Repeal of Model Cities in Honduras provokes threats from the US

This past October, United States Senators Ben Cardin and Bill Hagerty sent a letter to the U.S. State Department and Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, to issue a complaint about the Honduran government’s repeal, in April 2022, of the law that allowed the operation of Economic Development and Employment Zones (ZEDEs) in Central America.

The fundamental law allowed for the creation of special zones that operate autonomously from the Honduran government. According to proponents of the law, investors could implement their own administrative systems, governance and laws in the special zones, with the purpose of creating conditions to attract international investments.

The Senators’ letter argues that U.S. investments in Central America “will help alleviate the poverty that encourages illegal migration to the United States” and pressure the Honduran government to respect the “50-year legal stability guarantee that protects U.S. investments,” established in the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR).

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In contrast, since the passing of the law in 2013, wide sectors of Honduran society have organized against its operation. According to the organization Alternative for Community and Environmental Claims of Honduras (ARCAH), based on more than 70 open town hall assemblies, ZEDES-free municipalities were declared in diverse departments where mobilization for the defense of territory led to the refusal of their installation.

In a response letter to the U.S. Senators, ARCAH maintained that the ZEDES “are a project of aggression against the sovereignty” of Central America, for which the Senators’ petition constitutes “a deeply meddlesome proposal, disrespectful of the internal affairs of the State of Honduras, and only invites the perpetuity of crimes committed by the ZEDES, which include, in the case of their technical secretaries (equivalent to a governor or mayor), for example, the crime of treason.”

The Honduran organization affirms that for more than a decade, “the people of Honduras, even in a period of narco-dictatorship, confronted the ZEDES in a manner that is organized, coherent, appropriate, dignified, legitimate manner, and in full use of their rights,” before the transnationals overtook the Honduran government “to install governance laboratories, without consultation, and it could not be otherwise - what people would consciously say ‘yes’ to the partial or total surrender of their country?”

Pressure

The Senators’ initiative is not the first complaint of U.S. officials over the repeal of the ZEDES. In July of this year, the U.S. Department of State issued an Investment Climate Statement on Honduras, which thoroughly condemned the law’s repeal.

“Their elimination raised concerns in the business community about the government’s commitment to commercial stability and the rule of law”, declares the report, which questions the attitude of Xiomara Castro’s government since it did not try to implement reforms or seek dialogue with ZEDE investors.

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According to the department responsible for U.S. foreign policy, the measure contributed to uncertainty about the Honduran government’s commitment to investment protections required by agreements such as the Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) between the United States and Honduras and CAFTA-DR.

In response, ARCAH assures that none of these guarantees apply if the sovereignty of Honduras is put at risk, since the Senators, “ignore that the ZEDES fundamental law authorized ZEDES to expropriate Honduran territories.” They also add that “not one Free Trade Agreement applies to the ZEDES, as they are incompatible with the Republic of Honduras’s Constitution, and national and international human rights standards.”

On the contrary, the organization, that co-founded the National Movement against the ZEDES in June of 2021, affirms that these projects have not invested in Honduras, “but have unleashed violence and attacks, including against ARCAH.”

Attacks

Christopher Castillo, general coordinator of ARCAH, has denounced threats against him by police, as well as by board members and executives of different ZEDES projects.

According to a statement from the Peoples’ Human Rights Observatory, the attacks occur in the context of the struggle against the ZEDES, particularly those known as Ciudad Morazán and Próspera, that “ignore the popular decision to repeal the law, which was achieved through the popular struggle of communities and organizations. Therefore, the ZEDES do not want to recognize it, and instead threaten with violent actions seeking to settle in the territories.”

One of the recent attacks occurred at the end of October when ARCAH members were peacefully protesting against Ciudad Morazán, since it is one of the ZEDES projects that has remained in operation despite the repeal of the law that supported them. In addition, there have been threats against the ARCAH coordinator by the founder of Ciudad Morazán, Massimo Mazzone, and other members Jorge Colindres and Carlos Fortín.

Given these facts, Christopher Castillo demanded that Honduran authorities effectively repeal the ZEDES and before local media he insisted that “we cannot allow these businessmen to come only to impose projects that are not development, that are contrary to the will of the people and furthermore that endanger the people.”

