Oaxaca: indigenous protest camp eviction

On Dec. 23, an encampment of indigenous Copala Triqui in front of the Government Palace in Oaxaca City was evicted by municipal and state police in full riot gear, just ahead of the Noche de Rábanos (Night of the Radish) festival in the main square—an annual tradition now marketed as a tourist spectacle. The evicted claimed that an expectant mother among their ranks received several blows from the police. She prematurely gave birth to a baby boy the next day, but he died four days later. The infant was buried on Dec. 29, following a vigil at the scene of the evicted camp. “As the coffin was carried to a nearby church, state police blocked the path of the funeral procession, forcing mourners to take a different route,” wrote reporter Jen Wilton of the blog Revolution Is Eternal.

Protest leaders told Wilton this was the third child to have died at the camp, noting incidents in December 2011 and October 2012. However, Oaxaca’s local press also reported a statement by rival Triqui leaders that the newborn did not die as a result of the eviction, and that the mother had not been present at the camp that day, calling the claims a “macabre idea” to “profit from the death of a baby.”

In any case, the encampment, which has been evicted various time before, was again re-established after the festival. The protesters are demanding the right to return to their home village of San Juan Copala after being displaced by a wave of paramilitary violence. In an open letter to Oaxaca’s Gov. Gabino Cué, camp residents stated, “We have suffered ambushes close to our communities, forced evictions, prison, kidnapping, torture, hunger and despair.” (Revolution Is Eternal, Jan. 2 via Upside Down World; NoticiasNet, Oaxaca, Dec. 29)

Local conflicts persist nearly throughout Oaxaca. On Jan. 4, residents of Ciudad Ixtepec, in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region, staged an occupation of the offices of the municipal water company to protest frequent cuts of service to poor areas of the town. (El Sol del Istmo, Salina Cruz, Jan. 4)

On Dec. 7, indigenous Ikojts (Huave) residents of the nearby village of San Dionisio del Mar won an injunction (amparo) from a federal district court in Salina Cruz temporarily halting construction of the Barra Santa Teresa Wind Project on grounds that it may be “in violation of the land rights of the community.” Residents fear the project, to be built on coastal wetlands, may damage fisheries. They also protest that the electricity would be overwhelmingly going to local industries, including a Coca-Cola plant.

The company developing the project and village leaders are at odds over whether residents have approved the project in community assemblies. In October, opponents of the project blocked roads to press their greivances, and earlier in the year charged that opponents had been targeted for “harassment” by the state and municipal government. Ixtepec has itself been the scene of a similar dispute over another wind project. Gov. Cué said that the amparo was “a bad sign for private investment in the state,” adding that he hoped the judgment would not set a precedent for development in the rest of the region.

Outgoing President Felipe Calderón toured the Isthmus in October to review wind projects planned for the region, but his stops were attended by tight security due to protests. Calderón made wind development in the Isthmus the centerpiece of his ambitious plan to cut Mexico’s carbon emissions 30% by 2020. Calderón boasted at one stop on the tour: “Yes, you can fight poverty and protect the environment at the same time. This is a clear example.”

Just in 2012, Mexico posted a 119% increase in wind-power capacity, more than doubling the 519 megawatts it had the previous year—the highest annual growth rate listed in the trade journal Wind Power Monthly. Mexico had only six megawatts when Calderon took office in 2006. Of Mexico’s 17 wind complexes, 13 are located in the Isthmus, developed by US firms such as Sempra Energy, Japanese industrial giant Mitsubishi, and Spanish companies including Iberdrola, Union Fenosa and Gamesa. (Global Voices, Dec. 27; Crónica de Oaxaca, Dec. 10; AP, Oct. 21; La Jornada, May 2; Asamblea Nacional de Afectados Ambientales, April 19, 2012)