Chiapas: campesinos protest deforestation

From La Jornada, Jan. 10 via Chiapas95 (our translation):

Hundreds of inhabitants of the Sierra de Chiapas blocked trucks and machinery transporting wood from the zone, and initiated a protest vigil in front of the municipal presidency in Motozintla in protest of the timber companies which are exploiting the resouces without any plan for forest recovery.

Campesinos from Motozintla, El Porvenir y Siltepec explained that following Hurricane Stan, in October 2005, 168,000 hectares of these municipalities remain devastated.

They said the government has initiated no program of reforestation, posing a risk to the lives of thousands of people in the region.

The protesters announced that would not allow the indifference of the authorities, that they would maintain their vigil and take other actions until the exploitation is stopped and a plan is applied to reforest the Sierra.

One month after the hurricane, the then-secretary of Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat), Jose Luis Luege Tamargo, announced various programs to address the damages, with an investment of 742 million pesos.

Semarnat solicited resources from the National Fund for Natural Disasters (Fonden), but were only authorites 20 million, in theory to reforest 8,500 hectares, five percent of the affected area.

“In the Sierra, they have not reforested anything. In Motozintla they’ve installed a nursery with the best technology to grow the plants, but the bad management has impeded the harvest of our mastic trees and the greater part of our harvest has been lost,” explained Lucio Roblero, representative of the Indigenous Ecological Federation of Chiapas, one of the organizations participating in the vigil.

The members of the communities and social organizations in the region say that after the storm the timber companies suspended their operations for want of roads to remove the product, but in May 2006 they resumed exploitation.

They indicated that the most affcted communities are Las Cabanas, El Cipresal, Benito Juarez and Ojo de Agua. “For this reason we are organizing, and we have detained in peaceful manner three trucks and two timber machines [maquinas de las madereras].”

The protesters said the trucks were headed to the pueblo of El Cipresal to open an access road to a new section of the sierra when they were detained. The trucks were brought to the municipal offices in Motozintla as proof of the protest action.

“We can not go along with this indifference of the government, which is not only failing to realize reforestation programs, but is favoring the timber companies,” said Lucio Roblero.

He also protested that the authorities have not informed the communities which companies are exploiting the timber or who owns them. The trucks they are using say only “Federal Public Service.”

“Working independently, our organizations in 2006 reforested a total of 3,400
hectares. We have planted 130,000 seedlings of cedar, huanacaxtle and primavera. But if the lack of reforestation continues, the next rainy season could bring total destruction to the zone of the Sierra and floods to the lowlands,” he warned.

According to the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas and the National Forestry Commission, the 43 rivers that flow to the coast in Chiapas begin in the Sierra, which is losing vegetation at a rate of nine percent each year.

See our last posts on Mexico and the struggle in Chiapas.