Inicio / Home Blog Página 3

Maya Train Will Cause Significant Increase in Electricity Consumption in the Yucatán Peninsula

Obras para la construcción de un hotel dentro de la Reserva de la Biosfera de Calakmul, Campeche. Foto: Santiago Navarro F

Cover image: Hotel construction inside the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve in Campeche. Photo: Santiago Navarro F

The Maya Train is a central part of the territorial reorganization being carried out in the Yucatán Peninsula, in the southeast of Mexico, by the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador. The train will cause an increase in electricity consumption in the region, says the GeoComunes collective in the report, Reestructuración Energética en México: subordinación territorial en el noroeste y sureste de México.

According to estimates from the Program for the Development of the National Electric System (PRODESEN 2022-2037), the region will have the highest increase in electricity consumption in the next 15 years (60% accumulated, passing 15,397 GWh to 24,368 GWh).

The section of the train between Mérida and Chetumal, which spans 690 kilometers, will be powered by electricity, representing 44% of the complete route. The rest will be hybrid, powered by both diesel and electricity. To energize this train, 53 electricity infrastructure projects have been announced: 43 power plants and 10 new medium tension transmission lines that total 556 kilometers.

The Maya Train Project

Machines of military engineers advance in the construction of Section 6 of the Maya Train. Photo: Renata Bessi

The Maya Train consists of the modernization and expansion of around 550 kilometers of the existing train lines (from Palenque to Valladolid), the construction of around 1,000 kilometers of a new line (Valladolid-Cancún-Riviera Maya-Chetumal-Escárcega), and the development of 21 train stations and 13 stops.

The project is also foreseen to include the expansion of industrial-extractive industries which require significant amounts of electricity and water. For example, the study mentions the beer company Heineken, which in September of 2023 announced the construction of what will be their eighth beer factory in Mexico, this one located in the municipality of Kanasín, Yucatán. It will move its supplies and products via the Maya Train and the Progreso Port.

The Maya Train will also encourage tourism and real estate expansion in the region. On the one hand, the study points out that it will offer new transportation infrastructure—trains and new airports in Tulum and Mérida—that will transport great numbers of tourists to already saturated areas like Cancún, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and Mérida. On the other hand, it will permit the expansion of mass tourism and real estate related projects into new territories, as is happening in Bacalar and Valladolid where a new project is being developed by the company, Xcaret, and toward the Calakmul area.

You might be interested in- Bacalar: Those Left Behind and Forgotten by the Dispossession of the Maya Train

Today, most of the energy consumption in the peninsula is already destined for tourist cities. Between only six municipalities that concentrate tourism in Quintana Roo—Benito Juárez, Solidaridad, Puerto Morelos, Tulum, Islas Mujeres, and Cozumel—in 2022, they used 45% of the total electricity consumption in the 128 municipalities that make up the Yucatán Peninsula.

The GeoComunes collective warns in their investigation that the high consumption of electricity in tourist zones and large cities causes inequality in access to electricity.

Boats in the vicinity of the Bacalar Lagoon. Photo: Aldo Santiago

According to data from INEGI’s Census of Population and Housing, in 2020, there were still 14,270 homes lacking electricity in the peninsula, principally concentrated in the states of Quintana Roo (42%) and Yucatán (34%). “While these just over 14,000 homes represent barely 1% of those existing in the peninsula, their location shows that the lack of access is concentrated in the municipalities with greatest consumption.”

Expanding Energy

Most of the peninsula’s current electricity capacity is sustained by fossil-fuel power plants, according to the study of GeoComunes. These plants represent 80% of the capacity, while the rest of the capacity derives from four solar farms and three wind farms, located principally in the state of Yucatán.

In the Yucatán Peninsula there exists 42 power plants in operation that generate a total capacity of 2,933 MW, distributed principally between the states of Yucatán (1,842 MW) and Campeche (732 MW), while Quintana Roo contains only 12% of the capacity in the peninsula (359 MW).

In Yucatán, for the expansion of production, there are four plants in construction. With the new plants it will increase the capacity in the region up to 5,511 MW.

GeoComunes mapped another 22 power plants that already have permits from the Energy Regulation Commission (CRE) and that, if built, would add a total of 1,923 MW of capacity. There exist another 12 power plant projects that still don’t have permits from the CRE, but already have Environmental Impact Reports authorized or currently being evaluated. If built, these 12 plants would add another 1,465 MW of capacity.

As a whole, the majority of these 34 plants are planned to be constructed in the state of Yucatán (19 power plants), the state which concentrates 46% of the projected capacity, while the remaining 41% is in Campeche, and just 13% in Quintana Roo. In terms of technology, the 34 projected power plants are of two technologies: wind (1,627 MW) and solar (1,761 MW).

In addition, is the construction of new gas pipelines to supply the new power plants, hotel zones, and possible maritime hydrocarbon exportations.

Map of energy infrastructure in the Yucatán Peninsula. Source: GeoComunes

“There is no doubt that this is a process of territorial reorganization that will facilitate a new expansion of tourism, which for decades has generated dispossession, speculation, and privatization of ejido and communal lands, commodification and consumption of natural resources (water, land, biodiversity, Maya culture, etc.) and increased militarization and violence,” explains the collective in their study.

The investigation Reestructuración Energética en México: subordinación territorial en el noroeste y Sureste de México, carried out by the GeoComunes collective, also mapped the energy reorganization in the northeast of Mexico and in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, in the states of Veracruz and Oaxaca.

