Day 4 – Oteapan, Veracruz: Resisting displacement that only benefits the rich

The banner reads: “Oteapan is not alone.”

Oteapan is a community that was displaced once before.  It is still present in the collective memory that 300 years ago the community had to leave their lands located on the border between the states of Tabasco and Veracruz.  They denounce that that displacement was also due to “problems of the rich, they denounce that now, after so many years the rich also intend to displace them to continue destroying and making money with other lands.

On the fourth day of the El Sur Resiste caravan we go to Oteapan, Veracruz. This highway traces a similar path of the intended route of the Interoceanic Train.  It has united the peoples of Veracruz and Oaxaca against one of the most destructive projects of the 4T (Fourth Transformation).

Oteopan is the waist of the region.  As in all the caravan, the reception was warm in the Naranial Neighborhood, next to the Dina neighborhood, and the comrades in resistance there launched fireworks announcing our arrival.  The political ceremonies were accompanied by traditional music from the south of Veracruz.  Homage was paid to Bety Cariño and Jyri Jaakkola, ten years after their assassination while they were with a humanitarian caravan in San Juan Copala, Oaxaca.  Members of the community of Oteapan remembered walking with Bety. Children and youth of the community read poems in her honor.

The panorama confronted by Oteapan is not much different from what we have documented since the first day of this caravan.  The 4T has tried, in every possible way, to destroy the community’s social fabric in order to impose the Interoceanic Corridor, along with its associated megaprojects.

One youth denounced that two years ago the government expropriated 2000 hectares of the community.  This problem is over 80 years in the making.  At first the state government of Veracruz tried to take 200 hectares. Since 2022, it has tried to take seven neighborhoods: La Dina, Tierra Colorada, Tapalan, Porvenir, Rancho Alegre, Predio Viveros, and Naranial. These lands are in the territory where the railway intends to pass and they are alongside where the Trans-Isthmus highway connects with Oaxaca.

The community blockaded the highway on March 7, 2022 demanding dialogue and respect for their territorial limits. Nevertheless, also in this community the response from the state was violence and displacement by police and tear gas.  On March 8 they were beaten by police who burned 50 motorbikes and 4 automobiles belonging to the community.

Photo: David Munoz.

“We do not agree that the government comes for our vote and then treats us this way”

While the event was taking place in the morning, we found out that the encampment, Tierra y Libertad from Mogoñé Viejo in Oaxaca, where the caravan had just been the day before, had been brutally displaced by the Navy, the National Guard, and the municipal police.

The response of the caravan was solidarity and participation in organized action.  After the announcement of the news the people of Oteapan and other communities of Veracruz decided to block the Trans-Isthmus highway. 

Blocking the highway. Photo: David Valero.

Open Air Dumping of Coke

Since 2013, an open coke dump has been installed on top of springs in Jaltipan, the municipality next to Oteapan.  Toxic waste from petroleum production arrives at this plant from the Pemex Plant, General Lazaro Cárdenas in Minatitlan, Veracruz.

For years the community of Jaltipan and other nearby communities have denounced the negative impacts of this activity on the environment of the region and on the health of the inhabitants.  Nonetheless, no authority has attended to these denouncements from the local people, and to this day, the plant continues to operate.

A youth from the community expressed concern that with living close to the plant, even though it is not in Oteapan, it impacts the entire region.  “Coke is extremely toxic; it contaminates the layer of subterranean water.  The gases evaporate and scatter all over the zone… We don’t know how far they spread, it’s very carcinogenic.”

Photo: Karen Castillo.

According to the inhabitants, campesinos that live near the coke plant have observed that the activities have begun to move closer to lands of Oteapan, another problem that none of the three levels of government has addressed yet.

Originally Published in Spanish by El Sur Resiste, Friday, April 28, 2023, and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

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