Megaprojects and rights

No to the Megaproject of the Isthmus! The Isthmus is ours, the Indigenous Peoples, the Mexican People, Not the Companies, Not the Governments!

By: Carlos Fazio

Heir of the megaproject of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec of Ernesto Zedillo (1996) –then renamed the Plan Puebla-Panamá (Fox, 2001), the Mesoamerican Initiative (Calderón, 2008) and the Special Economic Zone of the Isthmus (Peña Nieto, 2016)–, the Interoceanic [Trans-Isthmus] Corridor of Andrés Manuel López Obrador seems destined to reproduce the same neoliberal logic.

The 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) made up part of the legal-political framework for capital’s class domination. Since then, the corporate rights derived from the imposition of NAFTA meant a profound rupture of the Welfare State’s social contract, and the rights of the poor and the workers were devastated by “predatory private tyranny” (Chomsky said), which also demolished, via regulatory violence, the hierarchy and the normative pyramid of the system of protection for human rights.

NAFTA was not designed to promote the social good; nor an agreement between the people of the three countries of North America to take advantage of the mutual benefits of the exchange of products and services based on de their comparative advantages. It was a pact that elevated the legal status of big investors and, simultaneously, linked and subordinated the economic power of the State to corporate interests, thus eroding the State’s commitment and options for protecting the citizens. A central purpose of NAFTA was to disarm the original peoples in order to dispossess them of the tools of identification, expression, culture, resistance and transformative capacity that national sovereignty and the existence of a legitimate State can offer them. The disarming of the Mexican State versus corporate interests acquired tragic characteristics, upon becoming a promoter and certifier of the private operations of investors. Particularly grave was the accelerated dismantling of the 1917 Constitution, which had introduced social rights and the subordination private property rights to the common interest.

The structural violence of the capitalist system –the accumulation of wealth of a minority at the expense of poverty and the environmental and cultural destruction of the peoples– was incorporated into the treaty in a transversal way. The counter-reform of Constitutional Article 27, which modified the ownership of ejido and communal land, supposed an expropriation of rights and guarantees about the use and belonging of land and natural assets. Those practices were presented as sought-after development policies, but were really actions of dispossession that were subsequently provided legal coverage.

Under the logic of counterinsurgency, neoliberal regimes used state, paramilitary and criminal violence to generate terror and fear, as part of a strategy to control territories and populations; a scheme of institutional violence that utilized extrajudicial summary executions, forced disappearances, systematic torture, forced population displacement and land appropriation to impose economic policies that respond to the interest of the plutocracy and attack the rights and interests of the majority poor people.

As part of a process of “power diversion” −a transformation of the state apparatus that, at the same time reinforced, privatized and updated a tremendous punitive capacity−, the State, in a historic reactionary turn, abandoned all concern for the well-being of the population, abolished the public sphere, liquidated society and installed a criminal and mafia-like social-Darwinism, violating each and every one of the historic conquests of the peoples.

That savage regression in the exercise of power consisted in the use −on the part of governments, political representatives and de facto powers− of the economic, political, cultural and legal-institutional capacities of the State for the purpose of satisfying or benefiting plutocratic interests against or to the detriment of the public and general interest of the population, and at the expense of neglecting the minimum conditions of the reproduction and development of social life and of subjecting the exercise of individual and collective rights of the bulk of the citizenry to economic dynamics alien to their interests. The priority function of the State was reformulated to become the organizer and/or executor of the dispossession and expropriations, of the transformation and destruction of the productive structure and of the implementation of massacres, repressions and numerous violations of rights necessary for breaking the community social fabric. In Article 2, the Constitution recognizes the rights of the indigenous peoples to self-determination and autonomy, including the right to free and informed consultation, although inadequately. In any case, when Mexico recognizes international treaties, it should be understood that the State has the obligation to recognize said rights beyond the contrary constitutional restriction. The instruments where they establish those rights are Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO) on indigenous and tribal peoples and the United Nations Declaration on indigenous peoples. Those guarantees must be recognized today in an effective way, in regard to political autonomy, the ownership of their lands and being consulted about the megaprojects that can affect them directly, like the Interoceanic Corridor and the so-called Maya Train.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Monday, October 21, 2019

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee





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