Communities of the Choluteca Region Denounce the Contamination of Water Caused by Irregular Landfill Operation

Cover image: In 2022, a caravan of the communities of Altepelmecalli visited the intermunicipal landfill of Cholula, which affects the water and lands of farming zones. Photo: Elizabeth Díaz/ Sueña Dignidad

As part of ongoing actions organized since March 21 by campesino and Indigenous communities of the municipality of San Pedro Cholula, Puebla, demanding the closure of the landfill located in the vicinity of San Francisco Coapan y Garzas, this Tuesday, April 2, the communities denounced having found signs of fecal coliform contamination, responsible for gastrointestinal diseases, in sources of water near the landfill.

During a press conference held at the protest encampment which has been maintained now for over two weeks to prevent the entrance of more garbage into the landfill, the communities informed that in a study by scientists at the Autonomous University of Mexico (UAM) at the Azcapotzalco campus, they found that the water in the region is not drinkable.

Residents of the towns of the Choluteca region—the communities of San Mateo Cuanala, Colonia Los Ángeles, San Andrés Calpan, Santa Maria Zacatepec, San Sebastián Tepalcatepec, San Lucas Atzala, and San Juan Tlautla—listened to the results of the investigation conducted by Dr. Sylvie Jeanne Turpin Marion, a specialist in waste management and a research professor at UAM.

The conditions in which the intermunicipal landfill operate in the Choluteca region. Photos: Unión de Pueblos y Fraccionamientos contra el Relleno Sanitario

The researcher Turpin explained that in analyses of the water samples taken from five water wells (underground water filtered down from natural water sources in higher areas) that supply communities of the region, they found “staggering quantities” of coliform bacteria and organic matter.

The investigator explained that “the organic material is what the coliform bacteria feeds on, this is what it lives off of. Also, the color of the water was irregular. From this we can conclude that indeed it has to do with the leachates,” sustained the investigator who emphasized that measures must be taken to treat the water that “is definitely not drinkable.”

The scientist stressed that in operating a landfill, leachates are formed (water runoff from the waste) that if not controlled properly, are dispersed causing environmental damage.

The water samples collected in Puebla were taken to Mexico City and analyzed in a laboratory of the Department of Energy of the Division of Basic Sciences and Engineering of UAM Azcapotzalco.

Environmental Irregularities

According to the organization Unión de Pueblos, who are demanding the closure of the landfill, only in the first eight days of their protest encampment they had already prevented the entrance of 480 tons of trash coming from 23 municipalities of Puebla, as well as other localities of Mexico City, Mexico State, and including Oaxaca.

The investigator of UAM explained that there are environmental regulations—in this case she referred to the norm 083 of the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT)—which regulates the construction and operation of landfills. According to the researcher, this normativity does not permit the existence of landfills above groundwater or in the vicinity of water wells. “There are distances to respect and, visibly, this norm, in this case, has not been applied,” sustained Turpin.

Within norm 083…the principle operators of the landfill must also monitor the water before and after its flow into the water table, to control any consequences, and to review precisely the capture and treatment of leachates,” detailed the investigator.

In 2022, a caravan of the communities of Altepelmecalli visited the intermunicipal landfill of Cholula, which affects the water and lands of farming zones. Photo: Elizabeth Díaz/ Sueña Dignidad

According to the researcher, who has decades of experience in chemical and environmental engineering, the samples were georeferenced and taken at a depth of between 28 and 35 meters. Thus, in her analysis, there is little possibility that there exists a different source of contamination of the water, other than the leachates from the solid waste dumped into the landfill.

However, to confirm the levels of contamination of the samples, Dr. Turpin announced that she will take a second round of samples to eliminate the possibility of the contamination coming from other causes that are not the landfill, like drains or septic tanks. “If these analyses continue with the same amount (of contamination) as the first ones, legal action could be taken,” concluded the researcher, referencing a possible environmental lawsuit.

Impacts of the Landfill

Juan Carlos Flores, lawyer of the Unión de Pueblos, contextualized that the demands of the communities of the Choluteca region from local and federal governments to provide information on the landfill’s compliance with environmental regulations continue to be refused.

Furthermore, the lawyer explained that there exists a strategy of government officials of the state of Puebla and the Secretariat of Environment at the state level, to condition the handing over of information on the environmental impacts of the landfill, in exchange for the Union de Pueblos to sit down in a dialogue to remove their protest encampment.

Flores pointed out that they have already filed legal complaints before the Secretariat of Environment of the State of Puebla and also before the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection (PROFEPA), and are awaiting a new inspection from environmental authorities.

It should be noted that on February 4, communities of the Unión de Pueblos stopped work on the expansion of the landfill because the required permits do not exist. However, the stoppage only lasted a few hours and the work resumed with the approval of the municipality of Cholula.

According to the lawyer, PROFEPA officials announced this week that they will carry out an inspection to verify that the landfill complies with environmental regulations to which it committed itself at the beginning of this year.

With protests, residents of the Choluteca region have suspended work at the landfill. Photos: Union de Pueblos y Fraccionamientos Contra el Relleno Sanitario

“We have also begun to file lawsuits against the contamination of the groundwater and wells, as well as against the expansion they seek to do with the landfill without any Indigenous consultation,” sustains the lawyer.

Furthermore, he adds that, among the reasons for which the Unión de Pueblos believes that they are denied access to the documents of the Environmental Impact Report is that the landfill operates “outside the norms, since it has already surpassed its capacity.”

