Multinationals enter Chiapa's Rainforest - Indigenous Communities Violently Evicted

Darren Hill mail at
Sun Mar 14 13:55:01 GMT 2010

Multinational corporations are covetting strategic natural resources in 
the Lacandon Forest in the Mexican state of Chiapas. At the same time, 
the state government is pursuing ambitious plans to surround the 
Lacondan Forest with oil palm plantations, while disguising the forest 
around the plantations as ‘eco’- tourism areas. The corporations are 
preparing for those projects, by attacking and evicting indigenous 

On 21st and 22nd of January this year, the indigenous Tselales 
communities of Laguna El Suspiro and Laguna San Pedro Guanil, both 
inside the Biosphere Reserve of Montes Azuls in the Lacandon Forest, 
were evicted. Montes Azules is home to one third of Mexico’s biodiveristy.

According information by the newspaper La Jornada 
(in Spanish), the eviction took place on 19th January this year, when 
the head of the Federal Agency for Environmental Protection (PROFEPA) 
visited Chiapas. A few hours later, hundreds of policemen and soldiers 
evicted around twenty indigenous families (120 indiviuals) from their 
homes in the region.

Government sources state that the operation was carried out in 
coordination with the federal police, members of the Mexican Army and of 
PROFEPA, ironically in the presence of ‘representatives of the state’s 
human rights’. No details have been given as to who those human rights 
representatives were. Our understanding is that the Mexican government 
used fake ‘human rights representatives’ in order to commit human rights 
violations against indigenous peoples.

During the two operations, the police forces were heavily armed and used 
several helicopters. Witout any official documentation or court order, 
and by means of violence and threats against elderly people, women and 
children, they forced the indigenous people to leave their houses 
without being allowed to take any of their personal belongings, and took 
them to the city of Palenque. There, twelve villagers from Laguna San 
Pedro Guanil were taken to the government ministry and were interrogated 
without a solicitor or interpreter. Before being released, the villagers 
were made to sign a document without understanding the content. They 
later reported that intimidation was used to get them to respond to the 
question “Where are your fields where you grow drugs?”, a question which 
indicates how the government intended to justify the evictions 
retrospectively. The villagers report that various of their belongins as 
well as their houses, clothes and work tools have been destroyed, their 
fruit trees, maize and beans have been uprooted and their communal shop 
has been ransacked. Local witnesses report that after the evictions, the 
houses and belongings of the villagers were burnt. So far, no 
opportunity for resettlement has been offered.

Violent evictions and forced relocations had previously been carried out 
in approximately forty communities, by both the current and previous 
administrations. These are part of a policy to creating a ‘new order’ 
and clear the Lacandon Forest of people, particularly in the Montes 
Azules region. The Mexican state is thus promoting social dislocation 
and ongoing legal uncertainties as well as the appropriation of communal 
property in favour of private ownership. This results in the 
irreversible loss of the concept of land as a source of communal wealth.

Both the federal government of Mexico and the state government of 
Chiapas justify their actions by labelling the entire indigenous 
Tseltal, Tsotzil, Ch’ol and Tojolabal population in the Lacandon area as 
‘irregular people’, ‘invaders’ and ‘predators’. The evictions are 
expected to continue. Several of the villages which were evicted were 
Zapatista supporters. Friends of the Earth has accused the governor of 
Chiapas of selling ‘the land and the territories of Chiapas to the 
highest bidder.”

The evictions can be understood through a strategic global project of 
‘territorial evictions and control’, which is disguised as a 
‘conservationist spirit for the benefit of humanity’ (or, as a 
government spokesperson has said “…for the good of Chiapas’, for the 
good of Mexico’s and for the good of the world’s environment”). In 
reality, it serves the interests of multinational corporations and 
private investors in strategic natural resources in this and other 
indigenous and peasant territories in Mexico and Central America: 
Biodiversity, forest cover, clean drinking water, natural scenery and 
minerals, are all coveted as resources by biotech and agribusiness 
companies (Monsanto, Pioneer, Norvartis, Bimbo), pharmaceutical 
companies (Pharmacia, Bayer, Pfizer, Sanofi Adventis), car and oil firms 
(Ford, General Motors, Shell, the International Automobile Association 
(FIA), drinks manufacturers (Coca Cola, Nestle, Pepsi), hotel chains and 
false ‘eco-tourism’ firms (Mexican Association for Adventure and 
Eco-Tourism, AMTAVE), as well as mining companies (CEMEX, owned by 
PEMEX. Several of them have had a direct or indirect presence in the 
Lacandon Forest for years. At the same time, the governor of Chiapas, 
Juan Sabinas, has imposed an ambitious programme of economic reform 
which icludes the expansion of oil palm plantations and aimes to turn 
Chiapas into one of the main centres of production for agrofuels, with 
all the impacts that go along with it.

Thanks to to the Group B.A.S.T.A from Münster for writing the letter!

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