Tag Archives: Mexico

Gasoline pipeline explosion in Mexico kills 66 people, leaves dozens injured

A gasoline pipeline explosion in Tlahuelilpan, Mexico, has killed at least 66 people and left dozens injured.

Gov. Omar Fayad said at least 76 people were injured. More than 85 other people were listed as missing.

The pipeline is owned by Mexican oil company PEMEX.

Indigenous Mexican farmers fight giant gas pipeline

  • TransCanada is building a gas pipeline in southern Mexico that’s threatening to cast indigenous communities off their land. But some are refusing to yield to the pressure to leave and are taking their fight to court.

Article originally published by DW.com

As Dona Maura Aparicio Torres finished planting her corn, she saw a man walking through her field. He trampled over her plants, took photographs and scribbled in a notebook as he approached her house.

A few days later, he was back. This time, he came with a demand that she give him the paperwork for her land. “We’re going to build a pipeline here,” he told her. That was in May 2017.

Two years earlier, the Canadian company TransCanada won the contract to build the Tuxpan-Tula pipeline, a 287-kilometer (178-mile) structure that will run across four states in southern Mexico to the Gulf of Mexico. The state energy authorities had approved the pipeline, as part of reforms begun under Mexico’s former president, Pena Nieto.

Much of the structure has already been built, apart from the final 90-kilometer stretch that runs through the village of Chila de Juarez and intersects the field where Torres grows corn and peanuts.

Resisting the state

“Our harvest is the most valuable thing we have,” says Torres, who was born into the Otomi indigenous community in Chila de Juarez. She still lives in the area with her husband and three children, in a house she bought from her mother-in-law. She sees no alternative but to stand up for what is hers.

“I don’t know where I would go if I lost my land,” she told DW.

A number of indigenous communities have joined forces to fight the pipeline. The sign here reads: ‘Say no to the gas pipeline. We’re an indigenous community and demand respect’

She is now part of a protest movement led and advised by a regional council of indigenous peoples in the states of Puebla and Hidalgo. The group was formed to share information and join forces in their claims against TransCanada.

Spokeswoman Oliveria Montes says a feeling of mistrust reigns — toward the company, the state and even neighbors.

“As soon as one person in the community sells their land, the neighbors thinks they have to sell theirs too,” she told DW.

Part of what the indigenous council does, she says, is to explain that people who are promised money to leave their land often never see a cent.

Torres received an offer of money on one of the many return visits she received from the man who had trampled her plants. When she asked him how much was on the table, he refused to name a figure. “We’ll resettle you,” he told her. “Where?” she asked. His response was another demand that she hand over the paperwork for her land. She refused.

He left his telephone number and a threat to build on the land whether she moved or not. She never called. And for the time being at least, she is still there.

A temporary reprieve

At the end of 2017, construction on the pipeline was paused following a complaint filed by the indigenous council. The case, which involves Chila de Juarez and four other communities, is now in court because before such a mega-project can be built the Mexican energy ministry must assess its impacts on the environment and residents.

While the ministry did produce such an impact report, the council questions its findings. According to Raymundo Espinoza Hernandez, a lawyer representing the council, 459 communities and 260,000 people would be affected by the construction, but the ministry assessment “only made mention of 11 communities,” he says.

TransCanada is also building other pipelines in Mexico, including the Tamazunchale pipeline extension (pictured) which runs through some of the country’s most mountainous terrain

When asked to comment, TransCanada said its subsidiary Transportadora de Gas Natural de la Huasteca (TGNH) was responsible for the Tuxpan-Tula pipeline. The same company that employs the man Torres found traipsing across her property.

TransCanada also said it knew nothing of appropriation of land in indigenous communities and does not support moving people off their land without prior consultation and consent. It concluded that it was ultimately up to the Mexican government to decide whether construction could proceed or not.

A charged atmosphere

TransCanada is under pressure. The company wants the pipeline to be up and running at the beginning of 2019. It’s part of a larger network that would eventually see natural gas flowing from Brownsville in Texas to Tuxpan and Tula in the heart of Mexico. And it’s already come under fire in the United States for the Keystone pipeline, which runs through Native American land.

So far, the delays on the pipeline as a result of resistance have pushed its costs up by a third to almost €347 million ($400 million) and Espinoza is worried that will have a negative impact on those standing in the way.

“They’ll play the communities off against each other,” the lawyer said. “If the company can’t continue with legal means, they’ll use violence to force their way into the communities.”

Torres shares his fears. “I’m afraid they’ll destroy me,” she said.

Dona Maura Aparicio Torres and her husband don’t want to leave their land nestled below the holy mountain of the Otomi people. They say they don’t know what they would do without it.

Immovable mountain

Her husband, Salvador Murcia Escalera stands among young peanut plants with a pick in his hand. He spent 14 years working as a hired hand on a plantation in California so he could send money back home. He returned when his wife called him to say her land was under threat.

“The land gives us everything,” says Torres. And she doesn’t want to see that taken away from her. She also worries that the holy mountain of the Otomi people could be blown apart to facilitate the pipeline, as has already happened in other communities.

She looks up at the mountain into which her land nestles. Legend has it that a young man called Margarito once climbed to the top, and was so tired on arrival that he laid down to sleep and never returned. The Otomi in Chila de Juarez worship him as a rain God, taking sheep, beans and corn to the mountain for him. Just like Margarito, Torres never wants to leave.

[SOURCE]

Indigenous Mexicans spurn Presidential vote with blockades, bulldozers

Members of the Supreme Indigenous Council block the entry to their community to avoid the installation of polling stations for Mexico’s general election in the indigenous Purepecha town of Zirahuen. Reuters

NAHUATZEN, Mexico – Mexican voters will stream to the polls this Sunday in a pivotal presidential contest, but leaders representing tens of thousands of indigenous people have vowed to block voting in their communities to protest a system they say has failed them.

Polls say Mexico is on the verge of electing its first leftist anti-establishment president in modern history, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. But the prospect of change has failed to resonate with inhabitants of small towns nestled in the lush, wooded countryside of southwestern Michoacan state.

Residents here have destroyed campaign signs and set up blockades to prevent the government from delivering ballots. Election officials have declared 16 towns here “unviable,” and will not likely risk confrontation to force polling stations to open.

Among the no-go zones is the impoverished hamlet of Nahuatzen, where Purepecha indigenous locals grow avocados and eke out a living on tiny plots. On Thursday, several dozen men, some in cowboy hats, stood vigil near the town’s entrance. They had laid a tree trunk across the road to stop outsiders from entering.

“The politicians haven’t done anything besides enrich themselves and they’ve left us behind,” said Antonio Arriola, a member of a recently-created indigenous council that has petitioned the Mexican government for autonomy.

After word spread on Friday that local party bosses may try to deliver ballots in their personal cars, indigenous leaders said they would use bulldozers to dig a trench in the main road to strengthen their blockade, a tactic already employed in a nearby town.

Arriola and other local leaders grudgingly acknowledged some common ground with Lopez Obrador, the 64-year-old former Mexico City mayor who got his start in politics decades ago advocating for indigenous rights.

But Arriola said the Purepecha have learned the hard way not to pin their hopes on promises coming from politicians, even ones that purport to have their best interests in mind.

“Our roads, schools and health care have been in the gutter for more than 40 years,” he said.

Nahuatzen is part of a growing movement among Mexico’s indigenous communities, who are seeking self-rule and turning their backs on mainstream elections.

Dissent in Michoacan ignited seven years ago, ahead of the 2012 presidential election, when just one jurisdiction, the municipality of Cheran, opted out of voting. This year, the boycott spread to six additional municipalities affecting dozens of polling stations across the 16 towns, home to at least 50,000 voters.

Agitation has likewise spread to traditional Maya communities in the southern Mexican states of Chiapas and Guerrero.

Indigenous leaders in at least six towns and small cities in those states are also pledging to block balloting on Sunday. That could impact tens of thousands more voters.

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Residents block the access to their community to avoid the installation of polling stations for Mexico’s general election in the indigenous Purepecha town of Nahuatzen. Reuters

Electoral authorities may set up polling stations outside towns that have rejected them, allowing those who want to vote to do so, said Erika Barcenas, a lawyer based in Morelia, Michoacan’s capital, who advises communities that want more autonomy.

“But I think the view of the majority is a more global rejection, a rejection of political parties and of the kind of democracy we have right now,” she said.

The growing complaints of indigenous Mexicans appear to track a broader restlessness in the country, where widespread political corruption, drug violence and entrenched poverty have fueled discontent.

Support for democracy among Mexicans plummeted from slightly more than 70 percent in 2004 to just under half last year, according to data from the Latin America Public Opinion Project.

Never conquered

Resistance to far-away masters goes back centuries for the Purepecha of Michoacan. Known for their fierce independence and closely guarded metal-smelting skills before the Spanish conquest of 1521, they were one of the few kingdoms in central Mexico that Aztec armies never subdued, despite repeated attempts.

On a federal highway near the town of Zirahuen, about 22 miles (35 km) southeast of Nahuatzen, several hundred locals set up another blockade with a big yellow truck, cutting off transit in both directions.

Many in the crowd said they were determined to repel any attempt by election authorities to deliver ballots or set up polling stations.

