On May 27th, six armed military vehicles and four Police trucks entered the towns of San Juan Amecac, Cohuecan, Acteopan and Amilcingo to protect the work of the Italian company in charge of the “Proyecto Integral Morelos” (PIM). The aim of the project is to build two thermoelectric stations, a gas pipeline, an electricity line, and an aqueduct, and the worry of the local population is that, far from helping them, the project will dispossess them of their vital natural resources.
Excerpts below from a communique by the “People’s Front in Defence of Land and Water” (Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra y el Agua, Morelos-Puebla-Tlaxcala (FPDTAMPT)) explain why there is resistance against the PIM, and how the three state governments (represented respectively by each main political party) have imprisoned opponents of the Megaproject – such as Enedina Rosas, Juan Carlos Flores, and Abraham Cordero – who remain in prison despite serious legal irregularities.
“For decades, the people of the Popocatépetl volcano have fought the greed and ambition of the powerful. We, the labourers of these lands, have resisted the constant aggression against our forms of organisation, history, and culture for generations. And now, like before, we see ourselves obliged to fight, confronted by the megaprojects promoted by neoliberal capitalists and the governments that are in their pockets.”
“The PIM”, the communique says, has been undertaken “since the late 90s by the Federal Commission of Electricity (CFE)” throughout the states of Puebla, Morelos, and Tlaxcala, and the stages of the project are as follows:
1) “The construction of two thermoelectric power stations” which will “consume water and natural gas to produce energy” and will be situated in Huexca, Morelos, under the control of Spanish company ABENGOA;
2) “The construction of a gas pipeline stretching around 160km” which will take natural gas (along the side of Popocatépetl and through 60 peasant communities of Tlaxcala, Puebla and Morelos) to the aforementioned thermoelectric power stations. This part of the project will be controlled by Spanish companies ELECNOR and ANAGAS, along with Italian company BONATTI;
3) “The construction of a 20km-long electricity line to the substation of Yautepec”;
4) And the construction of a 12km-long aqueduct that “aims to transport 50,000,000 litres of water to the thermoelectric power stations every day”.
“In order to complete these projects, the government and its private-sector partners plan to invest around 1,600,000,000 dollars. The thermoelectric power stations have almost been completed, but the gas pipeline and aqueduct still need to be connected to the plants.” And that is where the resistance of the FPDTAMPT gains importance.
Development as Dispossession
The state governors (the PAN’s Rafael Moreno Valle in Puebla, the PRD’s Graco Ramírez in Morelos, and the PRI’s Mariano González in Tlaxcala) have all spread, through public and political institutions, the idea that “progress and development will arrive in our towns if we accept the Project”, and that “in exchange for selling land, there will be more food, roads, schools, public lighting, and productive projects”. The CFE, meanwhile, promises “between 150 and 300 pesos for each square metre” that is “rented out” for “between 25 and 30 years”. It does not specify, however, that, for the sale of each 10 metres in width (required for the construction of the gas pipeline), the State expects the servitude of the landowners “within 15 metres on either side” of the gas pipeline. Moreover, “security rules” mean that sowing will not be permitted within 30 metres of either side of the pipeline, and building will not be permitted within 500 metres.
Although the CFE “presents itself as an industry of development and progress”, small landowners feel that all they are receiving at the moment is a loss of “land and security for our families”. The development promised by the CFE, they insist, is “synonymous with the dispossession and exploitation of our labour and our people”.
Organisation from Below
“Faced with this situation, our communities [Jantetelco, Amilcingo, Huexca, Nealtican, Calpan, Juan C. Bonilla, Atlixco, Texoloc, Teacalco, and others] have responded with organisation and labour: through community assemblies that discuss the risks and problems of the PIM and state their opposition to the project. Also, through the construction of autonomous means of communication like community radio stations and consciousness raising campaigns (through art, culture, and history), the awareness of our people about the importance of the land and the unity of organised workers is strengthened.
When the government sees that its lies are not working, however, it begins to… provoke the disorganisation of collective labour. It begins to buy people off, divide communities, and harass and imprison our comrades.”
Co-optation and Imprisonment
1) In Jantetelco, Morelos, in November 2012, “hundreds of comrades demanded their voices be heard” and protested against the PIM. The government of Graco Ramírez responded by using force to disperse protesters and imprison Jaime Domínguez, Carmelo de la Torre, “Fidel” (70 years old), and “Urbano” – all of whom were over the age of 50. Fortunately, however, the organised communities managed to pressure the government into releasing these citizens days later.
