Translated by Scott Campbell
Cover image: Indigenous Binniza residents of Puente Madera, in the municipality of San Blas Atempa, protest against the imposition of an industrial park on their communal lands.
The Mexican government, through the Ministry of Economy, announced that the first tenders towards the creation of planned industrial zones in the Interoceanic Corridor of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec (CIIT), in Oaxaca, will be open for bids in February.
“We hope that each development zone will generate investments of around one billion dollars,” said Raquel Buenrostro Sánchez, Minister of Economy, who anticipated that, in addition to government investment, resources from the United States government will be forthcoming.
At the end of 2022, the former head of the CIIT, Rafael Marín Mollinedo, announced that ten plots of land were ready for the construction of industrial parks. “At the beginning of the year, they will be opened for bidding so that developers can take charge and fill them with businesses,” he said in an interview with an infrastructure industry media outlet.
Now, in 2023, the Minister of Economy is also including the participation of the U.S. “We have presented the logistics corridor project to the United States and they were very interested. Perhaps Gina Raimondo, U.S. Secretary of Commerce, will join us at the official presentation,” said the minister.
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In its first phase, the Corridor foresees the rehabilitation of 200 kilometers of railroad tracks connecting the ports of Salina Cruz, Oaxaca, and Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, in addition to the construction of ten industrial parks referred to as Well-Being Development Zones (PODEBI).
“The idea is that in each zone there is a private operator who commits to an investment plan with employment generation goals and a short, medium, and long term development vision,” said the Minister of Economy.
In this regard, the federal official added that there exists a high probability that included among the economic stimuli for the project will be resources from the U.S. government, in addition to those that may be provided by the Mexican government and which will be determined by the Ministry of Finance.
Buenrostro’s recent statements contradict those of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who, since December 2018, when he assumed the presidency of Mexico, said that for reasons of “sovereignty” there would only be Mexican investment fueling the CIIT project.
The Minister of Economy also elaborated on the possibility that part of the resources from the United States, coming from the Semiconductors Law or CHIPS Act, with 390 million dollars in spending, could be channeled towards the production of semiconductors in southern Mexico.
“Part of these funds could be invested in Mexico. This makes sense for the United States because there is an urgency in relocating (those resources). One issue that complicates rapid relocation is the shortage in their labor market. Taking that into consideration, Mexico is the best place to move companies that are now in Asia,” Buenrostro shared during a Mexico City meeting with financial media outlets.
At the same time, she pointed out that there exists between 1.8 and 2.8 billion dollars from the Inter-American Development Bank (BID) to fund the relocation of companies to Mexico. As a result, she mentioned, the administration will give priority to projects that choose to establish themselves in the Interoceanic Corridor.
“We have suggested they locate their investments in the south because in northern Mexico there is not enough water and, as well, it will allow for other problems to be attended to and resolved, such as those related to migration and development in southern Mexico and Central America,” said the minister.
The federal government’s announcement comes one week after the arrest of activist David Hernández Salazar, who, as a member of the municipal government of Puente Madera, an Indigenous Binniza community in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, supported the demands of his community in opposing the construction of an industrial park on their communal lands.
Following Salazar’s arrest, his community and social organizations mobilized. He was released after a few hours.
“It is not right that for defending our land, territory, human rights, and ourselves as Indigenous peoples we are criminalized, assaulted, and threatened for deciding to defend life when faced with their Megaprojects of Death,” denounced the Community Assembly of Puente Madera and the Assembly of the Indigenous Peoples of the Isthmus in Defense of Land and Territory (APIIDTT) following the release of Salazar.
In a statement, the above organizations once again stood firm in rejecting the installation of an industrial park linked to the CIIT and called for decentralized actions in solidarity with the peoples of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec on February 9, with an emphasis on the struggle against the imposition of the Interoceanic Corridor project.