Protests in 16 Countries Call for Mexico to Cancel El Zapotillo Dam

International Rivers
Thursday, November 11, 2010

More than 30 activists peacefully demonstrated yesterday at the Mexican Consulate in San Francisco to demand the cancellation of El Zapotillo Dam in the state of Jalisco, Mexico.

The protest included many expatriate residents of Temacapulín, one of the towns threatened by the dam. They were joined at the Mexican Consulate in San Francisco by their allies from International Rivers, International Accountability Project, Amazon Watch, and Adapting to Scarcity. Many of those present recently spent a memorable week in the town as part of the Rivers for Life gathering of dam-affected people from around the world.

Amid cries of "Temaca Vive, La Lucha Sigue" and holding signs which read "No to the Zapotillo Dam," "Rios Libres para Pueblos Libres," families from Temaca along with International Rivers staff and friends shared their experiences of the beautiful and historic town.

Former resident of Temaca, Heliodoro Perez focused on the injustice of the project; "The Mexican government needed to look for alternatives that would not devastate so many lives." Many spoke about the ongoing importance of the town to their families' lives.

Representatives from International Rivers and Amazon Watch were able to speak with consulate representative Eva Pizano and deliver a petition with more than 1500 signatures, addressed to President Calderón, demanding the immediate cancellation of El Zapotillo Dam.

Thousands of people around the world also participated in demonstrations yesterday as part of an International Day of Action to Cancel El Zapotillo Dam. Dam-affected people, activists and their allies held demonstrations outside the Mexican Embassies in Argentina, Canada, Colombia and Turkey. Supportive letters and videos came from Australia, Kenya, South Africa, Brazil, Germany and Spain directly to the embassy calling for the cancellation of El Zapotillo Dam.

In Mexico, there was a major protest in Guadalajara, and smaller ones around the country. More than 1,000 affected community members, activists and supporters took to the streets of Guadalajara in a march to the offices of the Governor. They stayed there throughout the day and into the night to protest the continued construction of the dam and the violation of the rights of the communities and the environment. "We were waiting for the Governor, who for the last two years has refused to respond to our letters and refuses to speak to us about the project," said Monica Montalvo, of IMDEC, the Mexican Institute for Community Development, a non-profit working with the community. "The actions will continue until we successfully stop the dam."

The Mexican government, in conjunction with the National and Jalisco State Water Commissions, has illegally started construction on the 105-meter-high dam on the Rio Verde. The project, which is proposed to supply water to the industrial city of León, Guanajuato, continues without the appropriate environmental impact and land use permits and without the informed consent of the affected communities. The dam would drown the towns of Temacapulín, Acasico and Palmarejo. Many of yesterday's protestors recently visited the area to witness the illegal construction of the project, and shared their experiences about other destructive big dam projects around the world.

"The whole village of Temacapulín is against El Zapotillo Dam. We have tried many ways to stop the dam but the government is completely deaf to our voices," said Marco von Borstel, of IMDEC, the Mexican Institute for Community Development. "We need to get water and energy without killing rivers and flooding historic towns like Temacapulín."

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