2) In the neighbourhood of Gabriel Tepepa in Cuautla, Morelos, on September 19th, 2013, citizens demanded dialogue with the government over the construction of the aqueduct, but were met with violence. “Around 50 state policemen arrived” and physically assaulted the protesters. Jaime Domínguez was imprisoned yet again, though the inexistent evidence for the police charges saw him released within a matter of days.
3) “Today, the right to defend our land is becoming a crime against the interests of the government and the neoliberal system”. In Puebla on April 6th, 2014, FPDTAMPT member Enedina Rosas – also ejidal commissioner of San Felipe, Xonacayucan, Atlixco – was arrested after affirming the opposition of ejido inhabitants to the construction of the gas pipeline. A day later, when her illegal imprisonment was denounced to the state’s Human Rights Commission, an unidentified armed group detained Juan Carlos Flores – spokesman for the FPDTAMPT – and took him to prison (“Centro de Readaptación Social” (CERESO)) in Cholula. “The following day, in the municipality of San Martín, Abraham Cordero – president of the Peasant Front ofEjido Inhabitants (“Frente Campesino de Ejidatarios”) and opponent of the gas pipeline and the Arco Poniente (a controversial relief road project) – was… ‘illegally detained’ and sentenced”, like the other protesters, “for his opposition to the PIM”.
4) In spite of UN and Amnesty International calls for the cases of all the imprisoned opponents to be ‘reviewed’, the government has closed itself to dialogue and tried to ignore the issue. Meanwhile, activists are still being harassed. On April 11th, 2014, a “group of armed paramilitaries dressed as peasants broke into the house of Dr. Ricardo Pérez Avilés – a sociology teacher and investigator at the Esteemed Autonomous University of Puebla (BUAP)”. They threatened his family and criticised his active and critical investigations into the megaprojects in Puebla. “Days later, students close to him and his anti-capitalist academic position were harassed and terrorised physically and by phone”. These actions are simply extensions of the constant but unreported attacks on other comrades opposed to the megaprojects.
“We are witnessing first-hand the State’s criminalisation of both the right to defend our territory and the right to academic knowledge” and critiques of the government’s actions. Nonetheless, “communities, students, and academics continue to organise in order to defend our territory and see our comrades freed from jail. We firmly believe that land is the heritage and universal right of all of those who inhabit this world. …The systematic aggression [we are facing] is a result of the lack of political resources and arguments… to defend a project that, from the very start, was doomed to failure. For that reason, governments turn to persecution and military and paramilitary invasions of our towns. And this is precisely what happened on May 27th, when the police and the military arrived in San Juan Amecac, Cohuecan, Acteopan and Amilcingo to protect engineers and at least 15 machines belonging to BONATTI.” The communities mentioned, aware of the dangers and risks of the PIM, refused to allow the installation of the gas pipeline, and thus the government responded by imposing its ideas through force and intimidation.
“These actions show us the simple-mindedness of governments that refuse to enter into dialogue with their opponents because they know there is no way to sustain their project. They don’t care that the gas pipeline passes alongside Popocatépetl and other areas of high volcanic risk, nor do they care that the aqueduct and thermoelectric plants will consume the water that its own citizens need. Much less do they care that these peasant lands become industrial lands of pollution and poverty.” And the reason they don’t care is because “they don’t know how to relate to the world in a way that doesn’t involve money”.
The communique ends by directing itself to the transnational corporations, “the bad governments, and the system that dominates them”. It reminds them that their ambition is as big as the fear they have of the “organised communities” they are confronting. “We will continue working and fighting for the right to land and freedom. We trust in the work and rebelliousness of the Mexican people, because we know that, together, we can defeat the greed for money. And we tell the bad governments that the [FPDTAMPT] will not sell itself, surrender, or give in. We will continue building other forms of organisation to defend and conserve what, by right, belongs to us. Land has always been and will continue to be the fundamental principle of the work and freedom of our people, and the reason why we will continue to fight against everything and everyone that threatens it.”
Translated and adapted by Oso Sabio from an article in Spanish originally seen at http://zapateando.wordpress.com/2014/05/31/la-lucha-del-frente-de-pueblos-contra-el-proyecto-integral-morelos/ and reproduced from “Agencia Subversiones” at http://subversiones.org/archivos/27450