Mexico: 22 injured in Oaxaca wind farm protest

Some 1,200 agents from the police forces of the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca tried unsuccessfully on March 26 to remove local residents who were blocking a road leading to the Bii Yoxho wind farm, which is under construction in Juchitán de Zaragoza municipality near the Pacific coast. The operation was also intended to recover construction equipment protesters had seized on Feb. 25 in an ongoing effort to stop the completion of the wind project, which is owned by the Mexican subsidiary of the Spanish company Gas Natural Fenosa. Local prosecutor Manuel de JesĂşs LĂłpez told the French wire service AFP that 22 people were injured in the March 26 operation, including 11 police agents, and one police agent was taken prisoner. Protesters reported eight local people with serious injuries, including Carlos Sánchez, the coordinator of Radio Totopo, a community radio station.

Several companies have been building wind farms in southeastern Oaxaca on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Residents in the Juchitán area, mostly from the Zapotec and Ikoots (Huave) indigenous groups, say the Bii Yoxho project is being built in an area they use for fishing and farming that also includes ceremonial sites, along with mangrove forests that are critical to the local environment. The barricade blocking access to the Bii Yoxho project on the Juchitán-Playa Vicente road is one of four main points of resistance to the wind turbines. Activists have also occupied the town hall in San Dionisio del Mar since January 2012; have refused to recognize the mayor in San Mateo del Mar, Francisco Valle, because he favors the projects; and have set up a barricade in Juchitán’s Alvaro ObregĂłn neighborhood to block access to another wind park, owned by the Mareña Renovables company.

The resistance has been subjected to police harassment, such as the 24-hour detention by federal police of Lucila Bettina Cruz Velázquez, a leader in the Assembly of the Indigenous Peoples of the Tehuantepec Isthmus in Defense of Land and Territory, in February 2012. Protesters also report the presence of armed paramilitary groups, some with connections to unions and other groups affiliated with the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) or close to the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). On March 21 a group of men linked to Juchitán’s PRI mayor, Francisco Valle Piamonte, briefly detained reporter Rosa Rojas and photographer Francisco Olvera, both from the left-leaning national daily La Jornada, along with three reporters from alternative media and a San Mateo resident. On the morning of March 29 a paramilitary group dismantled Radio Totopa, seizing a laptop and the transmitter and cutting the power cables, according to the Popular Assembly of the Juchiteco People (APPJ). APPJ spokespeople called this “another attack by the state government and the transnational companies which are trying to use violence to silence the voices of those who oppose the construction of wind parks.” 

After negotiations with representatives of the Oaxaca state government on March 28, the APPJ returned 12 vehicles, including a backhoe, to Gas Natural Fenosa; in exchange the state agreed not to press charges against the protesters. However, the APPJ rejected the state’s proposal for them to lift the road blockades on April 1 and attend an April 2 meeting in the city of Oaxaca. Protesters said they would maintain their barricades, and called on the governor, Gabino CuĂ© Monteagudo, to come meet with them in Juchitán. (DesinformĂ©monos, March 24; Bloomberg News, March 27, from AFP; statement by Assemblies of the Peoples of the Isthmus, March 29, via Kaos en la RedLa Jornada, March 29)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 31.