Our Land is Not for Sale

Monti Aguirre
Saturday, April 1, 2006

 Communities who would be impacted by the proposed La Parota Dam on the Papagayo River in the State of Guerrero, Mexico have met political persecution of their leaders, threats, and police violence because of their opposition to the construction of the dam. Two community leaders have been murdered - Tomas Cruz Zamora was killed last September as he returned from an organizing meeting, and Eduardo Maya Manrique was stoned to death this January. In recent months, police have attacked peaceful community demonstrators, wounding hundreds of farmers.

One reason for these serious human rights violations is that the Mexican government wants to start construction of the hydroelectric dam this year, and is trying to rush through project approval without following the proper procedures. If built, the projectwould displace 25,000 people and affect the lives of 75,000 more who currently depend on the Papagayo River for fish, transportation, agriculture, water and other uses. Yet many of these people have not been given an opportunity to participate in community forums to discuss the project. Those consultations which have taken place were with communities who will not be affected by the project, and were marked by massive police presence which hindered participation by most of the affected communities.

Affected communities have created the Council of Communities Against La Parota Dam (CECOP) to fight against construction of the dam and for their rights. With the Mexican Movement of Dam-Affected People (MAPDER), they have held numerous protests andother activities to register their opposition to the dam. Some members of CECOP were already affected by the construction of La Venta Dam located upstream from the proposed site for La Parota.

"The dam will flood forests and dry up aquifers," said Marco Antonio Suastegui of CECOP. "Our land is not for sale!"

The 900 MW dam would be built in a rural area near Acapulco City, less than 50 kilometers from Acapulco Airport, and would flood nearly 17,000 hectares of land. The project is estimated to cost more than US$1 billion. Construction companies from severalcountries have shown an interest in the project, including Mexican construction company ICA, which is owned by Carlos Slim, ranked the world's fourth-richest man by Forbes magazine. The Mexican government hopes to commence construction by July 2006, but whether they can obtain the necessary approvals and financing by then remains to be seen.

From World Rivers Review, April 2006