From The Correspondents
Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas
The Morena majority of the Chiapas Congress approved the decree initiative that authorizes the state government to grant a concession for the Pijijiapan-Palenque Transversal Highway Axis project, a four-lane superhighway that will cross through half the state and also cross through La Frailescana, a natural resources protected area. 
The plan, named Connectivity Chiapas, was endorsed with 31 votes in favor, while social organizations, movements in defense of land and territory stated that they were against the megaproject during the Forum in Defense of Territory and Mother Earth, which the Zapatista National Liberation Army (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, EZLN) and the National Indigenous Congress (Congreso Nacional Indígena, CNI) organized in San Cristóbal de las Casas.
“We didn’t think that this would come out so quickly; we are preparing for actions in February,” the activist and human rights defender from the Chiapas Coast, Nataniel Hernández, warned in an interview. He went [to the Forum] together with members of the Autonomous Council of the Coast to participate in said gathering.
According to the drawings, the construction of the Pijijiapan-Tuxtla Gutiérrez Superhighway (104 kilometers) will link with the Tuxtla Gutiérrez-San Cristóbal de las Casas highway and the Highway of the Cultures-San Cristóbal de las Casas.
According to the Morena deputies Nolberto Farfán Solís and Juan Carlos Montes de Oca Avendaño, who went up to the rostrum to request the vote in favor, “the highway project will encourage investment, will have an impact on tourism and will generate direct job sources, as it is foreseen that at least 80 percent of the investment will be used to contract Chiapas manual labor.”
The plan establishes that the investment and financing of the Tuxtla Gutiérrez–Pijijiapan four-lane highway, which will cross the municipalities of Chiapa de Corzo, Suchiapa, Villaflores, Villa Corzo and Pijijiapan will have private capital.
The strategy contemplates the construction of “special works” such as tunnels, vehicular bridges, fords, overpasses, pedestrian bridges, rest areas, lookout points, video communication, toll booths, offices, shops, obras de protection works, retaining walls, metal defenses and protections, special structures, lighting, junctions, signs, safe drinking water and drainage.
The estimated time for construction of the work will be 24 months; the total investment for Connectivity Chiapas is $60 billion pesos; while the Tuxtla-Pijijiapan stretch will be $10 billion pesos.
“Attempts at dispossession and privatization persist”
During the Forum in Defense of Territory and Mother Earth, the Autonomous Council of the Chiapas Coast denounced that they have received threats and have been dispossessed of their lands because of the Pijijiapan–San Cristóbal de las Casas-Palenque highway construction project, in addition to the construction of a gas pipeline that seeks to cross the state’s coastal zone and Guatemala.
The Tzeltals pointed out that in their region “the intent to dispossess and privatize the territory for the benefit of private companies persists, through the so-called Cultural Highway (Carretera Cultural)  that before was called the Superhighway and seeks to pass through territories of the San Sebastián Bachajón ejido, Palenque and other towns.” They accused that: “in Zoque territory big capital identified an oil corridor that encompasses nine municipalities, on 84,500 hectares and seeks to cross the community of Chapultenango.
“The bad governments of all levels seek, through campaigns of confrontation, paramilitarization and impersonation, to finish with the communities that are organized autonomously, as in the case of our brothers of the ejido Tila,” they reproached.
In Chiapas “military and paramilitary harassment persists against Zapatista territories, to weaken and destroy not only the autonomous spaces that have been constructed, but also the echo that expands throughout the country and the world,” they stated during the Forum. The approval of the decree authorizing the government headed by Rutilio Escandón, of Morena, to grant a concession for the Transversal Pijijiapan-Palenque Highway, took members of the Autonomous Council of the Coast by surprise. Their communities are in the information stage [of consultation].
 The highway also borders on the El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve, which preserves one of the country’s most important cloud forests.
 What is now being called the “Highway of the Cultures” used to be called the San Cristóbal de Las Casas-Palenque Superhighway, the very same highway against which many indigenous peoples have been protesting for years.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Tuesday, December 24, 2019
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee