By SANTIAGO NAVARRO
There will be profound changes, but they’ll come in accordance with the established legal order. There will be freedom for businesses. In terms of economics, we’ll respect the Banco de Mexico’s autonomy. The new government will maintain fiscal and financial responsibility. It will recognize the contracts with national and foreign companies and banks.” This was a speech given by the Mexican President-Elect, Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) on July 2nd of this year. He announced that during his 6-year term as President, which begins this December, there would be continuity of the pro-development policies of his predecessors, both for unfinished projects and for those already agreed to.
Among the already agreed upon contracts with companies and banks such as the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank are projects that bring in massive flows of capital such as the Special Economic Zones, regions, including the Trans-Isthmian corridor in Mexico’s southwest Tehuantepec Isthmus, that were established by current Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto by presidential decree. They also include the New International Airport of Mexico City and the gas pipelines throughout Mexico that connect to the United States. Another project that will continue as planned is the 1500-kilometer Trans peninsular Tourist Train in the Yucatan, known as the Maya Train. Speaking in Cancun on October 11th, Obrador said that the train would be constructed “whether our adversaries like it or not,” dismissing claims that it will cause severe environmental damage in the region.
If anyone has shown fierce opposition not just to the Maya Train but also the new airport, special development zones, and the promotion of monoculture, it has been original and indigenous peoples who gathered from October 11-14 in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, for the Second Plenary Assembly of the National Indigenous Congress and the Indigenous Governing Council (CNI-CIG, for its initials in Spanish.)
The members of the CNI-CIG, accompanied by the leadership of the indigenous organization the Zapatista Army for National Liberation, expressed their disagreement with AMLO’s arguments: “Down here, there is no more for us than to defend life, regardless of whatever lies may come from the government that’s leaving (Enrique Peña Nieto’s) or the government that’s coming in (Lopez Obrador’s). Their words are superfluous when their Trans-Isthmian projects and the expansion of their Special Economic Zones are threatening the Binniza, Chontal, Ikoots, Mixe, Zoque, Nahua, and Popoluca peoples…as well as the Mayan peoples who are threatened by their capitalist train project that strips and destroys everything in its path.”
This is the position that the communities constructed after three days of work, including discussions around nine tables of analysis, and time spent sharing both reflections and concrete actions they’ve taken in their territories. 589 representatives of the communities, including delegates, invitees, and activists, turned out for the Assembly. They were unified in their position regarding the new Mexican government and the programs its looking to implement, saying that “words are also superfluous in comparison to the announced plan to plant a million hectares of trees for fruit and lumber in Southern Mexico.” This was a response to Lopez Obrador’s declaration that he considers “100 million hectares of communal and cooperative property to be abandoned” in the region, thus justifying his plan to develop monoculture as a way to “convert these into productive lands.”
By the same token, AMLO has proposed a consultation to decide if his government will proceed with the construction of the new airport in Mexico City, which would be built 30 kilometers northeast of the capital, at Texcoco Lake in Mexico State. Heriberto Salas, part of the Coordination of Peoples and Organizations in Eastern Mexico for the Defense of Land, Water and Culture, and a member of the CNI-CIG, told Truthout, “Our rejection of the construction of this death project is total, and there is nothing to consult about. The project will provoke not only the death of Texcoco Lake, but also will bring about irreversible environmental damages in all of our communities in the Texcoco basin. The lake is part of our history and patrimony.”
“Words fail when the future government imposes the creation, in the old ways of indigenous rights, a National Institute of Indigenous Peoples (INPI, for its initials in Spanish) that is run by the deserters of our long resistance struggle,” said the members of the CNI. The INPI is set to be run by the indigenous Oaxacan, Adelfo Regino, who served as the Secretary of Indigenous Affairs in Oaxaca State under the controversial governor Gabino Cue. Regino co-opted and demobilized various social movements with their “tequio for change” motto*, looking for their support and offering their leaders government positions.
*Tequio is a Nahuatl word that refers to collective action for the common good.