According to data provided by the Unión de Pueblos, the approximate surface area of the landfill located in the Choluteca Region is greater than 36,000 square meters. They denounce that since 2008, the landfill has operated “illegally beneath the corruption of the Trash King and today candidate for federal office for the political party MORENA in Hidalgo, Cuauhtémoc Ochoa, along with José Juan Espinoza, and the ex-governor of the state, Rafael Moreno Valle.”

“From the ground level, the lethal landfill has an approximate height of 30 meters. However, it is important to consider its depth beneath the surface, another 30 meters, for which we are talking about a total height of 60 meters,” explains the organization of communities in the Choluteca region, who explain that the radius of contamination covers two kilometers around the landfill.

Testimonies from residents of the region emphasized that there are different manifestations of the contamination, a consequence of the landfill’s operation. Among them, they mentioned damage caused to the crops, as well as activities like beekeeping and campesino agriculture, since producers find it difficult to sell their products, since the people of the region recognize that it was produced near the landfill, and that if could be contaminated.

They also highlighted the existence of illnesses, above all gastrointestinal illnesses, as well as the danger posed by the accumulation of methane gas, product of the solid waste, which both contributes to global warming and can be a source of fires.

The Protest Encampment Continues

After the installation of a protest encampment near the landfill, on March 21, the Unión de Pueblos informed that in recent days they have carried out assemblies in the communities of the region where they have made the decision to maintain the resistance until the landfill is closed.

With protests, residents of the Choluteca region have suspended work at the landfill. Photos: Union de Pueblos y Fraccionamientos Contra el Relleno Sanitario

In an assembly on March 24, the communities affected by the contamination stated that “this decision is an urgent measure to protect the environment, water, and life. We have the right and duty to protect the environment,” for which they named the company Profaj and the government of Puebla responsible for whatever repression against them.

It should be emphasized that the encampment is being held down next to the Cholula-Calpan highway “for which the government doesn’t have any pretext to repress our right to take action in defense of the environment,” said the Unión de Pueblos.

With Plan Sonora and Nearshoring in Mexico, the United States Seeks to Counter Chinese Industry

Cover image: Accompanied by the United States Ambassador to Mexico, Ken Salazar, and another 100 diplomats, the then Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Marcelo Ebrard, shows off Puerto Peñasco, the largest solar farm in Latin America, part of Plan Sonora. February 2023.

In spite of the official statement saying that the construction and operation of energy, transportation, and industry infrastructure being pushed in the southeast and northeast of Mexico responds to questions of national sovereignty, a study carried out by the collective GeoComunes shows that these projects strengthen a logic of territorial subordination to foreign capital, principally of the United States.

According to the report, this is the logic of nearshoring—a policy that seeks to move extractive and manufacturing industries that require extensive natural resources, energy, and labor to the US-Mexico border region.

In northeast Mexico, including the states of Sinaloa, Sonora, Baja California, and Baja California Sur, the researchers highlight the so-called Plan Sonora is a “new link in Mexico’s energy subordination.”

The report explains that one of the principle objectives of the plan is to strengthen certain sectors of the US economy in order to combat its current disadvantage in relation to Chinese industry. Two strategic sectors demanding developed infrastructure stand out: the fabrication of microprocessors and electric car factories.

Key United States Industries

“The Plan Sonora is a project that in spite of being presented as serving sovereign interests, clearly includes neoliberal commitments to US policy: the T-MEC (US, Mexico, Canada Free Trade Agreement), the Chips and Science Act, and the so-called Inflation Reduction Act. These three recent policies seek to incentivize the consumption of electric cars,” says members of GeoComunes during the presentation of their report.

In their analysis, GeoComunes emphasize that the United States seeks to attract two of the three most profitable stages in the production of microprocessors, in an international competition with China to slow down its presence in this sector. This means infrastructure development in northeast Mexico that “worsens the extractivist and dependent character of the border region.”

In the transformation of the energy grid for the automotive industry, GeoComunes emphasizes that “Plan Sonora adds projects that continue the agreements of the T-MEC, like committing the lithium in Mexican subsoil to supply the US automotive production lines.”

As such, the Mexican government and its infrastructure projects serve the production of US electric cars. And due to the relevance of minerals for the production of these cars, the GeoComunes collective stresses the role of the state company, LitioMx, through which Mexico will regulate private investment in lithium extraction.  

“Sonora has the most extensive lithium deposits in the country, which in September of 2023, ceased to be under the control of the Chinese company Ganfeng Lithium. This happened as a result of the government canceling the company’s concession, being the only reserve the Mexican Geological Survey had decreed for the exploitation of this mineral in the country,” emphasizes the report.

Mining, Environmental Risks, and Opacity

In the analysis of the energy reconfiguration and production lines, GeoComunes highlights that lithium isn’t the only mineral needed for the production of electric cars.

“We must pay attention to the expansion of steel, aluminum, and copper production lines, mining that already has an important presence and socioenvironmental footprint in the northeast region,” contextualized the collective during the presentation of the report.

For the investigators, the Plan Sonora promotes mining extraction in the region, an industry which has already proven to be a risk to the environment and natural resources.

Suffice it is to say that, on August 6, 2014, there was a spill of 40 million liters of acidulated copper sulfate in the Bacanuchi and Sonora rivers. The ecocide, which affected more than 22,000 people, was the fault of Grupo Mexico, one of the largest mining companies in the country which to this day has not complied in remediating the environmental damages.

Ecocide in the Sonora Rivera, which took place in 2014, following a spill by Grupo Mexico.

For GeoComunes, it is alarming that the renewed impulse in mining for the components of batteries and electric systems for electric cars is being presented beneath the “false argument that it is necessary extraction to fight climate change.”