As of Friday evening, authorities had made no such efforts.

Young indigenous men in baseball caps walked down long lines of idled vehicles, telling drivers if they wanted to pass they must remove any visible campaign advertising. In a couple of instances they peeled political party stickers from windshields.

But the cradle of Michoacan’s movement is Cheran, home to 18,000 mostly Purepecha residents. The municipality proudly displays it indigenous heritage on its police vehicles, where the town’s name is written in the indigenous language, rather than Spanish.

Anger over widespread illegal logging believed to be organized by drug gangs sparked the unrest in Cheran. Outraged residents expelled their mayor and the local police force, whom they accused of being complicit. In 2012, citizens began to set up a new governing council based on indigenous customs.

During mid-term elections in 2015, 11 polling stations in four more municipalities joined Cheran in blocking balloting.

Pedro Chavez, president of Cheran’s indigenous governing council, said he is pleased that the movement has expanded yet again during this presidential election year.

“We can be an inspiration for free self-determination and a lesson about the rights of native peoples,” said Chavez, speaking outside his nearly-completed traditional wood-plank home.

The rights of Mexico’s indigenous poor last commanded the nation’s attention just after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect in 1994 and the Zapatista National Liberation Army issued a “declaration of war” against the government.

A 12-day battle ensued, claiming at least 140 lives.

“Free determination (for indigenous communities) is something that’s now being discussed for the first time since the Zapatista revolt,” said Barcenas, the attorney.

Some election officials say a solution to rising resistance among indigenous communities lies in more local control over public finance.

“We think the crux of their struggle is the push for direct funding to address the marginalization these communities face,” said David Delgado, the national electoral institute’s delegate for Michoacan.

Marco Banos, an official with the national electoral institute, said Mexico needs to find ways to fuse indigenous customs with the country’s existing election laws in communities where resistance to voting is playing out.

Still, he said resistance to voting is not as widespread as activists assert.

But, in Arantepacua, another restive Michoacan community which is boycotting the election, Dionisio Lopez said he is finished casting ballots.

“It’s all one big mafia. We having nothing but pure corruption here in Mexico and it’s proven,” he said. “Why pretend otherwise?”

By Reuters

[SOURCE]

Mexico ‘Stunned’ After Trump Approves Border Wall

Staff | Torstar, Jan 25 2017

Fear and humiliation turned to anger and betrayal Wednesday in Mexico, as U.S. President Donald Trump made good on his campaign threats against a neighbour and ally of nearly 100 years.

Trump signed two executive orders Wednesday, the first authorizing the construction of his promised wall along the Mexican border, and the second blocking federal grants to so-called sanctuary cities that don’t arrest illegal immigrants. The orders also call for 10,000 additional immigration officers and 5,000 Border Patrol agents.

The move, which is a dramatic shift in U.S. immigration policy, was not unexpected, but the timing caught Mexico off guard, coming just days before President Enrique Pena Nieto is due to meet Trump at the White House.

“We are stunned,” said Agustin Barrios Gomez, a former Mexican congressman and co-chair for North America of the Mexican Council on Foreign Relations. “There is a consensus building that we don’t want to negotiate under threat. American national security and prosperity directly depend on a stable and co-operative Mexico.”

Mexicans across the political spectrum called for Pena, who has never agreed to pay for the wall, to cancel his Jan. 31 visit. So far the leader, whose approval ratings are below 25 per cent, has opted for conciliation over confrontation.

Trump’s orders give the Department of Homeland Security six months to deliver a report detailing how to build the wall, which will be initially funded by money from Congress.

Trump continues to insist Mexico will repay the estimated $8-billion cost of the 1,600-kilometre wall through a variety of means, including increasing fees on visa applications, charging more for border crossing cards and/or taxing remittances of Mexican Americans.

The second order broadens the definition of who immigration agents can apprehend and deport within the U.S., allowing agents to adopt a broader definition of “criminal.”

Although Pena didn’t officially respond Wednesday, top-ranking officials threatened to pull out of negotiations over the reworking of the North American Free Trade Agreement if Trump continues to insist Mexico fund the wall project.

“There are very clear red lines that have to be drawn,” Ildefonso Guajardo, secretary of the economy, told Televisa on Tuesday. It’s a question of respecting sovereignty.” Guajardo travelled to Washington on Wednesday with Mexico’s foreign minister.

Vicente Fox, a former Mexican president, was more forthright, tweeting to Trump’s press secretary: “Sean Spicer, I’ve said this to @realDonaldTrump and now I’ll tell you: Mexico is not going to pay for that f—ing wall.”

