|Growing Fuel Instead of Food: Agro-fuels in Chiapas|| || || |
|Written by Jessica Davies|
|Tuesday, 24 August 2010 12:25|
“Capitalism also makes its wealth from plunder, or theft, because they take what they want from others, land, for example, and natural resources...... they also want to privatize electricity and water and the forests and everything, until nothing of Mexico is left, and our country will be a wasteland or a place of entertainment for rich people from all over the world,.....but there are Mexican men and women who are organizing and making a resistance struggle.... there are indigenous, and they are making their autonomy and defending their culture and caring for their land, forests and water” - from the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle.
The state government promotes expansion of the cultivation of agro-fuels
There are two main types of Oil Palm, the African Oil Palm, Elaeis guineensis, native to west Africa between Angola and Gambia, and the American Oil Palm, Elaeis oleifera, native to tropical Central America and South America. Under a scheme called "productive reconversion" 50,000 hectares of the Chiapas countryside no longer grow food crops, they are now planted with African palm in a scheme designed to make the countryside more profitable, even though the crop is recognised to cause substantial, often irreversible, damage to the natural environment. There are now six oil palm extraction plants in Chiapas, and it is planned to have 100,000 hectares under cultivation by 2012.
Monoculture oil palm plantations are one of the main causes of deforestation. In the words of the World Rainforest Movement, they “replace tropical forests and other ecosystems, leading to loss of biodiversity, flooding, the worsening of droughts, soil erosion, pollution of water courses and the apparition of pests due to a breakdown in the ecological balance and to changes in food chains”. Oil palm plantations are great consumers of water, deplete fresh water sources, and jeopardize the availability of water in their area. The plantations require agrochemicals that poison workers and local communities and contaminate soil and water.
Oil palm in the Lacandon Jungle
There is also the question of land evictions, the forcible removal of peoples from their lands to provide areas for oil palm cultivation. The following alert was released in February 2010: "Families from the Biosphere of Montes Azules, Lacandon Jungle, are being evicted from their land in the state of Chiapas, Mexico. The evictions, being forced by police operations, are to make way for palm oil plantations. Friends of the Earth International call on you to demand an end to the evictions and the proposed developments."
The Latin American Network against Monoculture Tree Plantations (RECOMA) reported “Last January, the Chiapas State Congress approved funding for the construction of a palm oil processing plant. Shortly afterwards, dozens of families were evicted from their territory, in order to give way for the expansion of monoculture oil palm plantations. Heavily armed police arrived in helicopters and with aggressive violence evicted men, women and children from their homes, which they then burnt down and, with no explanation, removed the community to the city of Palenque. While the government talks about conservation and protection of the zone, it evicts those who have been truly responsible for making this conservation possible. At the same time, it replaces local ecosystems by oil palm monocultures”.
The evictions in this area are part of a plan of seizure of indigenous lands, not only for oil palm plantations, but also for the creation of luxury 'eco-tourism' complexes, construction of roads, dams, and airports, and the plundering of natural resources - timber, water, oil, minerals.
Deforestation of the Montes Azules biosphere reserve has now reached 80 per cent. Over 40 communities have now been evicted from the area. One of the two communities uprooted from their lands in the January 2010 displacements described above was a Zapatista support base settlement. A Zapatista spokesperson stated, “To make the situation clear to the public about the new phase of aggression that has restarted against our compañer@s ... we made public our position regarding the defence of the Mother Earth in a written declaration dated 23rd January 2010. In this declaration we clearly stated that we would defend the land and its natural resources."
In April 2010 plans for more evictions in the area were denounced by the Zapatista autonomous authorities (JBG): “For us the land belongs to those who work it, therefore we make clear that...we will not allow one more eviction, we will not tolerate these actions, we will not allow them to take place; we will defend our land whatever happens, because for us the land is not for hire, not for rent, let alone an object for sale....We love the Mother Earth; we work it, care for it, and protect it. For this reason we are ready to defend it at all costs."
The Zapatistas have never identified themselves as an environmental movement. Their struggle has been, and remains, one for land and dignity, for the right to live collectively, in their own way, and for democracy, liberty and justice. But it naturally all comes together. The indigenous peoples of the earth once again have to become its defenders.