The machete-wielding foes of Mexico City’s new airport are back.
When the government of Vicente Fox attempted to build a new airport for the city in 2002, residents of ejidos, or community-owned lands, successfully quashed the plans.
Fourteen years later, inhabitants of San Salvador Atenco are protesting once again.
On Saturday, protesters blocked construction of what is to become a 17-kilometer connecting road between the new airport (NAICM) and the Pirámides-Texcoco highway.
After noting the start of preliminary work the previous night, they turned up with machetes at noon on Saturday to prevent workers from continuing.
Residents of both San Salvador Atenco and Tocuila, under the banner of the People’s Land Defense Front (FPDT), claim the road will cross community lands. They said the towns have filed an amparo against construction of the road.
“We’ve grown tired of warning the government, asking them to stop harassing us and to stop trying to take our territory.”
Earlier this month the FPDT removed a group of workers who were placing posts to mark the road’s path. The workers at the time were accompanied by military officials, a detail FPDT leader Ignacio del Valle considered “a provocation.”
“We remain calm because what [the government] wants is to break that tranquility; they’re engaging in something we do not want, and still we remain respectful,” he said.
The people from Atenco and Tocuila managed to seize several front-end loaders and steamrollers, and stopped 15 dump trucks from reaching the construction site and depositing their loads of gravel.
After some tense moments between FPDT members and construction workers, the latter decided to withdraw and remove their machinery and construction supplies from the site.
Work on the 17-kilometer-long road started over a year ago. A four-kilometer stretch has been completed and is now in use. The remaining 13 kilometers cross the ejidos of Tocuila, La Magdalena, Francisco I. Madero, Atenco, Acuexcomac and Nexquipayac.
The company in charge of the construction, Pinfra, said work will continue in order to fulfill its contract. “We’re sure that the government will do its part, we only request that the safety of the workers be guaranteed,” an anonymous representative told the newspaper La Jornada.
The construction budget for the US $9.4-billion airport this year is 5 billion pesos, or $288 million. The first phase should be largely finished by 2020 when the terminal building and three runways are expected to be in operation.