Compared to a conventional gas-powered car, the production of an electric car requires six times the amount of metal, principally copper, graphite, and nickel. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that it could duplicate the copper demand between 2020 and 2040.

It is also worrying that Plan Sonora has been unveiled “little by little,” through informal declarations and without a guiding plan that clarifies its territorial scope, its different components, and the possible effects it might have on the environment.

Militarization

According to the researchers, there is a common factor in the different projects of territorial reorganization being pushed by the current administration of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO). That is, “the presence of armed forces as administrators, builders, and security forces of infrastructure projects.”

GeoComunes explains this situation to be controversial and worrisome, because of the very little transparency and information of the plans of the federal government “in relation to this project and the militarization of the region.”

One of the many strategic projects of Plan Sonora that are in the hands of the armed forces is the expansion of transportation infrastructure, like the makeover of the Guaymas Port. This project began in 2022 and seeks to convert the port into a “modernized center of distribution that can move 3 million containers, competing with the US port of Long Beach, California.”

With this modernization, an administrative change was also made. The Guaymas Port will now be managed by a decentralized company of the Secretariat of the Navy, who also will manage the airports of Obregón and Guaymas, both in Sonora.

“The only information on the matter is what was given in the press conferences of the president of the nation and the government of Sonora, the heads of the Secretariat of the Economy and Foreign Affairs during their tours of the region, and mentions from the US government, which more often than not are ambiguous, brief, and even contradictory,” explains the analysis.

In addition to energy, mining, lithium, and electromobility, the Plan Sonora includes human capital and state of the art infrastructure, “the latter, being the construction of six scientific parks.” In other words, the idea is to strengthen the industrial corridors that “imply risks in industrial, environmental, and economic security” for Mexico.

Baja California, a US Energy Colony

If the northeast region, according to GeoComunes, represents the energy subordination of Mexico to the United States, the territories and natural assets of Baja California stand out, where projects have been expanded that constitute a North American “energy colony.”

The researchers point out that Baja California currently generates 1,281 megawatts dedicated to the exportation of electricity. Furthermore, infrastructure is being built to provide an additional capacity of 310 megawatts. This is relevant because 90.5% of the electricity exports are generated in this region.

GeoComunes contextualizes that in its totality the electricity generation for exportation is the property of private companies that are directly linked to electricity border crossings. “According to data from CEC (California Energy Commission), as a whole, in 2022 these export plants sent 4,209 GWh to the state of California,” the report details.

This exportation of energy, especially from renewable sources, is expected to increase in the coming years, with California recently approving a law establishing that for 2045, they will only consume electric energy from renewable sources, “which may support the installation of more projects to import energy classified as “clean” from Baja California and Sonora,” the report states.

In the northeast they are also projecting to install energy storage systems composed of battery farms to compensate for the intermittency of renewable energies, such as the battery farm promoted by the company Sempra in Mexicali, Baja California.

The Role of Sempra

The Plan Sonora is linked to the predominance exercised by the North American company, Sempra, whose investments are spread out in different sectors of energy generation. During the last two decades, Sempra has expanded widely in Mexico, particularly in the border region, “together with the energy infrastructure in a magnitude that, in the particular case of Baja California, has arrived to determine a great portion of the local energy metabolism,” sustain the researchers.

Sempra possesses infrastructure for electricity generation via fossil fuel combustion and renewable sources. The wind energy park, Energía Sierra Juárez, in the mountains close to Tecate, Baja California (IEnova)

To dimension the role of Sempra in Mexico, the researchers detail that the company is the owner of seventeen gas pipelines—with more than 2,900 kilometers of pipeline operating and 200 km currently in construction. They also own oil and liquefied natural gas storage terminals, residential methane gas distribution networks, as well as combined cycle, solar, and wind power plants, which together represent annual earnings of nearly $400 million dollars.

Sempra is one of the companies that benefited the most from the opening up of the energy sector to private investment, which took place during the 1990’s principally in methane gas, which quadrupled its assets after the energy reform of 2013.

Currently, in spite of Sempra having only 5% of the electricity generation capacity connected to the Baja California Electric System (SEBC), it maintains control of 74% of the electricity exportation capacity, and 100% of the gas pipelines.

Protest against the results issued by the Ensenada City Council regarding the neighborhood consultation to determine the expansion for the Regasification terminal, Sempra, Energía Costa Azul.

It should be stressed that Sempra also controls 100% of the land and maritime border importation points through which methane gas is imported to Baja California. 81% of the generation capacity connected to the SEBC and 80% of the capacity for electricity exports that are not connected to the local grid depend on those importation points. This confirms Sempra’s predominance in the sector.

Altepee Collective Makes Wooden String Instruments to Resist the Interoceanic Corridor

Cover image: Youth from Acayucan, Veracruz, during a workshop organized by the Altepee collective. Photo: Santiago Navarro F

The memory of another time is kept between the fine lines of its grain, the whisper of the forest, the harmony and song of the birds that once perched on its leafy crown. Today, the cedar tree has been cut down and lies mutilated. Parts of the trunk will beautify a floor or be converted into expensive furniture, and perhaps nobody will take account of the memory it holds. But a piece of the trunk, a very small piece, was rescued. The intention isn’t modest. It is to convert the wood into an instrument that moves the body and memory.  

Sael Blanco remembers that more than a decade ago he was given a piece of wood in a workshop he attended in a community in Veracruz, Mexico. “I was only a spectator of what was taking place and they gave it to me,” he shares letting off a smile.