Yaqui Political Prisoner, Fidencio Aldama, Receives Fourteen Year Prison Sentence

Cover Image: Fidencio Aldama (at the far right) together with musicians in the prison of Ciudad Obregon, Sonora.

After a legal process plagued by irregularities, October 27 will mark six years in prison for Indigenous Yaqui, Fidencio Aldama. His ongoing imprisonment was denounced by the Fidencio Aldama Support Group and Los Otros Abo398gadoz who through a communique accused the “anti-Indigenous racism inherent to the Mexican State” for the imprisonment of the political prisoner.

In April of 2018, Aldama was sentenced to fifteen years and six months, accused of the death of Cruz Buitimea Piña in Loma de Bácum, Sonora. Now, after a long appeal process, the courts have confirmed Fidencio Aldama’s conviction, but reduced his sentence to fourteen years.

“We remember that Fidencio’s arrest and continued imprisonment is the result of a coordinated effort between the Mexican State and SEMPRA Energy (via its affiliate in Mexico, IEnova) to impose a natural gas pipeline through Yaqui territory,” detailed the Fidencio Aldama Support Group through the communique released on Thursday October 20.

In 2016, the Yaqui community of Loma de Bácum rejected the imposition of the “Gasoducto Sonora” pipeline project. The response from the state and SEMPRA Energy was violent repression. On October 21, 2016, an attack was carried out against the Yaqui community. A week later Fidencio Aldama was arrested, “unjustly accused,” as the organizations explain.

Los Otros Abogadoz, who are providing legal defense for Fidencio Aldama, announced that on June 17, 2022, a year and nine months after having filed the appeal, the Third Collegiate Court in the State of Sonora resolved the appeal, upholding Fidencio’s conviction.

Afterwards, on August 24, 2022, a ruling was released reducing his sentence to fourteen years in prison. “Faced with this new situation, we cannot remain immobile waiting for Fidencio to serve out his unjust fourteen-year sentence. We must continue insisting and resisting until we can snatch back his freedom,” announced his legal team.

Los Otros Abogadoz explained that they plan to file a new appeal in the hopes that the Supreme Court of the Nation will be the one to resolve the case: “This case is important because it involves an Indigenous person belonging to the Yaqui Tribe who is being criminalized and punished, sentenced to prison for defending his territory by opposing the construction of a natural gas pipeline by an international company. This pipeline project puts at risk the lives of the inhabitants of Loma de Bácum, the pueblo where Fidencio lived with his family when he was detained.”

Mutual Benefits Between the State and Organized Crime

For their part, the Fidencio Aldama Support Group contextualized the situation in Loma de Bácum, explaining that since Aldama’s imprisonment it has only worsened.

On July 14, 2021, ten people were disappeared in the Yaqui community while organizing for their traditional festivities in the pueblo. After months of search efforts led by Yaqui women and families of the disappeared, seven of their remains were found and identified. “These disappearances exemplify how organized crime, the state, and corporations mutually benefit from one another, planting terror in Indigenous communities to disarticulate community organization and consolidate projects of capital accumulation and state control,” denounced the group.

At the end of 2021, the Federal Government presented a policy package denominated the “Justice Plan” for the Yaqui Tribe, which the group argues reinforces “the colonial mission of making the Yaqui people and Yaqui territory productive for global capitalism.”

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According to the group, this is evident in actions like that of the current Governor of Sonora, Alfonso Durazo, who recently proposed the designation of a special economic zone in Yaqui territory, destined to facilitate manufacturing industries with cheap Indigenous labor.

In light of the new sentence, the group points to the following people as responsible for the imprisonment of Fidencio Aldama, along with the repression and cooptation that continues in Yaqui Territory: the CEO of Sempra Energy, Jeffrey M. Martin; the CEO of IEnova, Tania Mena Ortiz; the General Director of the CFE, Manuel Bartlett Diaz; the Governor of Sonora, Alfonso Durazo; and the President of the Republic, Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

In the communique they also hold responsible the different judges, magistrates, secretaries, judicial officials, etc. “who have maintained this legal charade against Fidencio Aldama.” Lastly, they indicate that in Fidencio’s legal process, they will likely continue facing “the discrimination of the judicial authorities, who have up until this moment punished the struggle and resistance of a land defender. We will not rest until Fidencio is free, to hug his children and mother who impatiently wait for him.”

