Thursday, June 20, 2024

Court rules in favor of Oaxaca Zapotec community in land dispute with energy company

The Unitary Agrarian Court, located in Tuxtepec, Oaxaca, ordered the company Mexican Wind Developments (Demex) to vacate and return part of the land used for its Piedra Larga wind farm to the Unión Hidalgo Zapotec community. The ruling, made on November 15, rendered the company’s land lease contracts null. It will now have to remove its wind farm from the communal lands. 

In its decision, the court recognized the communal and agrarian nature of the land, claiming that Demex improperly rented it as private property. Demex is a subsidiary of the Spanish energy firm Renovalia. 

This is the second time a judge has ruled against Demex in favor of the Zapotec community. The first ruling, made in September, annulled 11 individual land lease contracts with the company. 

In June, the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) canceled contracts permitting the French energy company Électricité de France (EDF) to supply wind energy, making the construction of its wind farm in Oaxaca unviable. 

ProDESC non profit group in Oaxaca
ProDESC coordinator Juan Antonio López, seen here at a press conference after the ruling, called the court decision a major victory, ProDESC/Twitter

The Unión Hidalgo community, with the support of ProDESC, a nonprofit human rights defense association, has been fighting dispossession by Demex for over nine years. Beginning in 2006, company representatives went to the Unión Hidalgo community to convince members to rent their lands for the installation of the wind farm. 

While individual owners signed contracts, there were complaints that community members were not given information in their native Zapotec language. They also did not receive any information about the possible environmental and social impacts. 

ProDESC coordinator Juan Antonio López hailed the court’s decision as a major victory, stating that it not only directly benefits the Unión Hidalgo community, but Mexico’s entire Indigenous population. 

“It sets the precedent for any community member, in the future, to declare the nullity of contracts that have been authorized by individuals and not by agreement of a General Assembly of Community Members,” López said when announcing the victory.  

Wind farm in La Venta
Oaxaca has over 20 wind farms operated by private companies, according to government data, like this one in La Ventosa, owned by the Spanish company Acciona. Government of Oaxaca

The Unión Hidalgo Zapotec community is located on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Mexico’s narrowest point between the Pacific and Gulf of Mexico. The isthmus, which crosses through Oaxaca and Veracruz, has long been strategic for development projects. It is also the region with the greatest potential for wind energy. 

One of President López Obrador’s priority projects is to develop the isthmus as a trade corridor, with the construction of 10 industrial parks, a trans-isthmus highway, and modernization of the railroad linking both coasts. He argues that it will encourage economic and social development in the region

However, Indigenous communities and human rights organizations, among others, oppose the project on the grounds that it will cause environmental damage and adversely impact local communities’ way of life. 

Development projects in the region have historically faced major barriers, with more US$15 billion in investment having been lost over the last 35 years, primarily due to local resistance. 

With reports by El Universal

Have something to say? Paid Subscribers get all access to make & read comments.
Department of Justice building

DOJ charges 24 in Sinaloa Cartel money laundering conspiracy

The U.S. said 24 people are part of a drug trafficking and money laundering conspiracy linking the Sinaloa Cartel to illicit banking in China.
A faucet with water coming out

Mexico City’s water supply from Cutzamala system to be shut off for repair

To repair a "sudden" leak in one of the system's control valves, authorities will cut off water on Wednesday night for six hours.
Tropical Storm One projection Cyclone Albert

Potential tropical cyclone approaches northeastern coast of Mexico

The potential tropical cyclone could become the first named storm of the hurricane season by Wednesday.