The following is a statement from the Oaxacan Assembly in Defense of Land and Territory, translated by Scott Campbell, regarding the launch of a new permanent campaign against extractivist, neoliberal megaprojects.
Launch of the Campaign: “It’s Not Development – It’s Dispossession!”
We, the communities and organizations that have joined together since 2019 as the Oaxacan Assembly in Defense of Land and Territory, today, November 20, 2021, on the 111th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution, declare the following:
Thanks to the long struggles of our ancestors against the conquistadores, colonizers and invaders who for centuries tried to dispossess us of everything that gives us life and sustenance, the First Peoples of Oaxaca still retain our communal and ejidal lands, as well as our territories and autonomy as communities and municipalities. We are still here as Afro-Mexican, Amuzgo, Binizaa, Chatino, Chinanteco, Chocholteco, Chontal, Cuicateco, Ikoots, Ixcateco, Mazateco, Mixe, Mixteco, Náhuatl, Tacuate, Triqui, Zapoteco y Zoque peoples, and all the men, women, and others who have their blood in our veins and maintain their culture in our daily lives. We inhabit and work our ancestral territories, developing our own forms of knowledge and at the same time enriching the world with them, in a reciprocal and respectful manner. Thanks to this connection to territory, Oaxaca and all of Mexico has great cultural and ecological richness and diversity that those who seek to harm us so often boast about.
The peoples of Mexico today commemorate the invaluable struggle of our general Emiliano Zapata, speaker of the Nahuatl language and son of the people of Morelos, and our immortal Ricardo Flores Magón, Oaxacan and son of the Mazateco people, who together with thousands of Mexicans gave their lives for justice and for a dignified life for the peasants, the workers, the dispossessed, the Indigenous peoples of Mexico.
Their slogan “Long Live Land and Freedom” acquires new meaning in the face of threats from capitalist megaprojects by which governments and companies seek to displace us from our territories, natural resources, and our communal way of life. In every corner of the country and our state, large extractivist projects such as mining, hydroelectric plants, industrial agriculture, refineries, gas pipelines, fracking, forestry, water privatization, and the joint creation of megaprojects and state policies threaten our self-determination and our territories. Some are already in operation and have left environmental devastation, division, and death in our communities.
In the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, they are trying to put in place the long-sought after megaproject now called the Interoceanic Corridor, which consists of the modernization and expansion of railroads, highways, ports, and the installation of ten 500-hectare industrial parks. This project crosses 90 municipalities belonging to the states of Oaxaca, Veracruz, Chiapas, and Tabasco, which are inhabited by 18 Indigenous peoples who have defended and safeguarded our natural resources and territories. Today we are threatened by this megaproject that historically has had ambitions to transform the region into an industrial, commercial, energy, and military corridor, and to serve as a containment wall for our migrant brothers and sisters, becoming a the most important border and customs area in the world, controlled by big capital. This megaproject is seen to be the node around which other major projects put forward by the Fourth Transformation (4T) are developed, such as the misnamed Mayan Train, the Dos Bocas Refinery, the Morelos Integral Project, and all the energy infrastructure that aims to connect these and other megaprojects throughout the country. It will supply the energy needs of large industries and national and international markets, reorganizing the south-southeast of the country in order to plunder, produce, and transport their goods at the cost of the destruction and death of our natural resources and our lives.
In the Central Valleys, on September 2, the Cuzcatlán mining company requested a new environmental permit (MIA-R “update on works and activities”) with which it intends to justify 75 irregular projects and to operate for 10 years, from 2021 until 2031. The mining company, a subsidiary of the Canadian Fortuna Silver Mines, no longer has a valid environmental permit for the exploitation of its gold and silver mine in Oaxaca. As a result of the refusal of organized communities, a climate of immense tension has been created in the Central Valleys, and the Zapotec communities that oppose the San José mining project and other mining concessions granted by the federal government in the Central Valleys are at risk. The “anti-mining groups” referred to by the company are local authorities (municipal and agrarian) who have organized through the No to Mining Front in order to defend our rights as Indigenous peoples: to territory, to a healthy environment, to citizen participation, and to self-determination.
In the Sierra Sur of Oaxaca, assemblies and communal authorities are organizing against 120,000 hectares of mining concessions given by the government to companies without informing or consulting our peoples.
In the case of the hydroelectric megaproject in Paso de la Reyna in the coastal region, we express our solidarity and demand justice for the five land defenders murdered in 2021 and denounce that to date there has been no progress in the investigations nor in security matters.
All these megaprojects were imposed through concessions without consultation, through fraudulent consultations, the buying off of authorities, through collusion with organized crime, through militarization and the assassination of defenders of land and territory. In order to achieve their goals, they divide our communities, violate all human and environmental rights, and flagrantly trample on the collective rights of Indigenous peoples enshrined in international treaties.
When we organize to resist and defend our territories, and with them our very existence, we are criminalized, defamed, minimized, threatened, persecuted, and murdered. The mainstream disinformation media systematically censor any information about the negative impacts of these megaprojects and our resistance. “How is it possible that we oppose the megaprojects of a ‘progressive’ government that wants to lift us out of ‘poverty’ and bring us ‘development’?” We oppose them because they are the same projects as previous governments, linked to economic interests, and because we have a long and painful experience that gives us political clarity:
- The conquistadores tried to dispossess us in the name of “God.”
- The colonizers and invaders tried to dispossess us in the name of “Civilization.”
- The ruling classes in Mexico tried to dispossess us in the name of “Modernity.”
- And now the neoliberal capitalists and their governments are trying to dispossess us in the name of “Development.”
But we are fighting throughout our territories, with a great diversity of organized cultural, educational, political, rebellious, and resistance actions that give us hope. We will not allow the destruction of our communal fabric and our natural resources, the displacement of entire communities, the clandestine graves, and the eternal increase in poverty to continue.
We have the right to a dignified live and to have peace in our communities so that the next generations have the opportunity to enjoy this wonderful thing that we are a part of. We as Indigenous and First Peoples have our own forms of organizing ourselves, of relating with one another, of living, of coexisting, of learning, of feeding ourselves, of healing, and of communicating that go beyond the capitalist public policies linked to a supposed “development” that is alien to our way of life. We declare ourselves in favor of defending and defining the management of our natural resources (timber, minerals, water, herbs, food production, etc.) by placing at the center of life our communal knowledge that has ancestrally been connected to territory in order to transform ourselves according to our own manner and our own time, as many generations have done. We have the inalienable right to self-determination for our peoples, based on the decisions of our assemblies.
For our peoples, women are an integral and fundamental part, the pillar that sustains the community in its multiple forms, in the development of what is right for us, based on the various cosmovisions through which language, culture, medicine, education, and food is reproduced. They are present and at the front of our struggles in the defense of our territories. We will not allow them to continue to be violated as our mother earth has been. We demand an end to the alarming increase in femicides and violence against women in our state and our country, which occurs in the same context of the generalized violence of the patriarchal capitalist system that seeks to subjugate us with its projects of death.
These times of pandemic have been difficult, mainly because of the departure of loved ones and the impact on our local economy, but at the same time they have provided us with moments of dialogue about what it means to be healthy and how the medicalization of society has led us to circumstances where even autonomy over life and death is lost. Technical death has been put into place as a common practice, the public health policies in Oaxaca are a disaster as they focus on bureaucratic processes and vested interests rather than the care for life itself. As peoples, we will continue to decide what values we want in the collective creation of a good life, in which we protect ourselves against pandemics, knowing that health is not just the absence of sickness, but also something much deeper that links us as peoples with the earth, water, plants and our ancestors.
For all these reasons, we issue an urgent call to the peoples and organizations to strengthen our struggles and resistances, and to convert our diversity into a source of unity to consolidate an ever more forceful and firm social movement.
Finally, we extend this emergency call for solidarity to social movements at the global level given the real threats that we, the peoples of Oaxaca and all of southern Mexico, are experiencing. Threats that exist from the Lacandon Jungle to the Sierra Tarahumara, as well as to First Peoples all over the Earth. We inform you that, just like you, the peoples of Oaxaca and all the great natural and cultural diversity for which we are known and admired, are in grave danger.
Today, on this historic day of struggle for Land and Freedom, as the Oaxacan Assembly in Defense of Land and Territory, we announce the beginning of a new permanent campaign under the name of:
“IT’S NOT DEVELOPMENT – IT’S DISPOSSESSION!”
with various sites of struggle under the axes of:
- Megaprojects and Defense of Territory.
- Rights of Indigenous and First Peoples
- Women and Territory
- Solidarity with Struggles at the State, Country, and Global Levels
- Militarization, Criminalization and the ‘Fourth Transformation’.
We salute all the peoples of Mexico on this memorable day. We salute the peoples of Oaxaca. We salute our brothers of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation. We salute all the human beings of this Earth who fight for life and against the system of death. We salute all the peoples of the world who defend our territories and ancestral knowledge, our Mother Earth which is the origin and home of all living beings.
THOSE WITH POWER AND MONEY WILL NOT PASS!
LONG LIVE THE STRUGGLE AND RESISTANCE OF OUR PEOPLES!
LONG LIVE LAND AND FREEDOM!
Oaxaca de Flores Magón, November 20, 2021
OAXACAN ASSEMBLY IN DEFENSE OF LAND AND TERRITORY