The painter asks the President “to assert the right that the region’s indigenous communities have to grant or refuse their consent” to that infrastructure project
Photo by Jorge A. Pérez Alfonso: Francisco Toledo, who participated in inauguration day of the Gathering in defense of territory, the commons and the rights of the peoples, in Santa María Atzompa, Oaxaca, explained to La Jornada that before executing a megaproject “a serious consultation” is needed.
By: Jorge A. Pérez Alfonso and Mónica Mateos-Vega
Santa María Atzompa, Oaxaca, Mexico
The Maya Train project “if going to be an ecological disaster,” said the artist Francisco Toledo in an interview with La Jornada after participating in the inaugural session of the Gathering in defense of territory, the commons and the rights of the peoples, which was held yesterday in Santa María Atzompa, Oaxaca, which members of cultural and environmental organizations attended, as well as representatives of campesino and indigenous communities of this state and the country.
The painter considered that before executing that megaproject, “a serious consultation” should be made, mainly with the original peoples of the areas that will be affected, “and not like those things that they did (the questioned citizen consultation last December). Technicians must give their opinion, as well as biologists and other specialists, to know everything that’s necessary to do before touching the region,” pointed out the founder of the Pro Defense and Conservation Board for the Cultural and Natural Patrimony of the state of Oaxaca (Pro-Oax).
More information is needed
Toledo, who in Oaxaca has headed a series of struggles in defense of land and territory, insisted that: “indubitably (the Maya Train) is going to be an ecological disaster, that’s for sure,” because, he reiterated, it will affect the biosphere, mainly in Yucatán.
With respect to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, through which the train would travel, he considered that it could damage the area of the Chimalapas, which borders on Chiapas.
Another one of the problems with the Maya Train (Tren Maya) that the artist observes is that: “it has not really been announced what exactly the project consists of; not much is known, just that the President talked about two or three tracks, but nothing concrete. We’ll have to ask for more information.”
He said that there must be an authentic dialogue in which the project is presented in detail, in such a way that you do not get the idea that it’s about an imposition for the benefit of big businessmen and with the people being affected.
He shares a letter that he sent to AMLO with La Jornada
Toledo shared with this newspaper the letter that he sent to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on December 1, 2018, in which he asks him: “to assert the right that the indigenous communities of the Maya region have to grant or deny their prior, free and informed consent with respect to an infrastructure project that will affect their lives, beliefs, institutions and spiritual wellbeing, like it will also affect the lands that they inhabit.”
Toledo sent that letter to the President one week after he (the president) criticized a public display in the media, headed by the artist, in which dozens of academics, scientists and intellectuals explained their reasons for opposing the construction of the Maya Train. At that time, López Obrador told them then that “the undersigned” needed “more contact with the people.”
In that letter the painter reiterated to the Executive his opposition to the construction of the Maya Train, “without taking the opinion of the indigenous communities historically settled on the lands that the tracks will cross.”
He said that in July 1990 the Congress of the Union approved Convention 169, which is “a binding instrument and a legal reference point for creating legislation that asserts the indigenous rights of our country, because Article 7 of said convention establishes: ‘the interested peoples should have the right to decide their own priorities in relation to the development process, to the extent that this will affect their lives, beliefs, institutions and spiritual wellbeing and the lands that they occupy or utilize in any way, and to control, to the extent possible, their own economic, social and cultural development.’”
The anthropologist Salomón Nahmad participated in the Gathering in defense of territory, the commons and the rights of the peoples. He is a recipient of the National Prize for Arts and Literature, and he criticized the fact that the megaprojects that have been announced, principally the Maya Train, are advancing without having the necessary studies to know if the benefits really outweigh the damages.
“There is always an impact, regardless of the size of the project,” the anthropologist pointed out. He also considers urgent: “an in-depth social investigation so that the communities that will be affected really know what could occur in their localities, since in the end they will be the ones that suffer in the first instance the impacts of this work, but also that they should be the only ones consulted, because the project will not affect those who live in the north of the country.”
In the meeting, the participating social organizations offered proposals for an action plan for the coming weeks against the ‘‘megaprojects” and in favor of the rights of the original nations and peoples.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Wednesday, February 6, 2019
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee