dorset chiapas solidarity

September 1, 2015

The Energy Reform vs the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples

Filed under: Indigenous — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 5:50 pm


The Energy Reform vs the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples


Miguel Concha
La Jornada, 29th August, 2015

According to Convention No. 169 of the International Labour Organization, indigenous peoples are those who descend from the populations that inhabited the country, or a geographical region to which the country belongs, at the time of conquest or colonization or the establishment of present state boundaries and who, irrespective of their legal status, retain some or all of their own social, economic, cultural and political institutions.

A fundamental condition in order to be subject to indigenous rights is that indigenous peoples and their members are fully aware of their identity. In this article, I will address two rights that I consider basic in order for indigenous peoples to live in freedom under all the rights that have been recognized to them: the right to self-determination and the right to land. The first recognizes the freedom of indigenous peoples to decide the ways that allow them to continue their traditional lifestyle. The second grants them special importance with regard to their relationship with the lands or territories they occupy and use in some way or another, in particular the collective aspects of this relationship.

If we talk about land, we are touching on the relationships that people have forged and continue to forge in this vital space where they develop a cultural, spiritual, social, economic and political life that, in turn, lends itself to the construction of their identity. However, with the energy reform, the imposition of megaprojects on indigenous lands and campesinos is now legal, even though unwanted by the community.

download (1)Before the reform, the strategy was to intimidate and threaten in order to scare the indigenous population and force them to give rights of way over their land, ignoring not only the will of the people, but also the community assemblies that are fully viable political institutions in indigenous communities.

Such actions on part of the State are not far from reality in some villages of Tlaxcala, which remain in resistance to imposition of the Morelos pipeline, as this project is of no benefit to the population. On the contrary, this type of infrastructure is intended to strengthen the industrial sector, which in turn, needs a lot of energy to carry out its operations.

The pipeline is part of the Comprehensive Morelos Project, which consists of a combined cycle power plant that runs on both natural gas (the pipeline) and steam (an aqueduct) to produce electricity that will lead to the installation of new industrial cities along the pipeline through branches that distribute energy. It impacts 29 municipalities in three states, Morelos, Puebla and Tlaxcala.

Despite knowing the real impact of this work, the Federal Electricity Commission and the federal, state, municipal and community governments act with trickery and complicity to facilitate and expedite the construction, thus ignoring the will of community assemblies that have said “No” to the passage of the pipeline—both through their territories and elsewhere.

Community committees in San Vicente Xiloxochitla, San Jorge Tezoquipan, San Damiano Texoloc, and La Trinidad Tenexyecac in Tlaxcala, show clear signs of a struggle waged to defend the will of their assemblies. However, the communal decision as a whole is under fire by both the Mexican State and transnational private companies Elecnor, Enagas and Bonatti.

Approved by the energy reform, right of way to access oil and gas deposits is simply a way to deprive people of their freedom to decide which projects are carried out on their lands, and to impose other ways of relating to water, land, agriculture, traditions, rites, communal life and collective work.

Right of way to access oil and gas deposits—according to the new law on hydrocarbons—will be imposed over the will of the people. So, if they choose not to give up their lands for oil or natural gas wells, pipelines, hydroelectric or wind farms, the energy projects will be carried out anyway. To do so, companies and their invasive machinery will besiege communities from different parts of their territories in order to make the work done irreversible, taking into account neither any litigation in progress nor the violated rights of indigenous communities.

download (2)None of these energy projects, driven by governments and corporations, are intended to resolve the needs of communities, but rather to extend the plight of urbanization and industrialization that displace local cultural projects. The devastating consequences for their territories and people can already be seen.

However, the indigenous communities are still standing, demanding that the agreements generated in the community assemblies are respected. The pipeline is intended to cross densely populated areas like San Vicente Xiloxoxitla in the municipality of Nativitas; San Jorge Tezoquipan in Panotla, and Trinidad Tenexyecac, in the municipality of Ixtacuixtla.

In Trinidad Tenexyecac, the indigenous community makes its living through the creation of pottery, baked in ovens that generate temperatures of 950-1050 degrees Celsius. Since the pipelines pass less than a few meters away, residents are placed at high risk. They also pass 100 meters from Emiliano Zapata Distance Learning Middle School. In San Vicente Xiloxoxitla, the people make their living by the production of soft tacos, so burners are lit the major part of the day.

This all represents a great risk to indigenous communities. With the arrival of machinery and the force of law enforcement, they want to change their tranquillity and above all, their culture and way of life. For this reason, the communities are resisting—and they will not give up in the face of these projects.

Translated by Laura Turner




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