The whole country is celebrating the hundredth anniversary of the capture of Zacatecas, a milestone in the Mexican Revolution that began in 1910, an event that signalled the triumph of the popular and agrarian expressions of this armed movement, as were those of Villa and Zapata. If the latter brought campesinos to the struggle under the slogan: “The land is for those who work it”, now the Government of Peña Nieto is commemorating the centenary by diminishing, if not actually eliminating the rights of the campesinos, Indian communities and small farmers to the land.
This is brought to a climax in the Senate discussion of legislative proposals on questions of energy to implement the reform of the Constitution, approved last December by the PRI, the party of Peña Nieto, the small parties allied with him and the majority of PAN. This reform opens the way for the privatization of hydrocarbons and of the generation of electric energy, that up to now were the property of the Mexican nation.
While the Mining Law presently in force, promulgated in 1992, declares that “The exploration, exploitation and benefits accruing from minerals or substances to which this law refers, will have precedence over any other use or utilization of the land…” (Art. 6), now the notion of preference, or primacy over any other use, will extend to all extractive activity.
In effect, according to the reports approved to date in the respective Senate committees, the exploration and the extraction of hydrocarbons is regarded as a strategic activity, pertaining to public order and social interest. In addition, the notion of “easement” has been introduced for petroleum, hydrocarbons, minerals and electric power installations, which leads to not only the expropriation of communities and individuals whose subsoil is rich in minerals or hydrocarbons or thermal aquifers, but also of properties where the construction of installations, pipelines and transmission lines is needed for these activities.
The consequences of approving the measures proposed by PRI, their allies and the majority of PAN are very serious:
Mexicans and their communities become in fact second class citizens, since the rights of exploitation of hydrocarbons and minerals, in addition to the easements, in the hands of foreign companies, take precedence over all their individual and communitarian human rights, establishing a serious contradiction with the spirit and the letter of the Political Constitution of the United States of Mexico, beginning with Article 1, that guarantees the full enjoyment of all human rights.
The appropriation of the greater part of the Mexican territory and the invasion of foreign energy or mining companies will be notably accelerated. Even without the reforms, it has to be noted that 56 million hectares, more than one fourth of the national territory, have been handed over to enterprises, in their majority involving foreign ownership. If Mexico is already evaluated by the Survey of Mining Companies 2009-2010 as the second most favourable country to mining investment, just below Chile, the reforms the legislators of PRI and PAN will ensure that Mexico will surpass the Pinochet heritage as a sell-out. Hence a Senator said that mining reforms need to be expanded… “in order to promote this sector of the economy.” Nevertheless, from 2000 to 2010, 419.097 kilos of gold were extracted from this country, more than twice the amount of gold that was extracted during three hundred years of Spanish colonization: 1521-1830; 191.825 kilos (Juan Luis Sariego: Extractivismo y sustentabilidad: la conflictiva actual en la minería mexicana).
The primacy of the dedication of land to the extraction of hydrocarbons, water and minerals, as well as the easements, has a serious impact on food production, particularly with respect to campesino, indigenous and family agriculture. If today the area cultivated in Mexico amounts to some 21 million hectares, less than half of the area conceded to mining, it is to be feared that this area will be reduced, along with food production. This will continue the tendency already established from the beginning of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA): the country will export energy to buy, at high prices, the food that could be produced here. The right to food will be even further removed from a growing majority of Mexicans. Food sovereignty will be lost and the sovereignty of energy production will also be lost, since these will be in the hands of transnational corporations rather than in Mexican enterprises.
In addition to placing Mexicans’ right to food in serious danger, the impact of secondary legislation in matters of energy such as that being imposed by PRI and the majority of PAN will amount to a threat to the human right to a clean environment. Open pit mining, hydraulic fracking for shale or schist gas, or even drilling for oil brings serious damage to the environment and the health of the population. It can also lead to the disappearance of aquifers in areas where there is a shortage of water.
The reforms in questions of hydrocarbons, electric energy and geothermic energy promote irresponsible and unsustainable extractivism. If this country is already one of the world leaders in the export of human labour, it will now become the undisputed leader in the exportation of nature. At a time when, from all sides, artists, social movements, scientists, raise their voices by the millions crying out for a change in our civilization, for a substantial transformation in our habits of consumption, our use of energy, and the reduction of greenhouse gases, Peña Nieto, PRI and the majority of PAN either ignore all this or they have subjected it to their small-minded electoral or economic interests.
Beyond an attitude of surrender, beyond antinationalism, the spirit of these secondary laws involves a machismo with respect to the earth: something to be used, violated, penetrated, removed and sold. The earth is not considered, in the words of Leonardo Boff, “as a Mother that should be loved, respected and cared for…with whom there must be a natural contract that will ensure the survival of our planet”, as the indigenous peoples have taught us.
The government of Peña Nieto, his party, his allies and the majority of PAN believe that with these laws they are making a leap forward. On the contrary, they are chaining this country to a form of civilization that oozes death from all its pores.
(Translated for ALAI by Jordan Bishop)