Sael working in the Altepee collective’s workshop.

The Veracruz native had attended a workshop to learn to make jaranas jarochas (small guitar-like instrument) made with cedar wood. There he built his instrument of struggle, the jarana made of cedar. This is one of the instruments providing life and rhythm to the festivity known as fandango or huapango, which is celebrated principally in the states of Veracruz, Oaxaca, and Tabasco, in the south-southeast of Mexico.

Members of the Altepee collective in their workshop making various string instruments. Photos: Santiago Navarro F

The fandango is a magnificent party with singing in verse, replicated by the attendees. The heels of those who take the stage make hearts beat with the sound of the jaranas. “Today it is music that is played in different parts of the world. But 12 or 15 year ago, this music was underappreciated, and only played by older people in their 70’s and 80’s,” shares Blanco.

Among the turns and stomps that mark the music’s rhythm, there was a moment when together those who brought joy to different festivities in the neighboring communities, they decided to create the Altepee collective. “This collective emerged from the need to preserve this music, which is of campesino origin. Amongst friends we began giving workshops to share this knowledge,” says the jaranero to the Avispa Midia team.

The idea of rescuing this combination of sounds was something that vibrated with members of the group. Then a question arose: “What are saving the music from? In reality the music had continued existing and always had a very large importance in these territories. It wasn’t necessarily being lost, we just didn’t approach the communities as young people who lived in the city,” shares Gemaly Padua Uscanga, an afro-descendant woman, also a co-founder of Altepee.

Fourteen years have passed since these young people, now adults with children, began workshops to share and learn from the music. Above all, that is what fandango means. “We realized it was more complicated than just playing the instruments. A campesino has to work his land, he has to eat and cover his basic necessities. And for those from urban spaces, to be campesino is synonymous with poverty. Nobody wants to be a campesino, much less the youth. So, we turned our gaze to the rural sector,” relates Blanco.

Youth of Acayucan, Veracruz participate in workshops given by the Altepee collective. Photos: Renata Bessi

Not only is it the music that makes up a fandango, there is an entire organizational process which includes organizing the food for dozens of people, creating the conditions for coexistence, as well caring for the community. “The musicians not only play the jarana. It is part of the entertainment, but it is also a service they offer to their communities. In addition, they have to grow their food, take care of the forest, water, and animals. The knowledge is linked to the territory, to its care and defense,” shares Padua with the Avispa Midia team.

The Defense of Memory and Territory

Beyond the music, the collective has maintained a process of constant learning and training in Acayucan, Veracruz, where they are located. Alongside the music and festivities, members began organizing independent media activities using online radio, making video-documentaries, silk-screening, and drawing. They have immersed themselves in exploring traditional medicine and other activities, like the defense of memory and territory.

“Because the fandango and the festivities have the power to convoke us, to gather and organize us, to propose possible solutions to a problem. It is not the same to convoke a meeting where nobody shows up. Rather, music has the power to convoke. The fandango can’t take place without people,” says Padua.

Among the materials they have documented are elders in the community who made music, and participated in the fandango. “Some of these older folks have already passed away. Their memory is recorded so we can continue sharing it,” says the singer with joy.

Gema, as she is known in the Altepee collective, during an interview. Photo: Aldo Santiago

They also shared that they have a historical registry from 11 years back, when Veracruz was taken over by military forces, organized crime, and different companies arriving to the region.

“We were watching a video we made 11 years ago and we noticed that in a certain way we had documented the militarization of Veracruz,” says Padua. At a time when “there was a drastic upsurge of security forces which obviously elevated the acts of violence which are now currently normalized.”

Security and the Interoceanic Corridor

According to a report from the first half of 2023, the Secretariat of National Defense (SEDENA) deployed around 1,296 soldiers for security operations in Veracruz. This was in addition to the security forces already required for projects related to the Interoceanic Corridor which crosses through both Veracruz and Oaxaca. At least 1,950 uniformed personal were distributed in 19 detachments and 3 naval stations, to daily cover the 2,600 kilometers of the Interoceanic Corridor.

Blanco explains that things began to change very rapidly a decade ago with the arrival of organized crime and militarization, when they announced that in the region they were going to create a special economic zone, which now they are calling the Interoceanic Corridor.  “They began a large four lane freeway, they began to take the water. They were talking about a fiberoptic network, from the port of Coatzacoalcos. Many businesses and projects began to establish themselves here,” says Blanco.

Armed forces surveil the lines of Ferrosur in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz (Cuartoscuro).

A member of the project guided the Avispa team through the region of Acayucan, Minatitlán, and Coatzacalcos, part of the route of the Interoceanic Corridor in Veracruz, in order to show us that the massive industrial and economic complex—the Industrial Corridor and the Maya Train connecting with the port of Coatzacoalcos—isn’t new, but has gradually been built.

Before the arrival of the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, extensive oil palm plantations (also known as African palm) had been planted in the region, a crop that requires immense quantities of water and the use of agrochemicals like glyphosate. Along with these plantations arrived the industrial palm oil processor Oleofinos, S.a. de C.V.

Palm oil processor owned by Oleofinos. Photo: Aldo Santiago

Next to this palm oil processing plant are the multinational corporations Harinera de Veracruz, S.A. de C.V. (MASECA), Campi Alimentos S.A. de C.V. (BACHOCO), among other companies, that have arrived to the region even receiving fiscal benefits. The state built them their own pipeline to feed them gas from the para-state company Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX), through the company Igasamex Bajío, S. de R. L. de C. V. The train lines pass right next to where these industries are established.

