On the road to La Ventosa, in the heart of the coastal plain that stretches out towards the ocean, a high and dense forest of steel overlooks the corn fields. Hundreds of wind turbines have grown in recent years on these lands swept by powerful winds. The Isthmus of Tehuantepec, this 200-kilometer corridor between the Atlantic and the Pacific, has become the El Dorado for renewable energies, of which the previous government of President Enrique Peña Nieto (PRI, right) intended to increase the share to 60% by 2050 in the country’s energy mix. In the state of Oaxaca, 28 wind farms have already emerged in the municipalities of Juchitán, Santo Domingo Ingenio, Ixtaltepec, Unión Hidalgo, El Espinal and Ciudad Ixtepec, mainly operated by Spanish, French and German companies.
Violation of social rights
In total, around thirty operators invest in this sector. Among them, the French EDF, which has for a long time already operated, via its subsidiary EDF EN Mexico, three wind farms in the State of Oaxaca: La Mata Ventosa (27 turbines), Bii Stinu (82 turbines), Santo Domingo (80 turbines). The electricity produced by these plants is purchased by international and Mexican groups. In spring 2017, the boss of EDF EN Mexico, Gerardo Pérez Guerra, announced the start of a fourth farm with 115 wind turbines in the municipality of Unión Hidalgo, with an investment of 500 million dollars: the Gunaá ‘project. Sicarú.
Only here it is: in the region, the establishment of wind farms ignites innumerable conflicts. Indigenous communities denounce investments marred by violations of their social, economic and cultural rights. Regularly, demonstrations are violently repressed by the police. The protesters denounce contracts concluded in the dark and argue, among other things, that the sale or rental of community land is illegal, under Mexican law, if the indigenous people concerned are not gathered in assembly and consulted in their mother tongue. Other reasons for anger, the low remuneration granted by investors, or the non-respect of clauses providing for the supply of electricity to local communities. False, retorts Gerardo Pérez Guerra, who denounces “political manipulation by third parties unrelated to the projects”. Since 2017, the mobilization has not known a truce in the municipality of Unión Hidalgo, where the inhabitants have initiated multiple appeals to cancel the permit granted to EDF for the opening of its fourth wind farm. “Wind projects affect the natural resources, health, economy, security and social organization of the community. They cause damage to the environment, ”says Guadalupe Ramírez Castellanos, a representative of the Zapotec community.
Radical economic conversion
Energy megaprojects sow division, weaken the village balance, endanger certain agricultural activities. But above all, they reflect a radical economic conversion of the region, the scene of a deep movement of social and cultural protest. “In fact, these investments carried by multinationals are unrelated to the ecological transition to which we aspire, they do not benefit the populations. They are one of the manifestations of our forced integration into neoliberal globalization. We are resisting this imposed economic model, which sacrifices our rights, our lands, our ways of living, ”summarizes Carlos Beas Torres, coordinator of the Union of Indigenous Communities of the North Zone of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec (Ucizoni).
In Unión Hidalgo, the CCFD-Terre solidaire is alarmed, the members of the Zapotec people have never been consulted on the Gunaá’Sicarú megaproject “in accordance with the principles relating to free, prior and informed consent, as recognized by the Mexican Constitution. and international law conventions. The violation of this right has consequently led to an escalation of violence against members of the community ”. Rosalba Martinez, member of the assembly of comuneros of Unión Hidalgo, testifies: “EDF has corrupted the hearts of our inhabitants. They promised jobs to our young people, but all we see is the death of human rights defenders. For three years, the legal proceedings brought against this project were ignored and passed over in silence by EDF and the French State. On October 13, 2020, representatives of the Zapotec community, supported by associations, finally brought the case to French justice, summoning EDF for non-compliance with its obligations on the duty of vigilance.
“Lies, extortion, spoliation”
“All these industrial and energy megaprojects are accompanied by a militarization of our territories and assistance programs aimed at fragmenting our communities. To impose them, their promoters all resort to the same strategies of lies, extortion, spoliation! »Protested Maria de Jesus Patricio Martinez, known as Marichuy, spokesperson for the National Indigenous Congress.
In the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, the first wind turbine was installed in 1994, at the same time when the United States, Mexico and Canada were ratifying the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), with the objective of “To create favorable conditions for the movement of goods, oil, minerals and energy”. The creation of a “wind corridor” is part of this energy market liberalization agenda. A sector in which the left-wing government of President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador now intends to regain control: last March, he had the Senate vote for a reform giving back a leading role to the public company CFE (Federal Electricity Commission) , to the detriment of private investors who have made so-called “clean” energies their banner. The opposition and the employers then cried out in chorus to “the violation of free competition”.