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“We are not asking for much. Peace processes, spaces for dialogue, information. But when faced with an authoritarian State, this seems a lot”, said activist Rosalinda Hidalgo, of the Mexican Movement of People Affected by Dams and in Defense of Rivers (MAPDER).
“The murder of Noé Vazquez was a clear message to all people mobilizing. The perpetrators of the murder are in prison, but the masterminds behind it remain free”, said the member of LAVIDA (the Environmental Defense and Initiatives Assembly of Veracruz). “But we are not silent, on the contrary, our voices are stronger than ever”.
Hidalgo made these statements in a public forum on “Alternatives and Paradigm Change” held in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas State, Mexico, from May 3-6 and organized by Otros Mundos Chiapas – Friends of the Earth Mexico in the framework of the Sustainability School of Friends of the Earth Latin America and the Caribbean (ATALC).
Noe Vazquez was murdered on August 2nd, 2013, while he was preparing the opening ceremony for the 10th MAPDER meeting in Veracruz State. MAPDER was celebrating its 10th anniversary of struggle and resistance against the privatization of water sources in Mexico.
Back then, Real World Radio reported that Veracruz was under strong tension due to the resistance against the building of different dams granted by the federal government, including in the area where the MAPDER meeting took place, Amatlán de los Reyes.
According to Hidalgo, in Mexico there are over 580 dam projects that “correspond to the energy model aimed to by the Mexican government”, and only in Veracruz there are a 100 “which means that there are over 100 socio-environmental conflicts”.
The activist believes that Vazquez murder was a breaking point in the persecution against environmental defenders. When speaking about Veracruz, she said it is an area controlled by organized crime, where in addition to the more traditional environmental threats (oil and deforestation), there are others such as mining, fracking and hydroelectric dams.
Within this atmosphere of harassment and murders against nature defenders, Hidalgo highlighted the role of alternative media, considered as “tools for the defense of people”. The activist highlighted the halt to three megaprojects. “We are seeing that they are not invincible. Mobilization modifies power discourses, but also their practice”.
Hidalgo also established a clear analogy between the persecution against environmental activists in Mexico with their situation in Colombia and Central America in general. “However, we see our victories and that the struggle is worth it. This is a starting point to create new societies, to establish politically democratic territories. This will take time, but the process has started and we hope it doesn´t take that long”, she highlighted.
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