Puente Madera Resists Attempt to Fence Off Common Use Lands for Industrial Park

In the morning of Monday October 24, a group of thirty people identifying themselves as private security of the Interoceanic Corridor of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec (CIIT) accompanied by state police hung a sign at the entrance to the area known as El Pitayal in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Oaxaca. The sign read, “Property of the CIIT (Interoceanic Corridor of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec).”

In a communique from the Community Assembly of Puente Madera and the Assembly of Indigenous Peoples of the Isthmus in Defense of Land and Territory (APIIDTT), they explained that community members spoke with the delegation demanding that they take down the sign “because these are common use lands” of the Binnizá community of Puente Madera.

However, there was no response. Members of the community removed the sign and set it ablaze. Meanwhile, the government functionaries retreated from the area.

To show their disapproval of the latest encroachments on their common use lands, members of the community installed a highway blockade. “There is the threat of the arrival of the national guard, but as of now we have only seen state police,” members of the community shared with Avispa Midia.  

There is a lawsuit in the Local Agrarian Court of Tuxtepec to nullify an act of the assembly on March 14, 2021, where the installation of the industrial park in the common use lands of El Pitayal was approved. The protestors explained: “We have presented evidence to different state and federal institutions of the falsification of signatures, even signatures being used of dead people” in that act.

The assemblies denounce: “Because of our stance of respect for and defense of our territory and common use lands… [we have been] subjected to political violence as an Indigenous community being denied the [economic] resources that we require for the most basic maintenance of our public services.”

In addition, they explain: “[We have been] subjected to harassment, intimidation, and physical aggressions…as well as an ongoing campaign of defamation and criminalization against our representatives, community and regional organization.”

The assemblies demand an end to the criminalization against representatives and inhabitants of the community of Puente Madera, a resolution to the nullity trial in the Local Tribunal Court, and the cancelation of the industrial park in the common use lands of El Pitayal.

Security

The sign that government functionaries sought to hang at the entrance to the common use lands of El Pitayal bore the logo of the CIIT and of the private security company, Duxon. In addition to providing security services, Duxon also provides construction services in infrastructure, energy, development, and technological projects. The majority of their contracts are linked with the federal government.

European Union-Mercosur Trade Agreement: The Unequal Energy Transition

Cover image: Fires in the Brazilian Amazon make way for the expansion of agroindustry and mining.

After twenty years of back and forth negotiations regarding the specifics of a free trade agreement between the European Union and the Southern Common Market (Mercosur)—made up of Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay—European countries have recently intensified efforts to ratify the agreement, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

The agreement, signed in June of 2019, was not fully ratified by the countries. At that time, the text was submitted to a legal review and translation, which was to be followed with parliamentary approval by the countries involved.  

Different Latin American and European organizations have warned that the terms of the agreement continue the colonial and unequal logic of the international division of labor. That is to say, it stimulates industrial production in Europe while promoting the plunder of natural resources in South America.

Agriculture and mining are the principal sectors to be expanded in South American countries. A study carried out by the organization GRAIN indicates that, with the agreement, there will be growth of at least 540% in the exportation of ethanol, 55% in the exportation of poultry, 60% in coffee, and 50% in beef. All of these products will have zero export tariffs. Minerals like iron will also have tariffs reduced to zero within ten years.

Deforestation in the Amazon

“It reinforces a model of social exclusion and environmental impact, since it involves occupying more and more area and intensifying the use of the areas already occupied,” says Adhemar Mineiro, of the Red Brasileña por la Integración de los Pueblos (REBRIP).

Agriculture and mining are already the two economic activities which “most promote environmental destruction in Brazil, with profound impacts on the human and territorial rights of Indigenous peoples and traditional communities,” says the researcher, Maureen Santos, member of the Grupo Carta de Belém.

