What follows is a statement from the Assembly of the Indigenous Peoples of the Isthmus in Defense of Land and Territory (APIIDTT)), dated March 13, 2023 and posted on the website of the National Indigenous Congress as background for the El Sur Resiste / The South Resists Forum on Megaprojects.
We can look as far back as the 16th century, when Charles V entrusted his explorers (colonizers) to find the best passage between the Atlantic and the Pacific, to locate what is perhaps the first moment in the long history of the colonizers´ interest in connecting both oceans with an interoceanic passage through the Isthmus of Tehuantepec
Looking into the distant past, we can see that opening up access routes, across countries or entire continents, is a constant in this long history called colonialism.
This vision has persisted for five centuries, with the same goal of promoting trade, an essential condition of the capitalist mode of production, and the large international conglomerates continue to promote it.
The interoceanic passage, a megaproject accepted today with great fanfare, has a long prehistory: under President Juarez it was known as the McLane-Ocampo Treaty; during the administrations of Lopez Portillo and De la Madrid, it was presented as the Alpha-Omega Plan; under Ernesto Zedillo, it was promoted as the Integral Economic Development Program for the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Vicente Fox, taking up the previous iterations, included it in the so-called Plan Puebla-Panama; Felipe Calderon, following the initiative of his predecessors, inserted it within the Mesoamerica Integration and Development Project or Mesoamerica Project; Peña Nieto once again promoted it within the Special Economic Zones. And, surprise! the historical need to amputate the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, is now being promoted again, under the name of Interoceanic Corridor of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec or Program for the Development of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.
From the 16th century to the present, the domination and subordination of an interconnected and geographically dispersed world has seen the birth of new empires that have taken the roundness of the earth as the stage for their interests. In other words, what is called geopolitics has changed actors throughout these five centuries. Are we exaggerating when we say that the megaproject will amputate the Isthmus of Tehuantepec? The truth is that we are not. The ones who exaggerate here are those who do not see the colonial continuity of this Program for the Development of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.
Let’s take a look a little further south, at the commercial Channel closest to our country. Panama was amputated in the XIX century from Colombia, turned into a defenseless and depopulated country (according to the logic of commerce ), allowing the United States to establish, in perpetuity, disadvantageous agreements for the administration of the Interoceanic Canal built in the Panamanian Isthmus. This country, built under the slogan “For the benefit of the world”, is today one of the most dynamic economies in Latin America, and amongst those in with the greatest social inequality (according to international financial organizations).
The gringos are coming to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec! Or rather, they are already here, and it seems that nobody bothers, or maybe the State has everybody so blinded that they are all applauding the efforts of the American (mainly) and Chinese (seeking to position themselves) empires to administer the Isthmus of Tehuantepec to further their geoeconomic interests and geopolitical expansion.
How will this neocolonial adventure be explained to their ancestors who defended this territory from various foreign invasions? With what arguments will they justify why they submissively accepted, applauding the gringo empire as it enters the region and completely devours it.
The Federal Executive himself shouted it out into people’s ears at this morning’s daily press conference: the gringos are coming with great interest in this geo-strategic region for world trade and manufacturing. Ken Salazar (US ambassador in Mexico) has reiterated this on several occasions, stating that:
“The Isthmus is such a strategic site that it was recognized more than 100 years ago, but it has not been developed. That is why we look to the south. We can do some truly great things. You know that if we just sit still, we cannot thrive. You know it. It happens in your personal lives, in your governments. We have to be optimistic about where we can go ,but also we need immediate action to make efforts that will have an impact. So we, the government of the United States, see opportunity, we see optimism, we see that with this project and other efforts that we are embarking on in Central America, this region of the Americas is where the future of the economy lies. Here is also the future of democracy. Because our values, as President Biden says, is to lift up all people (words said by Ken Salazar, in San Juan de Ulua Veracruz, on April 22, 2022).
Laura Richardson, the new head of the US Southern Command, has also reiterated the interest of the United States, in the midst of the dispute between the US and China over world hegemony of lithium and water resources in Latin America, since, as she stated, the natural resources of this hemisphere “have a lot to do with national security (of the United States) and we have to up our game” (https://cutt.ly/k8CyAup).
The American Chamber of Commerce, the largest business organization in the world and the largest lobbying group in the United States, has stated through its spokesperson in Mexico, that this megaproject will enable “natural resources, geographic location, strategic industries and trade agreements to accelerate the integration of global supply chains” (words by the AmCham, in San Juan de Ulua, Veracruz, on April 22, 2022) and turn the Isthmus of Tehuantepec into a center of development controlled by those at the top.
If this is not enough to demonstrate that a neocolonial crusade over the Isthmus of Tehuantepec is coming for everything and everyone, from March 19 to 21 of this year (2023), some of the future administrators of this region will come to diagnose the territory. The Federal Executive has invited legislators from the United States to come on those dates to offer the region to them. Among those who have publicly announced their participation is John Kerry, currently the United States special presidential envoy for climate.
