The Four Horsemen of Chiapas


1. OIL

What Hermann Bellinghausen calls the ‘four horsemen of Chiapas’ have come into focus again with the announcement that Pemex are to start prospecting and drilling for oil in the Lacandon Jungle, among other areas in the Mexican South-East. In 2009, private companies will be invited to tender for this work. During her visit to Chiapas, the Mexican Energy Secretary Georgina Kessel predicted that the Chiapas oilfields could be producing 500,000 barrels of oil a day from 17,000 new wells by 2021. The Zapatistas have always predicted that this prospecting would happen, especially in their heartland area of La Garrucha, invaded by the Mexican army in June 2008. The announcement generated opposition from indigenous communities, and two days later, Ms Kessel denied her previous statement: “I never said there were going to be oil explorations in the Selva Lacandona”. When asked where Pemex’s new refinery would be situated, she replied that this was a ‘highly technical’ matter.

2. “BIO”FUELS (1)

During her meeting with Chiapas governor Juan Sabines, Georgina Kessel also announced the construction of a “bio”-fuel plant, to produce “bio”-diesel using Colombian technology. She said Chiapas was a “strategic location” for this plant. The diesel would be produced from Jatropha curcus, a native to Central America. This controversial plant is a member of the Euphorbia family, and is also known as Black Vomit Nut, due to its toxic properties, which can affect humans and animals. As few as three seeds have been found to produce a toxic reaction. The plant has been banned in parts of India. It is popular because it can be grown in dry, marginal soils. Experts predict at least 7,500 acres of monoculture production of this crop will be required to supply the plant. Two previous such plants in Mexico, funded by the state at a cost of $US 500,000 have been abandoned due to the lack of a market for this relatively expensive form of fuel.


The granting of mining concessions to transnational companies, many of them Canadian, is growing in Chiapas, particularly in the Sierra Madre, and the Frontier region. Canadian mining companies are notorious throughout Latin America, from Peru to Guatemala, for their ruthless eviction of traditional communities and for their devastation and pollution of lands and rivers. There are apparently 55 new mining applications pending in Chiapas, for the exploration and extraction until 2056 of gold, silver, copper, barite, lead, titanium, iron, zinc, antimony, molybdenum, and other minerals needed for the oil industry. The JBG of La Realidad were approached by a mining company in 2007 who offered a clinic, equipment, medicines, a salary of over 200 pesos a day and a good payment in return for a mining agreement. Their reply was “our dignity has no price”.


The planned vast tourist development for the area between Palenque and San Cristobal has been delayed by the international financial crisis, Sabines announced on November 23; however the airport at Palenque is going ahead at a cost of 240 million pesos. The current proposed site is now considered a haven for drug traffickers. There are negotiations going on for a new site with the owners of fields near the current airport where the viability of the soil for crop-growing has been destroyed by growing oil palm and rubber as monoculture, according to La Jornada, describing the situation as “full neoliberalism”. They also show a photo of a road being built to the Caracol of Roberto Barrios, together with a bridge over the river, part of the planned tourist development. Another 140 million pesos has already been spent on the controversial highway between San Cristobal and Palenque.


This ambitious neo-liberal development has now been recycled as ‘the Mesoamerica Project’, but it involves the same four horsemen of Chiapas: tourism, minerals, “bio”energy and oil. It now has the added link with Colombia. The international market and the multinationals demand road construction, minerals, tourist infrastructure and agro-industry. These developments are not, however, going ahead without substantial grassroots community opposition. (2)



On 21st November , during a trip to the state of Chiapas, the Mexican Energy Secretary, Georgina Kessel, made two official announcements which imply further very serious threats to the rich biodiversity of the state of Chiapas and to the rights and the lands of the indigenous peoples of the region.

These announcements relate, on the one hand, to the imminent exploitation of oil deposits in the Lacandon Jungle, and, on the other, to the construction in Chiapas of a “bio”-fuel plant, using Colombian technology (together with its extensive rapacious monoculture plantations of African oil palm), which - according to Kessel and to Governor Juan Sabines – represent “more progress and development for the benefit of the families of Chiapas”.

In addition, we need to add to this picture the accelerating growth, in the Sierra, Frontier, and Central regions of Chiapas, of mining concessions in favour of multinational companies, mainly of Canadian origin; as well as the recent official decision from the Calderon government, announced on the 20th November by the Secretaries of Public Finance and Communication – and encouraged and praised by the cartel of building companies headed by Carlos Slim – to consider public investment in infrastructure (motorways, like the planned one between San Cristobal and Palenque; dams like la Parota or Boca el Cerro; oil extraction, and airports) as “the most important foundation of the official plan to confront the international economic crisis”.

With this, the federal and state governments have shown that they have embarked on a ‘schizophrenic demagogy’ in which, at the same time as they announce policies, programmes and “green” resources to tackle climate change, there is an obvious contradiction as they are clearly demonstrating themselves in favour of a return to a savage capitalism, of a short-term and extractive character, together with the interests of grand capital, of the biotechnology and pharmaceutical sectors, of those producing bottled water and all those keen to convert wood and forest cover into “sinks” for the multinational carbon market; of all those hiding behind a disguise of green philanthropy and supported by cross-governmental, national and international organisations, and calling themselves “conservationists”, and who have been encouraging and applauding the official policy of pillaging and plundering the biodiverse indigenous territories and turning them into ‘Protected Natural Areas’ “for the benefit of humanity”.

Today, with the recent announcements in favour of short-term predatory and extractive capital , multinational “conservation” organisations and corporations will be able to say to themselves “no one knows who we are working for....”

( The basic question is: Will the indigenous people and campesino communities, with their lands, natural resources and rights all threatened, permit this proposed plunder to take place?)

Maderas del Pueblo del Sureste, A.C., San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Nov 23, 2008 (3)

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