Just a few kilometers from these companies, there is also an open pit silica sand mine, where the company Materias Primas Monterrey operates, who in 2017 formed part of the Covia Materias Primas group, an affiliate of the United States Covia Holdings LLC. According to the Secretariat of the Economy, as of 2022, they processed more than 2,000 tons daily of this material.

Open pit mining activity of the Covia Materias Primas group. Photo: Aldo Santiago

This region is very rich in biodiversity and culture “because the people have cared for the region and because their forms of life have allowed it. However, now there is the exploitation of oil deposits, they are opening more freeways around the train and a new gas pipeline,” explains Blanco.

The companies are circling like cultures, with hunger for carrion, explains the musician. In the first phase, the best portions of land of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, both in Veracruz and Oaxaca, will be offered to the highest bidders, where at least ten industrial parks, also called development poles, will be built.

In July 2023, at a press conference, the governor of Oaxaca, Salomón Jara Cruz, and the governor of Veracruz, Cuitláhuac García Jiménez, affirmed that “there is a demand for each pole (industrial park) of more than 30 businessmen,” of which five parks have already been destined to three companies. These development poles are: Coatzacoalcos I, Coatzacoalcos II, Salina Cruz, San Juan Evangelista and Texistepec.

The Altepee collective is extremely concerned, not only about preserving the music, festivities, and traditions, but also about preserving life itself. “While these projects advance, the devastation also advances. We know that without water, a cedar tree can’t grow and you can’t make a jarana. Without water, we cannot live. That is the problem. Nobody talks about the immense quantities of water they are going to need for these industries. Nor do they talk about the waste they will generate,” shares Blanco with concern.

One of the young people who participates in the collective, Ángel Chávez, shows a very special interest, particularly amongst those his age and the other children. “The promise is that there is going to be progress and that the families are going to have an income. For me, as a young person, it is complicated, the same for the rest of the youth.  The universities only teach us how to be workers for these industries. Many young people are accepting this discourse, but with that they are going to lose a lot of wealth, not monetary wealth, but cultural wealth and biodiversity. The memory will be lost,” says the musician Chavez, while sanding the wood for the new jarana.

Ángel playing music. Photo: Santiago Navarro F

This collective is aware that beneath the asphalt, beneath the industries, next to the gas and oil pipelines, there is a memory that could possibly be buried, together with forms of life that accompany it. “When we speak of the work that we do, it has to do with passing on knowledge so that there are also young folks who are interested in these issues,” says Blanco.

The Generational Change

While the musicians sand and put strings on the new jaranas, with a certain nostalgia they share that it is the elders who have cared for and preserved the music and territory. “You go to the assemblies and the majority of the people are in their 60’s or 70s, the youngest are in their 50’s. We are concerned because there is no new generation to care for mother earth, and for life,” Blanco remarks.

Furthermore, the elders are being pressured to sell their lands, which further undermines the possibility of handing them down to the next generation.

For example, in February, Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz hosted the so-called Territorial Planning Program of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec Region (POT-RIT), where they invited municipal presidents and community representatives of 33 entities located in the pathway of the Interoceanic Corridor (part of Veracruz). The objective is to create the legal framework to cede the lands to private capital, as the majority of this territory is currently registered for collective or common use.  

This event was promoted by the federal government via the Secretariat for Agrarian, Land and Urban Development (SEDATU) and organized by the government of Veracruz in collaboration with academia and civil society.

Event of the Territorial Planning Program of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec Region.

For these territories, the plan is to create the conditions needed for the industrial parks. In addition to water, sewer, electricity, and trash services, they also require sleeping spaces for the workers, hospitals, and schools, which will mean the privatization of the communal and ejidal lands.  

The musicians sense that if the land is converted into private property, there will be no reason for the existence of the comuneros. Therefore, the assembly as maximum authority of a community will also disappear. “So, the youth will lose the opportunity to make decisions in assembly. That is a major blow to our communities,” adds Blanco.

Gema and Sael share their music. Photo: Santiago Navarro F.

The musician emphasizes that this is why working with young people is so important. “Part of what we do is organize with the boys and girls,” he adds.

“Its no use if its only us organizing amongst ourselves, we have to organize with more people and raise the consciousness about what we are living through. Because these problems don’t only affect us, it is at the planetary level,” says the jaranero adding that, “something that is currently happening is the dehumanization, our sensitivity has been lost, we don’t care about where our water comes from, there is no interest in the forests, in the animals. We need to gather ourselves.”

Blanco is emphatic in pinpointing the issue of climate change. “It is important for the people to understand that the heat of more than 50 degrees Celsius has to do with the way we are living, and it’s our responsibility. We cannot think that the next generation is going to fix it, because the next generation will have nothing to fix. In the end it’s a call to action. If you don’t know what to do, there are people doing things. Reach out to them.”

The jaranero insists that we have to look beyond our own spaces, “although it seems like a lot of work, we have to do it. Think about the communities that are being devastated by mining, where they are cutting down forests, constructing dams. These are issues that concern humanity as a whole,” adds the musician.

Jarana and art, concludes another member of the collective, Ángel Escudero, are the tools with which they continue the struggle. “The memory is stored there and all it takes is a jolt to make us remember, and that’s what jarana does,” he reaffirms.

Police and Military Attack Community Resisting Mining in Ecuador

Cover image: Residents of Palo Quemado who for years have resisted the La Plata mining project.