Jorge Castaneda, a former foreign minister, told the New York Times: “It’s like we are Charlie Brown and they are Lucy with the football. Pena is a weak president in a weak country at a weak moment, but he has to find a way to get some official backbone.”

The U.S. may have as much to lose as Mexico if the countries stop co-operating on trade and national security, including drug smuggling and migration.

NAFTA, which includes Canada, is the world’s largest trade agreement and the region is an interdependent global supply chain where parts often cross borders several times while products are assembled. More than six million jobs in the U.S. depend on Mexico. Fully 40 cents of every dollar the U.S. imports from Mexico comes from content produced in America.

Mexico would have liked to present a common front with Canada in any NAFTA renegotiations, but that is unlikely to happen, say experts. Canada does not share the same border and security issues.

“Canada doesn’t see common cause with Mexico and has a long history of looking out for itself,” noted Ted Alden, a trade expert with the Council on Foreign Relations and author of Failure to Adjust: How Americans Got Left Behind in the Global Economy.

Canada also does not have a trade surplus with the U.S., while Mexico does.

Trump has not clearly explained how tearing up NAFTA will create jobs. Although some manufacturing jobs were lost to free trade, many were eliminated because of automation and improved productivity.

The U.S. should have focused more on retraining workers, cutting corporate taxes, investing in infrastructure and helping workers hurt by import competition, Alden said.

Ancient Temple Of Mexican Otomi Indians Damaged

Otomi women in Tequisquiapan.

Otomi women in front of the Santa Maria Church in Tequisquiapan, Queretaro, Mexico. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

By Associated Press, Jun. 28, 2016

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Assailants have damaged an ancient Otomi Indian religious site in Mexico, toppling stone structures used as altars, breaking carved stones and scattering offerings of flowers, fruit and paintings at the remote mountain shrine known as Mayonihka or Mexico Chiquito.

The attack was unusual in a country where few ancient pre-Hispanic religious sites remain functioning.

A researcher who interviewed some of the attackers said they identified themselves as Jehovah’s Witnesses and viewed the altars as blasphemy. However, the spokesman for the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Mexico said Tuesday that the allegation appeared to be false.

A local official in the state of Hidalgo said Monday that some local residents were angered by what believed to be idolatry and had damaged the remote site.

“I don’t know what religion they belong to, but they destroyed several images that were there,” said Daniel Garcia, the municipal secretary of the nearby township of San Bartolo Tutotepec. “The thing is, there are some religions that don’t believe in using idols.”

Luis Perez Lugo, a professor at the University of Chapingo, visited the site in May and talked to residents of a nearby hamlet, El Pinal, whose residents said they had carried out the attack.

“I was there, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses said they had done it,” Perez Lugo said, noting some were recent converts to the religion who used to go to the site for Otomi ceremonies.

“They said it (the pre-Hispanic ceremonies) weren’t in their Bible, and, in their words, they said it was piggish, garbage that wasn’t in the Bible, and so they went to clear out what was offensive to their God.”

Gamaliel Camarillo, the Jehovah’s Witness spokesman in Mexico, said that “to the extent we have been able to investigate, we found this story to be false.”

“We know that if we want to be respected, we have to respect others,” Camarillo wrote. “People without prejudices who know the Jehovah’s Witnesses know that we don’t promote such acts.”

The site itself, deep in the forest near a river, is not particularly elaborate. There a few ancient stone walls, some with bas-relief carvings.

But it is significant in a country where most Indian religious sites were demolished or built-over over to make way for churches centuries ago.

Jaime Chavez, an Otomi poet who leads the group Otomi Nation, said Indians from several states “use the site to perform ceremonies for Mother Nature, and some even do weddings or baptisms.”

“The important thing is the (natural) space, not the objects” destroyed in the attack, said Chavez. “You can get more objects. What the elders want is for them to stop invading, or destroying the site.”

Chavez said the elders, known as badi, had apparently reached a sort of informal agreement with the intruders to leave the site in peace.

But the attack sparked a debate about how the ceremonial site should be protected.

Perez Lugo tried to hold an Indian conference there, including a ceremony meant to apologize to the gods for the damage. But other Indians objected, saying only local elders should hold ceremonies there. Perez Lugo attributed the resistance to academic rivalries between archaeologists, anthropologists and others who study Mayonihka.

A bigger danger is possible government intervention. Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History is charged with guarding and preserving archaeological sites, but many Otomis don’t want it to take over.

“The authorities shouldn’t get ahead of themselves or try to fence off the area and make it into a dead zone” like many other ceremonial sites now covered by churches or used as tourist attractions. “What people want is for this to continue to be a living area” for ceremonial use.

Corrects name of hamlet to El Pinal in paragraph 6

[SOURCE]