By: Juan Carlos Flores Solís *
After nine years of the peoples of the Popocatépetl Volcano saying no to the Morelos Integral Project (Proyecto Integral Morelos, PIM), of experiencing incarcerations, judicial persecutions, torture, defamation, militarization, community radio closings, division of communities, purchase of consciences, deception, the formation of shock groups, the population’s confrontations with the police, CNDH recommendations and protective orders won, now they tell us that they are going to consult us about whether the PIM is carried out, that the people will be taken into account to decide. But, what people; the people affected or the people in general? The consultation about the PIM is the first official consulta (consultation or referendum) that the new government promotes and the third citizen consulta after those on the NAICM and the Maya Train, where the opinion of AMLO about the project coincided with the results of the consulta.
Violation of the right to information
Now the President says “yes to the PIM, but I’m going to submit it to a consulta,” and “but it won’t affect the environment and it’s only lacking 100 meters to be connected,” as well as an infinity of arguments that are refutable by the peoples affected and specialists knowledgeable about the PIM. But, our voice doesn’t have the same echo that AMLO’s has, the peoples that have reasons for legitimately opposing don’t have 40 minutes at a press conference where they can expose why the PIM does affect the communities. That’s why the citizen consulta is inequitable, because the population doesn’t have the same means that the authority has for spreading la information and there is no serious and public debate between the disagreeing parties. The express period of 13 days to apply the consulta violates the principle of the right to information, because it’s not enough time for the peoples, organizations, environmentalists, human rights defenders and scientists that have compiled hundreds of documents about the PIM to synthesize and report to all the populations. Thirteen days is not enough for the people to know about the project and resolve their questions. Nine years seeking justice and 13 days to report to millions of people in the three states, with the opinion of the president loading the dice for the consulta.
This consulta is unconventional because it violates the right of self-determination of the indigenous subject that inhabits the territory through which the project crosses, because the decision of the people affected is replaced by a regional poll of outside people that don’t live in the indigenous territory affected. Regarding the PIM, the theme must not be reduced to a question of a public poll, but rather be the beginning of the recognition of the rights of the indigenous peoples affected by a megaproject, because justice must prevail over any economic interest. A consulta about the PIM must be indigenous, community by community, each one with its times and rhythms, a binding consulta, where if a community says no to the gas pipeline, it must change it’s course on that stretch and withdraw its tubes from that community, because that is recognizing indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination in their territory. A poll cannot supplant the substantive right of the indigenous peoples to be consulted about the projects that affect their territory and traditional way of life, because it would violate Articles 6, 7, 13, 14 and 15 of Convention 169 of the ILO and the rights expressed in Constitutional Article 2 and the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples.
What can be consulted about and what cannot? Can one consult about living without adequate civil protection measures? Living in a polluted environment so that money isn’t thrown away? Permitting conditions that prejudice public health due to the emission of nitrogen oxides? The evacuation routes from the Popocatépetl Volcano were not consulted about whether they were made, they were made because it’s necessary to protect the populations. Before taking the PIM to a consulta, it must be determined whether or not the project places the communities that inhabit the zone of the dangerous volcano at greater risk, the main risk of the megaproject, which the Morelos federal super-delegate omitted completely in the presentation of the project’s impact.
Saying yes to the PIM, is deciding that the communities close to the volcano will live at greater risk; saying yes to the PIM is impelling change in the use of the soil and water from agricultural to industrial; it’s saying yes to environmental and health impacts so that corporations don’t lose their investment. That’s why: “I prefer life: water for life, land to work and the security to live without fear.” The time bomb is installed, the thing is to light it; it’s the real problem inherited from the previous two six-year presidential terms.
* Juan Carlos Flores Solís is a lawyer and ex political prisoner because of the Morelos Integral Project. https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/juan-carlos-flores-solis
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Tuesday, February 12, 2019
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee