In Defense of Territory and Life: Mid-November Rumblings From Mexico:
Mid-November 2015 proved to be busy for struggles in resistance to extractive capitalism and in defense of communal territories in various parts of Mexico—a period that should bring fear to the minds of elitist political and economic interests of the country and of the world. Through the middle of the month, a string of gatherings took place in central and southern Mexico that are clear testament to the continued, and growing organization from below of resistance to ongoing state and capitalist exploitation of land, resources, and people within Mexican territory.
From November 10-12, around 400 participants from at least seven states of México (Chiapas, Colima, Jalisco, Oaxaca, México state, Puebla, and diverse regions of Veracruz) along with numerous international observers from various parts of the world (Costa Rica, Spain, Italy, France, Holland, Argentina, Bolivia, Perú, Colombia, Cuba), celebrated the 12th gathering of MAPDER (Movimiento mexicano de Afectados por las Presas y en Defensa de los Ríos) in the municipality of Jalcomulco, Veracruz. The gathering sought to share, find space of agreement, and decide how to move forward in the struggles to defend, protect, and reinvigorate alternative ways of being to state and capitalist modes. Among other topics, the gathering focused on the expansion of hydraulic fracking, proposed dams for hydroelectric energy, and the privatization of water both in the state of Veracruz as well as Mexico as a whole.
On November 12th, the first conference for the right to life and land in the Sierra Norte of the Mexican state of Puebla took place in the faculty of economics in Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla (BUAP). The conference brought together a wide range of civil society organizations, social movements, academics, students, and defenders of the land “…to analyze the situation of extractive industry in the state of Puebla and the violations of human rights already taking place in various communities in the state as a result of such projects.” Concerns included the more than 160,000 hectares conceded to mining projects in the high elevation zones of the Sierra Norte, more than ten proposed hydroelectric projects in the mid elevation zones of the Sierra Norte, and extensive extraction of hydrocarbons including 230 sites of hydraulic fracking in the lower zones of the Sierra Norte of Puebla.
And, on November 14, in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, some 51 communities, 17 civil organizations, and more than 400 participants gathered in Tataltepec de Valdés, Juquila, Oaxaca, in a regional forum entitled: “Rivers and Mountains in Danger:” Communities and their Right to Territory. The gathering addressed among other topics, fourteen different megaprojects (both hydroelectric dams and mines) in various stages of development in the coastal region of the Mexican state of Oaxaca along with with some 55 hydroelectric projects in various stages of proposal and study throughout the larger state of Oaxaca. Inherent in the forum, was the recognition that these projects are part of an ongoing drive to break up Indigenous communal landholdings and Indigenous communal ways of living in pursuit of capital accumulation.
At the heart of all three gatherings was the growing concern over the energy reforms implemented in 2014 by the Enrique Pena Nieto administration. On December 21, 2013, the Enrique Pena Nieto administration amended the constitution of Mexico toward energy privatization. Then on August 12, 2014, President Enrique Peña Nieto implemented these constitutional amendments by passing nine new laws and amending twelve previous laws. Included in these extensive hydrocarbon and electricity reforms was the opening up to foreign investment of untapped oil and natural gas reserves in Mexico, a slated process that will undoubtedly have far-reaching consequences for communities in Mexico.
A related concern in the gatherings was the Mexican state’s drive to privatize water. In March of this year, an extensive grassroots movement defeated (at least temporarily), a proposed water privatization measure under the name of the General Water Act. Claiming better efficiency, the PRI lead government sought to privatize water distribution, and designate more water rights to fracking, a project that is itself known to extensively damage water supplies. While the proposal was defeated, the initiatives are still being pursued. The privatization of water along with the extensive energy reforms, are components of a wholesale privatization effort being pursued by the Enrique Peña Nieto Administration.
The growing resistance to extractive capitalism and in defense of territory against resource privatization in Mexico is emerging within the context of a staggering public distrust in governmental authority. With the continued negligence of the Mexican government to properly investigate the 43 missing students in Ayotzinapa (a crime that is quite knowingly the workings of the state itself), the ongoing violent war against journalists throughout the country, and the growing unrest over federal education reforms, resistance(s) are emerging with a different objective for the future of Mexico and the world. In Mexico the time seems ripe—ripe for growth of resistance movements headed toward substantial social change, or ripe for expanded state repression in the interests of capitalist and narco forces. Only time will tell what harvest is reaped.
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