In the settlement of Lago Grande—an area of rivers in Santarém in the Amazonian state of Para, Brazil—155 communities live from family farming, fishing, and the recollection of forest fruits. Around 55% of their territory, which was granted to them through the redistribution of lands to small farmers, is now threatened by mining exploitation.

Rosenilce dos Santos, who lives in this territory, says that they are now also suffering pressure from the expansion of soya cultivation. “We are all conscious that the land cannot be sold because it is collective territory. However, grilagem (the illegal sale of land) continues. This has generated conflicts inside families and communities. They arrive to our territory offering hospitals, schools, and roads,” she says.

With the increase in European demand, the plunder of these territories will intensify, “increasing socioenvironmental conflicts,” adds Santos, who is also part of the Federación de Organizaciones de Asistencia Social y Educativa (FASE) of Brazil.

For the Few

In December of 2019, a few months after the agreement was signed by the two blocs, the European Union announced its Green Deal. As the European Union explains on its website, the Green Deal is “a packet of political initiatives meant to place the EU on a path toward ecological transition, with the ultimate objective of reaching climate neutrality by 2050,” and thus fulfilling its commitments under the Paris Accord.

The acceleration of the “energy transition” proposed by the Green Deal, was also seen as a strategy to expand an economy in crisis, which has been made worse by the pandemic. “The transformation of European societies and the economy will be necessary, which must be profitable, equitable, and socially balanced,” says the EU in its documents.

For Mónica Bruckman, a social scientist and coordinator of the working group on geopolitics and regional integration of the Latin American Council of Social Sciences (CLACSO), there is a clear relationship between the strategies of the European Green Deal and the provisions in the agreement that the “European Union is proposing to Mercosur.”

In the documents of the Green Deal, access to resources is fundamental, as a question of “strategic security.” One of the requirements to make the transition a reality is to guarantee the supply of raw materials, in particular those raw materials critical for clean technologies, digital, space, and defense uses.

María Leusa Munduruku (center) during the Caravan for Water in Tapajós. She suffered an assassination attempt in 2021 for opposing illegal mining in Indigenous territories. Photo by Ana Mendes/ Amazônia Real

“None of these critical resources are in European territory. They are principally in Africa, and above all, in South America. Thus, access to these resources is an indispensable requirement to fulfill the objectives of the European Green Deal, and that means access to our territories,” analyzes the researcher.

The agreement between the EU and Mercosur opens the doors of the South American countries to European extraction.

While taking into consideration the decarbonization of industry and consumption in the northern countries, “this same process will violently and brutally expand extractive industries in [our] territories.”

A study carried out by GRAIN reinforces the researcher’s findings. “While it is very likely that with this agreement European “green” transportation fuel targets will be met with increased European importations of ethanol and soya, this same process may further drive deforestation and land grabbing in countries like Brazil. It could result in the governments of the EU causing further climate destruction in order to meet their climate targets,” the study says.

According to its documents, the Green Deal seeks the protection of European natural capital, which includes its biodiversity and water resources. Bruckman stresses the outdatedness of this vision from an environmental point of view. “In the 21st century, we already know that the planet operates as a large bloc with its complex but integrated biomes. There is no point in protecting European natural capital if for example the Amazon is not protected because the Amazon is the biome with the greatest capacity to capture carbon on the planet. Protecting European natural capital means protecting the natural reserves and biomes worldwide,” she said.

In Brazil, 87% of the mining area is in the Amazon. The mining sector “is already having a colossal impact on this territory, and it will have an even greater impact in the next 20 years (…). We have a future characterized by global dispute for strategic natural resources, for strategic goods,” says Bruckman.

The researcher warns that the agreement between the EU and Mercosur is not only a commercial agreement, “it has to do with a new world order that they themselves are proposing.”

More Emissions

Unlike the European Green Deal, the agreement does not force Mercosur countries to fulfill the goals of the Paris Agreement. In spite of citing it, “there isn’t any mechanism or arbitration foreseen in the agreement that forces the countries to fulfill these goals,” Santos explains.