If all these statements that the United States is making publicly about its intentions in the Isthmus had been made in the past, and not even the very distant past, we know that the inhabitants of this region and the whole of the territory dominated by the Mexican State, would have righteously raised the issue and brought to public discussion the imminent surrender of this territory to foreign interests, or in other words, the threat to our sovereignty. But this is not the case at the moment. Why not? As we have emphasized before, today the danger is dressed up as a leftist and from his podium he convinces his followers to surrender themselves as instruments of submission. Erasure of memory is one of his main qualities.
To conclude, it is important never to forget that a country is and will be dominated by the capital invested in it. Ken Salazar, AmCham and John Kerry are not the only ones in this camp. The colonialist crusade that clings to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, involves capitalist conglomerates relocating global supply chains to be nearer to their closest and most powerful ally: the United States. The current scenario of war, pandemic and disruption of commerce, forces capitalism to reorganize; the Isthmus of Tehuantepec is once again positioned as the heart of relocations, with increasing militarization and punitive mechanisms aimed at Indigenous communities. This megaproject is not only for the connection and distribution of goods to the USA, Asia, Europe and Central America, it will allow companies to insert themselves in the area order to regionalize global value chains and promote the development of productive activities that generate large quantities of goods to supply the immediate market, the USA, or the international market. The cost will be the environmental, territorial, symbolic and political degradation of everything that constitutes the entirety of this region.
Are we exaggerating? We wish we were. It has been announced that Constellation Brands an American company that produces and markets beer, wine, and spirits, will be installed in one of the 10 polygonal areas that the State has offered. A brewery will be built in one of the Centers of Development for Wellbeing (PODEBI by its acronym in Spanish) located in Veracruz. The brewery conglomerate has been given 17 concessions to extract 3,972,355 cubic meters of water for this purpose. Constellation Brands requires 20 million cubic meters of water annually to operate. And no, it will not be using recycled water, because the Federal Executive has said that there is plenty of water in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec; and who better to take advantage of this resource than a multinational?
But this company, based in New York, is not the only one accompanying the U.S. General Staff in the crusade for the Isthmus. It has been announced that a total of 400 companies from Asia are interested in relocating in Mexico. Several among them are interested in coming to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. We highlight: Caxxor Group, Hyundai Motor Company, Amazon Inc, CARGILL, General Motors, VISTEON, SHELL and NESTLE, among several others that come together both in the AmCham as in the Council of Global Companies. Raquel Buenrostro (Secretary of Economy), recently offered the region to the latter.
Let’s go back to John Kerry. According to the Federal Executive, the recent visit of this American legislator to Mexico is due to the fact that the United States will be the main investor in the four wind farms that will be installed next to the PODEBI. According to the President of the Republic, the United States will provide resources to the CFE (Federal Electricity Commission) to be the owner of these wind farms. What they have not said is that there are also capitalist conglomerates focused on the wind farms sector, such as: Applied Energy Services (AES corporation); EDP Renewables; Sempra Infrastructure; TC Energy; INVENERGY; and again SHELL. Do you really believe that it will be for the benefit of the population?
The Neocolonialist enterprise over the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, headed by the U.S., will lead to the commercialization, speculation and disappearance of everything that constitutes the territory, under mountains of ash and scrap thrown up by the Centers of Development and Well-Being. American and probably Asian domination is the main goal of the crusade undertaken by the capitalist conglomerates. It will allow for an almost miraculous improvement of the means of production and at the same time a catastrophic dislocation of the life of the 12 indigenous peoples that inhabit this isthmic region.
And as we emphasized before, today once again the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and we, who are an organic part of it, must be on the alert, since the new plantation owner occupying the presidential chair wants to amputate our territory and hand it over to the foremen, who he really represents. If we let them advance, they will come to strip us of our land and our memory, they will close our ears and our hearts to the voices that warn us as omens: it is time to walk very carefully, to defend, as have those who preceded us, this vast territory that belongs to us, we who make the worlds and the symphonies, in the face of the gringos who come to divide up this convulsive but beautiful territory.
Five days before the U.S. tour of our territory, we say to them: we will be waiting for you, with dignity and without stepping back. For the defense of life and our territories.
Undoubtedly there are more veins that unite us than the cracks that divide us.
From the Isthmus of Tehuantepec this is our word as well as our call to be ALERT.
Assembly of Indigenous Peoples of the Isthmus in Defense of Land and Territory – APIIDTT
En español: http://www.congresonacionalindigena.org/2023/03/13/neocolonialismo-en-el-istmo-de-tehuantepec-ya-vienen-los-gringos/
You are invited to participate in the Chiapas Support Committee’s Forum on Megaprojects (Interoceanic Corridor and the “Maya” Train). You can register for the El Sur Resiste / The South Resists forum here.