiapas, there are violent evictions taking place in the Lacandon jungle–this time to make room for oil palm plantations.
In March 2003 Orin Langelle travelled to Chiapas on an emergency investigative delegation to look into threatened evictions of Indigenous communities from the Lacandon jungle, and to examine the level of ecological destruction there. Some communities were already relocated. The delegation, including journalists, photographers and organizers, visited threatened communities in the Lacandon, met with organizations working in the region and conducted overflights of the jungle, documenting the ecological damage.
Why the evictions? Conservation International (CI) teamed up with the Mexican government to declare that Indigenous communities, including Zapatista support base communities living in the Monte Azules Integral Biosphere Reserve were destroying it. This provided a supposedly ecological pretext–protection of the Monte Azules–as the reason for evicting these communities.
Our delegation proved that most of the communities had been conducting sustainable organic agriculture in the jungle for years. They outlawed slash and burn farming and practiced regular crop rotation to protect the soil. In fact, we found that it was the military that was causing massive destruction of the rainforest–which we witnessed on our overflight of the jungle.
This developed during the Mexican government’s thrust to push the Plan Puebla Panama mega-development scheme. One of the PPP plans calls for the establishment of new timber plantations in the region.
Now in 2010:
México: Violent evictions in Chiapas for establishing oil palm monocultures
What follows is a communiqué from the Latin American Network against Monoculture Tree Plantations (RECOMA) reporting on the violent situation that local communities and Indigenous Peoples of the Lacandona forest in Chiapas are presently going through.
Appeal to international solidarity to protect the Lacandona Forest in Chiapas (Mexico), February 2010.
The Latin American Network against Monoculture Tree Plantations (RECOMA) is hereby denouncing the arbitrary treatment suffered by various communities in the Lacandona forest, in the area declared as the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve, in the State of Chiapas, Mexico.Last January, the Chiapas State Congress approved funding for the construction of a palm oil processing plant. Shortly afterwards, dozens of families from the Municipality of Ocosingo were evicted from their territory, in order to give way for the expansion of monoculture oil palm plantations.
Dozens of heavily armed police arrived in helicopters and with aggressive violence evicted men, women and children from their homes, which they then burnt down and with no explanation, removed the community to the city of Palenque.
While the government talks about conservation and protection of the zone, it evicts those who have been truly responsible for making this conservation possible. At the same time, it replaces local ecosystems by oil palm monocultures.
Oil palm plantations are being promoted under an “ecological” mask, as if the production of agrofuels based on palm oil could be a solution to climate change. Apart from the falsehood of these affirmations, no mention is made of the serious negative impacts they generate such as violation of the local population and indigenous peoples’ human rights, as is presently the case in Chiapas.
Furthermore, monoculture oil palm plantations are one of the main causes of deforestation and therefore contribute to climate change through the release of carbon stored in the forests, while destroying the means of subsistence and food sovereignty of millions of small farmers, Indigenous and other communities, and generating serious negative environmental impacts. The plantations require agrochemicals that poison the workers and local communities and contaminate soil and water. Monoculture oil palm plantations eliminate biodiversity and deplete fresh water sources.
In sum, monoculture plantations for the production of paper and agrofuels (such as in the case of oil palm) worsen the living conditions and opportunities for survival of the local population and are only beneficial to a small handful of companies that become rich at the expense of social and environmental destruction.
For this reason, we are appealing to the international community to condemn the plans for the expansion of monoculture oil palm plantations in Mexico, denouncing this situation by all means at your disposal.
To Protest these evictions, contact:
The Embassy of Mexico:
1911 Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington DC 20006
Telephone: (202) 728-1600