On Tuesday, March 26, elements of the National Police of Ecuador and the Armed Forces violently entered the community of Palo Quemado, in the province of Cotopaxi, in the central sierra region of Ecuador. There, residents have maintained resistance against the La Plata mining project owned by the Canadian company, Atico Mining, which seeks to extract gold, copper, silver, and zinc.

Members of the community shared images denouncing the entry of the military into the region. The military arrived just one day after a judge ordered a provisional suspension of the environmental consultation in the parish of Palo Quemado.

Ecuadorian military violently enters a community resisting mining.

According to residents, the process is taking place within a context of militarization and violence, with the consent of the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Ecological Transition, in order to push forward with the process of permitting for mining extraction.

With this, the mayor of Sigchos, solicited the removal of the security forces due to their presence causing conflict with campesinos who reject mining extraction in their territories.

With the entrance of the security forces this morning, the National Antimining Front denounced this new attack by the military against campesinos in the community of Palo Quemado.

Repression carried out by the police and military who shot tear gas canisters and injured campesinos who tried to repel the violent invasion by security forces.

“The military and police have received orders to attack the people of Palo Quemado and Las Pampas in retaliation for the suspension of the environmental consultation. The fields are filled with smoke and blood, and the organized people rescue the wounded campesinos,” they denounce.

Resounding Rejection

The community of Palo Quemado barely exceeds 1,000 residents and the majority have taken a stand against the La Plata mining project which would also affect the neighboring communities of Las Pampas and Alluriquín; the latter belonging to the province of Santo Domingo de los Tsachilas.

The area of the concession for the La Plata project is 2,222 hectares and according to the Canadian company Atico Mining, the area destined for extraction includes 143 hectares belonging to the community of Palo Quemado. There, residents will decide whether to approve or reject the mining project via an environmental consultation.

With an elevated police and military presence, an informative assembly was carried out on March 20 in Palo Quemado.

According to the company, they have invested more than 16 million dollars for the preparation of the mining extraction. They foresee that, for the polymetallic mining development necessary in the region, they will need 100 million dollars.

It is important to mention that at the beginning of March, the President of Ecuador, Daniel Noboa, headed a series of strategic meetings during the World’s Premier Mineral Exploration and Mining Convention (PDAC 2024), in collaboration with the Bank of Montreal (BMO), where investments of up to 4.8 million dollars were promised for mining projects in Ecuador.

The investment commitments were made through featured projects in the mining industry, among them is the La Plata mining project of Atico Mining.

The Ecuador Minister of Energy and Mines, Andres Arroba, in Toronto, Canada.

For their part, on Monday, March 25, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), the National Antimining Front, and the Indigenous and Campesino Movement of Cotopaxi, through a communique, celebrated the judicial ruling which suspends the environmental consultation and, therefore, the legal permitting process for the mining operation.  

However, the organizations warned to not let down the guard, and maintain the resistance in light of the violent attack on Tuesday, March 26.

Next Tuesday, April 2, a court hearing will be held to define the suspension of the environmental consultation which is now keeping the mining extraction on hold.

Mobilizations

After the violent attack, numerous organizations and communities in Ecuador have shown their support with the antimining resistance in the province of Cotopaxi, announcing that they will join the national mobilizations planned for Wednesday, March 27.

Among the demonstrations announced, CONAEI and the Antimining Front will set up an encampment in the capital city of Ecuador, Quito, starting this afternoon to take a stand against mining exploration in Palo Quemado and Las Pampas.

Restructuring of Energy Sector in Mexico Will Cause More Dependence on the United States

Cover image: The president of Mexico, military figures, and businessmen during the inauguration of Line Z of the Interoceanic Train. In the same event an agreement was announced for the construction of a green hydrogen plant by the Danish company Helax Istmo. Salina Cruz, Oaxaca. December 2023. 

The south-southeast of Mexico is being reconfigured territorially with a wave of transportation megaprojects—the Interoceanic Train and the Maya Train—whose corridors are connected to energy projects, industrialization, real estate development, tourism, and urbanization. To sustain these projects, another wave of projects is advancing full steam ahead, yet with less visibility compared to the major energy projects. 

In an in-depth investigation, the collective GeoComunes mapped out and presented the restructuring of the energy sector currently taking place in Mexico, specifically during the administration of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, to sustain the primary megaprojects being pushed by his administration.

“The projects being developed in the two most isolated regions of the country are related to territorial planning that, in spite of the discourse of change and radicalism, seeks to strengthen the economic sectors that during the entire wave of neoliberalism were deployed in these regions: tourism, agriculture, mining, and commercial transportation,” sustains the report.

Furthermore, the regional reorganization is linked to the “development agenda led by the United States, associated with militarization, policies of migrant contention, and territorial reorganization to accommodate nearshoring and the use of Mexican territory as a platform for the exportation of US natural gas,” they report.

You might be interested in- US Ambassador to Mexico Leads Meeting in Oaxaca to Advance the Interoceanic Corridor Megaproject

One of the pivotal energy projects is the Puerta al Sureste underwater 715-kilometer-long gas pipeline in the Gulf of Mexico, considered in the investigation to be the pipeline which “articulates together the territorial reorganization in the south-southeast.”

The project is being pushed by the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) and by TC Energy (previously known as TransCanada). They seek to transport 1,390 million cubic feet of natural gas daily from Tuxpan to Coatzacoalcos in Veracruz, and then to Dos Bocas in Tabasco. This gas pipeline is the extension of another underwater pipeline that is already built and functioning, with which natural gas is imported from Texas to Tuxpan in Veracruz. 

