Puebla-Panama Trojan Horse against EZLN

Tue, 27 Feb 2001 From: Chiapaslink

On the day that the Zapatista march reaches Puebla, while Fox addresses big business at the World Economic Forum in Cancun, the key issue of the development path of the south/south-east of Mexico is again at stake, and more acute than ever with the infamous "Plan Puebla-Panama" - a new neoliberal offensive which aims to kill two birds with one stone: promoting economic globalisation and undermining the Zapatista struggle for autonomy.

We are enclosing two articles on the Puebla-Panama Plan which appeared in La Jornada in Spanish, preceded by a brief summary of both in English - the first by Roberto Gonzales Amador from the 5th January 2001, the second by Carlos Fazio from the 10th Jan 2001. Both are available on the web at
http://unam.netgate.net/jornada/ (use the search engine with dates.)

We're trying to collect as much information as possible on this project, so if you have any documents/websites/articles on the Puebla-Panama plan, please send them to us at chiapaslink@yahoo.com

Muchas gracias y saludos solidarios,

The project, which aims to turn the area between Puebla (just south of Mexico City) and Panama into a "development corridor" in order to integrate these regions into the global economy, has a budget of 80,000 million pesos (US$9 billion). It is the economic side of a counter-insurgency plan that has its military side in the low intensity war against the Zapatista rebellion. According to its promoters, the central idea of the programme in relation to the south-east of Mexico is to create the economic conditions for the inhabitants of this region -- primarily subsistence farmers-- to work in the oil, tourism, and maquiladora (sweat-shop) industries.

The "Proyecto Puebla-Panama" was originally devised by a member of the previous PRI government and is now being supervised by multi-millionaire Alfonso Romo, president of the agro-biotechnology transnational Grupo Pulsar. Referring to the Chiapas part of this project, Romo has stated that it is "the one I like best out of all my business enterprises" (see www.ciepac.org/analysis/pulsar for more information on Pulsar).

Romo has a joint project in association with Conservation International (of which he is a board member) in the Lacandon rainforest in Chiapas, allegedly for conservation purposes. According to Miguel Pickard, from the Centre for Economic Research and Community Action Policies (CIEPAC), it is very likely that behind these so-called
environmentally-friendly projects lurk "biopiracy" activities - the robbery of medicinal plants and knowledge for patents by transnational corporations.

The Lacandon rainforest hosts key resources in terms of water, oil and biodiversity. According to the World Bank, Chiapas is an "interesting experimental field in biotechnology and biodiversity for business investors". In the 1.9 million hectares of the Lacandon rainforest, partly controlled by the Zapatistas, there is 25% of the surface water of Mexico (which generates 45% of it hydroelectric power), more than half of the species of Mexican tropical trees, 3,500 plant species, 114 of mammals, and 345 of birds. Oil reserves are equally located under key areas of Zapatista influence, as are plans for further hydroelectric dams and privatisation of water supplies.

In the area of the project that concerns Mexico, four stages have been devised. The first is about modernising the transport infrastructure (trains, roads, airports) in order to facilitate the extraction of goods and resources out of the area. The second is a concerted drive towards agricultural modernisation to increase exports (which includes biotechnology). The third is support for small and medium sized businesses, and attracting companies to the region, including maquiladoras. The last is to exploit the touristic potential of the region, principally through further road constructions.

It is not difficult to deduce that the "modernisation" of Chiapas implies the expulsion of indigenous communities from these areas, which significantly contradict the spirit of the San Andres Accords and calls for autonomy by the Zapatistas and indigenous populations of the south-east of Mexico. It is a further step towards uprooting indigenous peoples from their communal ways and orienting them towards an individualistic monetarised economy, in line with Fox's famous pre-election statement that what indigenous people need is "tele, vocho y changarro" (TV, a Volkswagen beetle, and a small business).

Conflict in Chiapas: Understanding the Modern Mayan World
by Worth H. Weller, Ben Weller (Photographer), Julia Weller (Photographer)
$16.95, Paperback, March 1, 2000
Rebellion in Chiapas : An Historical Reader
by John Womack (Editor)
$14.36, Paperback , March 1999
Voices from Exile : Violence and Survival in Modern Maya History
by Victor Montejo
$18.17, Hardcover, October 1999
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