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Bad Wind Energy: When Built Illegally & Harming Indigenous Communities

Indigenous communities in Chiapas are fighting against large wind energy projects by asserting their rights to their communal lands.
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Indigenous communities in Chiapas are fighting against large wind energy projects by asserting their rights to their communal lands; activists say the communities were not consulted and that the projects are illegal and built too close to their farms and homes, causing damages not considered in an environmental impact statement filed six years ago.

The fight against the wind projects started in late 2012 and in March of 2013 a local community radio station, Radio Totopo, was shut down by authorities after the station had been broadcasting translations of the contracts with the wind project company, Gas Natural Fenosa (GNF), into the Zapotec language. One of the stations coordinators, Carlos Sanchez, was injured when state police dismantled the station. He noted at the time that some local indigenous people, who do not speak Spanish, were tricked into signing contracts with GNF. Sanchez is also a member of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Juchitan (PAPJ) which has been trying to prevent the continued construction of wind energy stations on their lands.

In May of this year, the PAPJ filed an agrarian injunction for legal recognition of their indigenous lands in the municipality of Salinas Cruz, Oaxaca. As of press time the court had not responded to the request according to Juan Luis de la Rosa, a spokesperson with Sipaz, an international peace organization that has been assisting the Juchitan community. De la Rosa stated that his organization had received reports that indigenous opponents of the wind energy projects were still facing threats, kidnapping and assaults as a result of their opposition.

But the point for Sanchez and his mostly indigenous allies is that the building of the upcoming park, along with others already constructed, are illegally located on indigenous communal lands.

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"Of the 15 parks already built on the Isthmus, 10 are on communal land, a total of 168,000 acres. In the Biio Hioxo Park alone there are seven sacred sites in 4,490 acres of communal lands," Sanchez stated, referring to the most recent project called Biio Hioxo to be built by the town of Juchitan.

"We demand the recognition of our communal lands and we note that the 10 parks in Juchitan are illegal because they are on communal lands. Communities have no information on these projects. The projects do not have authorization from the Juchitan community to be executed," he asserted.

Sanchez pointed out that in the last 35 years the Department of Agrarian Reform granted land titles on communal land.

In an interview in 2013, Sanchez recounted the history of wind energy projects in his region and noted that the indigenous people are not against wind energy technology but against these illegal projects.

"Starting in 2001, they began the operation of the first wind energy park in the Isthmus, with the installation of 1,500 turbines. There was no direct benefit to the population and had no respect of the flora and fauna, no respect for the indigenous communities nor the communities desire to conserve their farms, their ocean, their water and their wind, for that reason we oppose this wind energy project; not against the technology, we are against the form in which this project is operating."