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Power to … or v… The People?

24 October 2012

THAT BLOWS!

Oaaaaaxaca…. where the wind come’s whippin’ down the Isthmus… has a long history of Mexican concessions being given to foreign private-public investment projects without considering the needs, or wants, of the region’s residents.  At least twice in the 19th century, foreign investors sought their government’s assistance in obtaining “concessions” in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec from the Federal Government (I plan to write on one of the most ambitious of them — the Interoceanic Railway — later this week).

The latest of these schemes is  financed by the Dutch government pension fund, PGGM;  the Mitsubishi Corporation; and the Australian investment fund Macquarie.

What has always made the Isthmus of Tehuantepec such a tempting target for developers is the same thing any real estate investor is looking for:  location, location, location.  In the 19th century, a flat stretch of land, separating the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans by a mere 200 Kms was the draw.  Later on, it was the soil, year round growing climate and access to ports and — in our energy-conscious era, it’s the winds that blow constantly across the only gap in the mountain ranges that cross the entire spine of the Americas .

With the backing of the Interamerican Development Bank , the Dutch-Japanese-Australian 396MW Mareña wind farm supposedly signed contracts with Huave residents of San Dionisio del Mar before they began installing the huge turbines.  Not so, say the Huaves.

The San Dionisio commune, which represents farmers from the Huave indigenous group, claims that a land-use contract signed in 2004 involved “deception and disinformation”, and that the number of turbines the consortium plans to install has been raised from an original 40 to 132.

“The dynamic of eviction, abuse, lies and contempt for indigenous people on the part of the company Mareña Renovables has become clearer and clearer,” it says.

Mareña Renovables says it wants to continue its dialogue with all stakeholders in the wind farm, saying it “is committed to managing this project with a view to sustainability and having regard to the interests of all stakeholders, including local communities”.

While back in the 19th century, the concerns of local communities were of little or no concern, today the locals are considered “stakeholders” — i.e, they have an economic interest … but then again, how much money does a Huave farmer have, when he’s up against a Dutch pension fund or Mitsubichi Corporation? And, while the Huaves can block a highway or two, the other guys can call out their mercenaries.

The the project […] has a 20-year contract with Femsa, a Mexican Coca-Cola bottler, and Heineken.[ ..]

The protestors claim the aforementioned groups are “forming paramilitary shock troops and preparing them to invade the ancestral lands of the Mexican indigenous Ikojts/Huave people in order to build by force Latin America’s largest wind farm.”
The protestors claim the aforementioned groups are “forming paramilitary shock troops and preparing them to invade the ancestral lands of the Mexican indigenous Ikojts/Huave people in order to build by force Latin America’s largest wind farm.”

It also needs to be pointed out that several wind-farm projects, mostly being developed by the Spanish energy giant Repsol, are also springing up in the Isthmus, and also being found by local communities.

THE SHOCK OF THE NEW

Speaking softly and carrying a big stake, the developers of the Mareña Wind-Farm claim that the dissent is based in local politics.  They’ll tell you they received a permit for the project from the municipal PRD administration, but the commune objecting to the development is a PRI stronghold, and the leftists are either pocketing the money or repressing the PRI supporters.

In Morelia, where newly-installed PRD administration (replacing several years of PAN government) had to send in several hundred state police officers to take control of Huexca (Yecapixtla Municipio) where the “Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra y el Agua en Morelos” had blocked access to construction on two new thermoelectrical plants.   The community is mostly opposed to the Proyecto Integral Morelos, a concession granted by the outgoing federal administration of Felipe Calderón to four Spanish-owned companies: OHL, Abengoa, Enargas and Elecnor.

I am not really surprised that the left is seen as the bullies in some of these situations, the conflict in Mexico being — as it has been for centuries — having less to do with “left” v “right” as with tradition v modernity.  Since the 2006 election, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador — to name one of the more prominent leftists — has been pushing for more energy self-sufficiency within Mexico, and for more industrialization in the south. On the other hand, Vicente Fox, back in 2001, had proposed a neo-liberal development plan for Oaxaca and the Central American Republics, which would involve more foreign investments in areas like energy and resource extraction.  I would put less “blame” — if there is to be “blame” — for these conflicts on any particular political party than  on the top-down imposition of “development” on people who are seen only in narrow economic terms.

SOURCES:

Dutch wind farm in trouble in Mexico  Louise Dunn, Radio Netherlands

Anti-wind protestors claim invasions of paramilitaries, Wind Concerns Ontario

Protesters block work at Latin America’s biggest wind farm, ReCharge

Primera represión de Graco Ramírez,Arturo Rodríguez García, Proceso

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