Today Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay are already in flames for growing soya and sugar cane for the European market. The emissions from forest fires or loss of wetlands do not appear in the European climate calculation.

According to the document from the Observatory of Multinationals in Latin America, “El comercio entre los bloques aumenta la violencia, las desigualdades, la crisis de los derechos humanos y la emergencia ambienta,” the European Union is the second largest importer of tropical deforestation and associated emissions in the world.

Organizations maintain resistance against the advancement of the mining industry in the Brazilian Amazon. Photo by Lanna Ramos.

In addition, it is responsible for 16% of deforestation associated with international trade, and 25% of greenhouse gas emissions from the EU’s food supply derive from imports from Latin America.

With the agreement, GRAIN estimates that greenhouse gas emissions in the countries of Mercosur will increase by one third from trade in just eight agricultural products. More than 80% of these emissions will come from a single product: beef.

Nature-Based Solutions?

Critiques of the agreement not only come from organizations on both sides of the Atlantic. Countries such as France have also expressed the necessity for the agreement to obligate the Mercosur countries to fulfill environmental commitments.

The ambassador of the European Union to Brazil, Ignacio Ybañez, said to the media that the European Commission already has the draft of an additional document regarding environmental issues that will be presented to the countries.

However, the document is not public, and its contents are still unknown.

“We do not have access to the documentation being negotiated. Most of the information that we have in relation to the proposals comes from organizations in the European Union who have gained access and informed us. That is an absurdity,” sustained a member of Grupo Carta de Belem.

Santos suggests that one of the subjects that might be included in additional declarations to the agreement is “nature-based solutions” as “a way out of the climate crisis” where the carbon market is the central axis. “I think that this topic is going to become very important, since it is a key idea that the European Union has been defending in global agreements,” she explains.

These solutions were agreed upon between the countries in the climate conferences of the United Nations, the so-called COPs, and are considered by diverse organizations and peoples throughout the world as “false market-based solutions.”

“For us, they are false (nature-based solutions); they put this name on mechanisms that have already existed for 20 years, and which do not provide concrete results to the climate problem,” said Santos.

Beyond Trade

The agreement between the European Union and Mercosur began to be negotiated in 1995, the same year in which the World Trade Organization (WTO) was founded. In this context, the agreement adhered to the agenda of the WTO, an agenda directed toward trade liberalization.

“It includes, among other things, the liberalization of basic services like water and energy; the privatization of public services and the facilitation of European businesses in their management; labor deregulation; deregulation of the financial system; privatization of public banks,” explains Adhemar Mineiro.

Another issue are the purchases made by governments—federal, state and municipal—in the countries of Mercosur. “All of the purchases, for example of food, must be carried out through international bids, giving access to European companies,” which would interfere with, for example, the Brazilian government purchasing products produced by family farming.

Chemical Pesticides: “Double Standard”

The agreement facilitates the sale of pesticides produced by European companies. The taxes imposed on chemical products will be reduced or eliminated by 90%. The European Commission’s forecast is that it will increase exportations by 47.6% of these products toward Mercosur.

At the same time, the European Union reinforced their internal restrictions on pesticides. According to a report in 2019 by the Asociación Brasileña para la Reforma Agraria, 44% of the substances registered in Brazil are prohibited in the European Union. Of the 113 products of the German based company, BASF, 71 of them are approved in Brazil. These are highly dangerous pesticides with 57 of them not being registered for use in the EU.

The Congress of Brazil has greenlighted the use of pesticides prohibited in the European Union.

“The agreement is a double standard, in which citizens of Mercosur are treated as secondary,” Santos said.

The study carried out by Gabriel Cassoti of Amigos de la Tierra Europa, “Comercio Tóxico: a ofensiva do lobby dos agrotoxicos da UE no Brasil,” revealed the extensive lobbying carried out by this sector in Europe and Brazil. It also revealed that the businesses were consulted by the EU so that their demands were included in the agreement.

Today there exists 5000 pesticides being used in Brazil, 1500 of them have been permitted during the government of Jair Bolsonaro.

