NGOs in Mexico’s conflicted southern state of Chiapas are protesting the “forced displacement” by state and federal police of two peasant settlements in the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve. The operations took place Jan. 21 and 22 at the settlements of Laguna El Suspiro and Laguna San Pedro—the last one a base community of the Zapatista rebel movement. Homes were destroyed, and the inhabitants forcibly taken by helicopter to the nearby town of Palenque, where they were given temporary shelter in resettlement center—and interrogated by federal agents about supposed marijuana cultivation on their lands. Officials from the Federal Prosecutor for Environmental Protection and National Commission for Protected Areas were helicoptered in along with the police contingents to oversee the evictions.
The Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Center, Fray Pedro Lorenzo de la Nada Human Rights Center, Serapaz and other groups demanded the government indemnify the displaced communities. They also cited other settlements at imminent threat of eviction, including Nuevo San Gregorio, Nuevo Salvador Allende, Nuevo San Pedro, 6 de Octubre, Poblado Laguna El Suspiro, Ojo de Agua el Progreso and San Jacinto Lacanjá.
On Jan 26, state and federal environmental authorities issued a new plan for the “Ruta Maya”—including the Montes Azules reserve—emphasizing eco-tourism development. (La Jornada, Feb. 5)
The Latin American Network against Monoculture Tree Plantations (RECOMA) warns that the lands of the evicted peasants could be turned over for “biofuel” production, noting that in January the Chiapas state legislature had approved funds for establishing African oil palm plantations. (Rel-UITA, Uruguay, EcoPortal.net, Argentina, Feb. 23)