The TC Energy natural gas compression station is just 500 meters from a body of fresh water, and just one kilometer from the ocean. Photo: Aldo Santiago

The natural gas to be transported in this pipeline will provide for the ten planned industrial parks, the planned fossil-fuel power plants, and also the liquified natural gas terminals that will be used to export gas to Europe, Asia, and South America. “It also seeks to expand the capacity to export energy and gas coming from the United States toward other parts of the world. That is, convert the south-southeast region not only into a manufacturing platform, but also one of exportation for US gas,” the report sustains.

Other Projects Linked to Natural Gas

In addition, the projected increase in the consumption of natural gas is associated with the expansion of other gas transportation infrastructure projects, according to GeoComunes:

  1. Liquified natural gas terminal for the exportation of natural gas from the Port of Salina Cruz- the Federal Electricity Commission is pushing the construction of this terminal, with a capacity to export 430 million cubic feet of natural gas daily. It has already signed a memorandum of understanding with the company Sempra, in order to value the construction of said terminal for the exportation of natural gas extracted in Mexico or imported from the United States and headed toward the Asian market.
  2. Liquified natural gas terminal in Coatzacoalcos- this project has been pushed by the Federal Electricity Commission to export approximately 600 million cubic feet of natural gas daily toward markets in the Atlantic basin, principally European and South American markets. This terminal would be fed by the Puerta Sureste gas pipeline.
  3. Jáltipan- Salina Cruz gas pipeline- this project was announced in 2015 as part of the packet of new gas pipelines to extend the reach of natural gas imported from the United States throughout the country. In its latest version, announced in 2022, this gas pipeline should already be connected directly to the liquified natural gas terminal in Salina Cruz. Once constructed, this gas pipeline would connect with a project called Gasoducto Prosperidad with which it is sought to transport natural gas from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec (in Ixtepec, Oaxaca) to the border with Guatemala (in Tapachula, Chiapas). And if this gas pipeline is able to send natural gas toward the south of Isthmus, not only will it require the gas pipeline Puerta al Sureste to be constructed, but it also requires an increase in the capacity of the compression station in Chinameca.
A “fundamental piece” is the description given by the National Natural Gas Control Center (CENAGAS) about the compression station located in Chinameca, Veracruz. Photo: Aldo Santiago

More Projects

Today the structure of energy production in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec is concentrated in two extremes, the north and the south of the Isthmus. “In the northern part, in the state of Veracruz, the production of energy is centered around the industrial, petroleum, and petrochemical zones and is concentrated in the hands of Pemex and private companies like Cydsa, Grupo Infra, Braskem Idesa, Contour Global PLC. This represents nearly a third of the capacity installed in the Isthmus,” mentions the collective.

The other two thirds are located in the far south of the Isthmus, in the state of Oaxaca, where there are 29 wind farms in operation which occupy 30,000 hectares of territory recognized as communal or ejidal land. The grand majority of this production is in the hands of private European companies.

However, according to the document “Resumen Ejecutivo Plan Estrategico y Plan Maestro Conceptual del Corredor Interoceanico del Istmo de Tehuantepec,” current levels of production are insufficient. The electricity demand of the industrial activities in the Isthmus will multiply by 2.5 between 2030 and 2050, passing from 3,294 to 8,348 million watts per hour per year.

To fulfill this increased demand, it is expected that new electric stations in the region will have to be built, “although, for now, there isn’t any concrete information about how many stations that will include, where the stations will be located, nor what types of technologies will be used,” said the report of the investigation.

GeoComunes mentions that, beyond the ten industrial parks already planned, another nineteen parks—ten in Oaxaca and nine in Veracruz—are to be installed later on.

Residents of Puente Madera protest against the imposition of an industrial park on common use lands of the Zapotec community.

The reception for company bids interested in investing in the first ten industrial parks was done in June 2023. In the month of November 2023, bids for the remaining industrial parks began, with a decision expected in April 2024.

Of the first ten industrial parks planned, four of them—San Blas Atempa, Ciudad Ixtepec, Santa María Mixtequilla and Asunción Ixtaltepec—should be mixed parks, which is to say, in addition to industry, they will include wind farms to generate electricity.

 “The wind farms will be built by Mexican or US companies, they will be administered by the Federal Electricity Commission, and they will have financial investment from United States banks,” says the report from GeoComunes.

Green Hydrogen

Helax Istmo, a subsidiary of the Danish company, Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, signed an agreement with the Interoceanic Corridor of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and with the Mexican Navy to install a plant that will develop renewable energies via green hydrogen and green maritime fuels, “contributing to Mexico’s objectives of sustainable development, as well as the decarbonization of the worldwide shipping industry,” the company tells the media.

Signing of the memorandum of understanding with the Danish company Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners to develop Helax Istmo, a project destined to produce green hydrogen and green maritime fuels in the isthmus of Tehuantepec, Oaxaca.

The plant should be built in one of the ten industrial parks planned along the Interoceanic Corridor in Ixtepec.

In spite of the recent restructuring, GeoComunes emphasizes that, since the signing of the Free Trade Agreement in 1992, and throughout the structural reforms in the last three decades, the energy policy has maintained the same: “opening up this strategic sector to private capital, and making the energy infrastructure adequate in the country to conform to the interests of fossil fuel capital and, particularly, fossil fuel capital from the United States.” 

You might be interested in- Mexican officials announce bids for Interoceanic Corridor industrial zones

The investigation done by GeoComunes also covers the energy restructuring in the Yucatan Peninsula and the northeast of the country. Topics that we will address in future texts.