Substitution

Cars, principally of German origin, will have their sale facilitated in Mercosur countries. “The automobile sector was also consulted so that their demands were included in the agreement,” explains Lúcia Ortiz, of the organization Amigos de la Tierra Brasil.

As part of its strategies to reduce carbon emissions, the European Union established the objective to have at least 30 million zero emission cars in 2030. In addition, it plans to prohibit the sale of vehicles with combustion motors by 2035.

“The European Union, with its renewable energy guidelines, will substitute its gas-powered cars for electric or hydrogen powered cars, and they want to sell us the cars that they don’t use. Meanwhile we export to Europe the minerals necessary for the technology for their energy transition,” said Ortiz.

Uncontrollable E-Commerce

Gabriel Cassoti alerts to a point hardly discussed in relation to the agreement. That is, e-commerce of major digital corporations. The agreement prohibits the taxation of profits from these companies. “There exists a major lobby of the five major companies—Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Alibaba—who are amongst the seven largest companies in the world.”

Furthermore, the agreement prohibits the state from regulating the flow of users’ personal data from the platforms; data “that generates very high profits for these companies.”

Expectation

There are certain expectations about the direction of the agreement in relation to the outcomes of the presidential elections in Brazil, which will take place on October 30 between Bolsonaro and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The topic was present during the electoral campaigns.

Lula has sustained that if he is elected, he will seek to “improve” the agreement to guarantee that the Mercosur countries can promote industry. However, the European diplomat, Cañas, declared to European media that a possible renegotiation of the agreement “will not occur.”

Guacamayaleaks: EZLN target of constant espionage by Sedena

Cover photo: Santiago Navarro F.

Confidential files of the Secretary of National Defense (Sedena) leaked by the Guacamaya hackers group reveal a permanent monitoring by the military of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) and  organizations with affinity to the Zapatista movement. 

One of the current concerns of Sedena, evident in its reports, is the action of the EZLN in relation to the Maya Train and other megaprojects in the south-southeast of Mexico. 

The document Position of the EZLN for the construction of the Maya Train, classified as confidential,  from January 2020, mentions the conditions of the Zapatistas in the Chiapas zone, the reasons why they oppose the Mayan Train and other megaprojects, as well as the way in which they would act against  said works and the federal government itself.

President López Obrador urged the Army to guard the construction of the Maya Train.

Sedena estimates that the EZLN could re-arm itself and maintains that “the risk of the resurgence of the rebel movement is still latent,” due to the construction of megaprojects in the southeast of the country. 

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It is also stated that “the EZLN group represents a possible unfavorable factor to the internal security of the Mexican State”. 

The Army recommends in an analysis dated January 20, 2019 that “intelligence monitoring of this group requires the work of civil and military intelligence in national security, given its background.” 

Furthermore, Sedena considers it necessary to generate ‘intelligence’ about grassroots Christian groups of the Catholic Church, which would be close to the Zapatistas, and also about their position regarding  the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador. 

Galeano 

Regarding Subcomandante Galeano, Sedena considers that “he cannot be underestimated.”

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In the past, he managed to raise hundreds of residents in arms, “why couldn't he do the feat again today? Commander Ernesto Che Guevara already said: ‘There is no small enemy or negligible force, because there are no longer isolated peoples’.

Tour 

Between May 2nd and September 12th of 2021, members of the EZLN made a tour of 30 European  countries called “Journey for Life.”

Members of the EZLN during the European tour in 2021.

The reports generated show that the Army followed up on the activities carried out by the Zapatistas  before, during and after their tour of Europe, with weekly reports. The military were aware of the type  of coverage and impacts that the visit of the Zapatista delegations in Europe and in the international  media would generate. 

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“In the same way, it is not observed first-hand that their activities have any negative repercussions for the Mexican government,” they detail in one of the reports. 

Militarization 

The military recount that in the reports the Zapatistas “disclosed the formation of 4 new autonomous municipalities (...) which could represent an expansion of its area of influence in the area bordering Guatemala”. 

They also record that “currently the Caracol II (Oventic) is the one that represents the greatest  relevance due to the events they have carried out and the indoctrination activities that Rafael Sebastián  Guillen Vicente 'Galeano' regularly attends.”  Also considering the facts mentioned, “this SND has maintained an operational deployment in  accordance with the social and criminal situation in the state of Chiapas with troops under the  jurisdiction of the VII RM (Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas.), currently with the support of the National  Guard”.

