Resisting gas pipeline in Puebla, Mexico

Julian shares his views and victories on the fight against gas in Mexico:

“Pipeline is stopped by indigenous communities of Puebla

Mexico is currently traversing an era of revamped extractivist expansion which is clawing to reach the last corners of available resources.  It seems that the cities, as becons and centres for the reproduction of capitalist consumption, have reached new limits. They require that capital expands and controls new horizons to satisfy their tremendous levels of growth and consumption. Today, product manufacturing and the capitalist lifestyle are cantered in urban areas, while sustained through the resources extracted from the “resource rich” rural areas of the country, this general tendency is no different if we look at the country fifty years back…However, the difference is that, today Mexico City (as prominent example) has seen severe water shortages and their waste systems  surpassed to unmanageable proportions years ago, amongst other problems.

We are drowning in the deepest wave of privatization, the structural reforms of Peña Nietos government have opened privatization to unprecedented levels. They have given up the energy sector which was the last bastion of the economy held by the state, destined for public benefit. This has also opened new markets for foreign capital, such as fracking. These reforms came with a renewed plans for what are called “Special Economic Zones”, these are areas that have been destined for megaproject development (mining, fracking, large energy projects, pipelines, etc). The special economic zones sit in the poorest states of the country, in areas which have a rich natural heritage and are inhabited primordially by indigenous or campesino communities, many have been at the forefront of resistance in holding back neoliberal expansion in defence of territory  and the biocultural heritage.

In addition to the aggressive privatizing policies, the battle for control over natural resources goes beyond the government, large Mexican capital and foreign capital; today the eyes of the narco have landed on natural recourses which represent a mayor bounty, perhaps even bigger than trafficking drugs, people and organs… witness to this are communities in Guerrero with mining as well as in Veracruz, Michoacan and many other states of the country. The narco controls resources and strikes deals with companies and government, besides they also serve as part of the extractive operation as protection and agents for the eradication of dissent in communities where megaprojects are taking place.

In this bleak context we have had some victories in the struggles against megaprojects: in 2011, in eastern Morelos, began an imposed project for a gas fuelled thermoelectric facility (combined cycle power plant) in the town of Huexca. The project involves two thermoelectric facilities inside Huexca, a gas pipeline that runs from  the state of Tlaxcala to Huexca and the redirecting of the Cuautla river (which supplies a major agricultural region) for the cooling systems of the facility.  The pipeline is planned to run 9,100 million litres of gas daily.

The project was an imposition, there was no consent from the various affected communities and the government’s response to dissent has been repression, persecution and non-dialogue. However, the project is private: it belongs to the Italian company Bonatti, Spanish companies Elecnor, Enagas y Abengoa and the Federal Electric Comission (CFE).

In May of 2017, after 2 years and 5 months of legal battle against the gas pipeline for the thermoelectric facility of Huexca, the judge delivered a court ruling in favour of the plaintiffs, four Nahua communities of the Atlixco municipality, in the state of Puebla: San Jeronimo Calera, Santa Lucia Cosamaloapan, San Isidro Huilotepec and San José El Recreo.

The ruling orders the need for public consultations in the 60 communities that are affected along the gas pipeline in the States of Tlaxcala, Morelos and Puebla. This is a strong outcome because it will be very hard to coerce or co-opt so many communities, and there have to be certain limits for the redirecting of the pipeline to be within budget.

This outcome comes alongside the reaffirmation of the autonomous communal government of the community of Amilcingo, a campesino declared Zapatista community through which the pipeline crosses. Which is a leading regional example in defying the state through collectivity and self governance.

The pipeline outcome is a victory for the Front of Pueblos in Defence of Water and Land, and the communities in resistance throughout Mexico, it sets a powerful legal precedent. This does not mean the whole project is fully stopped but is a strong obstacle for its completion. I consider that from this winning position the movement needs to organize and fight forward rather than pause.”

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