Target: Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto
Goal: Stop the planned damming of the Usumacinta River.
Indigenous communities and ecosystems along one Central America’s most important rivers could soon be devastated by a massive dam project, according to Mexican and Guatemalan activists. Last year, the Mexican government approved a series of dams along the Usumacinta River, which runs through southern Mexico and parts of neighboring Guatemala. In total, five dams will be constructed over four years. While Mexico’s federal government says the dams will provide a critical source of energy, local activists argue communities along the river could be devastated. According to a report in newspaper La Jornada, locals say they fear forced displacement, and are worried the government won’t provide compensation when their lands are flooded. Many of these people have lived along the river for generations, with the region being home to the indigenous Ch’ol and Tzeltal Mayans. Some of these indigenous communities are among the poorest in Mexico, and rely heavily on subsistence farming to survive.
The dam has already been condemned by dozens of community and activist groups, including Guatemala’s Peten Front Against Guatemalan Dams, and the Zapatista-linked Mexican civil society umbrella group, ORCLFPRN.
If you believe no community should be uprooted without compensation, then demand the Mexican government halt the Usumacinta dam project until an amicable agreement can be reached with locals.
Dear President Enrique Peña Nieto,
The Usumacinta River dam project is a humanitarian disaster waiting to happen. While the dam could provide a critical source of energy for future generations of Mexicans, locals living along the river say they will be once again left short-changed. The indigenous Ch’ol and Tzeltal Mayans that live along the river are among the poorest people in Mexico, but say they fear the government has no plans to compensate them when they lose their land to the dam projects. No Mexican should be forced to flee their home to make way for a construction project.
Sadly, though, the indigenous peoples of southern Mexico have been here before. Time and time again, the federal government has failed to listen to the voices of indigenous peoples, and refused to include them in the development of the nation. Frustration with the government’s apathy is what led to the violence of the 1990s in Chiapas. Even today, over two decades after the EZLN uprising, poverty rates in Chiapas remain largely unchanged. In other words, while much of Mexico has seen the gradual march of economic development, predominantly indigenous regions like Chiapas remain in a time-warp, neglected and forgotten. This can’t continue. As you approach the final leg of your time in office, you have a chance to take a step towards making things right. The first step is to halt the damming of the Usumacinta River, and begin serious consultations with communities, and all stakeholders in the region.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Alfonsobouchot