New Attacks in Puente Madera Seeking to Impose Industrial Park on Indigenous Communal Lands

Cover image: Train tracks in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Oaxaca. Photo: Santiago Navarro F.

The Community Assembly of Puente Madera has denounced that on Friday September 30, César Octavio Morales Toledo, the current Communal Lands Commissioner of the Municipality of San Blas Atempa, ordered people who work for him to insult, beat, and threaten to kill Ismael Luis López, inhabitant of the Zapotec community.

This act of violence is the latest recorded and denounced by the Community Assembly of Puente Madera and the Assembly of Indigenous Peoples of the Isthmus in Defense of Land and Territory (APIIDTT). Through a communique they affirmed that the aggressions are a consequence of the Zapotec community’s resistance to the imposition of an industrial park on their communal lands.

“These aggressions against Ismael Luis López continue what we have already been denouncing, part of the criminalization of our community for roundly rejecting the installation of the PODEBI (Development Pole for Wellbeing) on our collective lands,” they emphasized through a communique.

Photo: APIIDTT

The Indigenous organizations denounce that days prior, on September 25, a mock assembly of community members was held, “putting in place another piece for the imposition of the industrial park of the Interoceanic Corridor on our common use lands of El Pitayal, through the appointment of César Octavio Morales Toledo” as representative of the commission.  

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The assemblies recall that since the end of August they have warned of the possible appointment of new agrarian authorities, whose urgency “responds to the necessities of Antonino Morales Toledo to continue with the intimidation and criminalization that we as the community of Puente Madera have been suffering since 2021,” due to their rejection of the industrial park.

Furthermore, they point out that César Octavio, known in the region as “Santa,” is brother to Antonino Morales Toledo, the ex-municipal president and right-hand man of the governor-elect of the state, Salomón Jara Cruz. In López’s testimony, the Indigenous Zapotec claims that Morales threw him to the ground while declaring that the park, “is going to be built because he is now the authority and that the people of Puente Madera will not impede the construction of the industrial park,” detailed the communique.

The Indigenous organizations stressed the necessity to review the legality of Toledo’s appointment as Communal Lands Commissioner due to his criminal record.

They point out that Morales has been detained on two occasions. The first by Federal Police in 2018, during the operation “Special Security Force Oaxaca,” for illegally carrying $250,000 pesos in cash. The second detention, documented by the magazine Proceso, occurred in January of 2022, when the military arrested him for carrying weapons designated exclusively for military use.

Photo: The brothers César (to the left) and Antonino (to the right) Morales Toledo

César Octavio Morales Toledo operates through the organization, United Front of Oaxacan Communities (FUCO), a political movement formed by his brother Antonino Morales to support the candidacy of the now governor-elect, Salomón Jara.

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According to an investigation published by El Muro MX in May of this year, the US Government asked the Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF), which depends on the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit (SCHP), to freeze the accounts of 1,669 people linked to the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG). One of the people linked to the organized crime group is Antonino Morales Toledo, who has served as the main financial operator of Salomón Jara for the last six years.

The Violence Continues

The Indigenous assemblies also denounced aggressions against David Hernández Salazar and his family, who were physically assaulted on July 19 by Mariano de la Rosa Jiménez, Roberto Trinidad Jiménez, and Faustino de la Rosa Quecha, people who operate inside the community in favor of the industrial park and for the selling off of communal lands.

The Indigenous organizations blame the climate of violence in the Zapotec community of Puente Madera on local, state, and federal government officials. Among them, the brothers Antonino and César Morales Toledo, as well as Gonzalo Villalobos López, representative of the Agrarian Attorney in Oaxaca, and Rafael Marín Mollinedo, General Director of the Interoceanic Corridor of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.

Lastly, they demand respect for the self-determination of Puente Madera in their rejection of the construction of the PODEBI on their common use lands, as well as an end to the harassment and criminalization of inhabitants and representatives of the community.