Chiapas: Next hotel mega-proyect in the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve

 

Foto @ La Jornada del Campo

On 20 August was published a denunciation in La Jornada del Campo that was shared among digital media that claims that the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve (RIBMA), considered by environmental authorities to be a “priority zone for conservation,” is to experience the construction of a mass-hotel complex without the consent of local residents and regardless of concerns for true sustainable development.  During 2010 the federal Secretary of Tourism (Sectur) and private firms negotiated with residents of the ejido Emiliano Zapata, whose lands are adjacent to the Laguna Miramar, for the concession of four hectares of land for the construction of the complex and the right to exploit the laguna touristically for the next 30 years.

Several observers note that the measures of relocation and displacement of rural populations, above all indigenous, who are “irregularly” settled in RIBMA (that is, settled in the region following its decree in 1978) seek to expel the population so as to subsequently exploit these zones for touristic and commercial ends, including the cultivation of monocultures.

The transfer for 30 years of the four hectares and the right to exploit the laguna touristically will have several stages: during the first ten years, the tourist firms that will provide part of the investment cannot be removed from the administration of the complex, but hte director of the Society of Ecotourism of Zapata can form patr of the administration, and will receive 10% of the profits.  Following this stage, the ejidatarios will have the option of administering the complex “as long as” they are trained to do so (though it remains unclear what level of training will be required).  If the training is not successful, the administration will continue in the hands of hte same or other firms during these 10 years.  Upon completion of this stage (year 2031-2032), there will newly be opened the possibility to change the administration, for the final stage of the convention (which will end in 2041-2042).

Upon learning of the proposal, ejidatarios carried out assemblies to discuss it.  The principal fears that were expressed are the following: loss of control of their lands; the sense that the firms will “believe themselves to be the owners,” while others will be converted into their servants, alienated from profits.  They reported to the Sectur that they do not accept the project.  Without hiding her displeasure, the “official Mónica,” the one in charge of negotiation on the part of Sectur, told the campesinos as she boarded the helicopter that always transports her: “It is fine; if you do not want to be reasonable, the project will be done in the community of Benito Juárez,” a locality considered to be “irregular”; the ejidatarios would there accept, she claimed, as they have previously requested similar projects.  In light of this, the assembly came together once again, and there was much discussion, and the part of the community in favor of the project succeeded as a majority in accepting it.  At the beginning of 2011 was signed the agreement among the ejidal authorities, Sectur, and the firm involved.

Now the project is to begin, but the community is divided, not only among those who are in favor and those opposed.  Rather, the active promoters, those who simply accept the proposal in light of the promise of jobs that will be generated; those who reject it consider that they will lose control of their lands and those who support the idea so as to seek out monetary compensation.  There are also those who oppose it while no consensus exists.  According to some, the enthusiastic proponents of the project are the former ejidal authorities who represent a small minority.

According to the article, the Sectur project does not create mechanisms for settled populations in strategic regions to preserve the environment to reach sustainable development; rather it corresponds to long-standing plans that ensure the control of strategic spaces by firms.

For more information (in Spanish):

Macro-complejo en Montes Azules, abuso sobre los campesinos, La Jornada de Campo, 20 August 2011

Chiapas: Macro-complejo en montes azules abuso sobre los campesinos, Radio Pozol, 23 August 2011

For more information from SIPAZ (in English):

Chiapas: a  large hotel complex to begin to be constructed in Montes Azules (Laguna Miramar) (1 July 2011)

Chiapas: La Realidad JBG claims more evictions to come in Zapatista territories (5 May 2010)

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