miércoles, agosto 20, 2008

Zihuatanejo's Neighbors Under Attack

Battle at La Barra de Potosí

Property under dispute - workers blocking beach access at Cerro de Huamilule In the photo above, Marines from the Mexican Armada are called upon to prevent a would-be developer's workers from blocking access to the federal zone as beachgoers look on.

Well, it's begun. Developers are trying to run off locals to build a megaproject and a marina at La Barra de Potosí, apparently with the collusion of corrupt officials, allegedly including Petatlán's mayor. They are using some dirty tactics indeed, twice destroying the house of the family who owns the land the developer is trying to steal. Marines and police were called to the site on August 7th of this year to prevent a violent confrontation between workers for the crooked developer (the same one who last year tried to pay Zihuatanejo fishermen to leave the Laguna Las Salinas in Zihuatanejo in order to build a marina) and ejiditarios of La Barra who were trying to unblock an access the workers were blocking along the federal zone. The police from Petatlán refused to assist the local residents to uphold the law and instead protected the lawbreakers so they could continue their work: the theft of land and the destruction of the ecology.

The developer allegedly acquired bogus land titles to the Cerro de Huamilule property that originated from a former employee of the Secretaría de la Reforma Agraria (SRA) named Raúl Mendoza Benalonso, now deceased, but apparently his son is carrying on with the fraud. It appears to be a complicated legal affair, but the attacks against the Garibo Vargas family and the determination of locals to protect their neighbors is fairly simple and straightforward. The developers have resorted to well-known tactics used by people who believe they are influential due to the collusion of corrupt "public servants". It's an old story but the same one that incited a revolution here almost 100 years ago.

This fight is far from over, but hopefully the crooked developers and corrupt officials will be exposed and punished before any more damage is done or anyone gets seriously hurt or worse. The folks at La Barra can certainly count on the support of their amigos here in Zihuatanejo!

Ecocide and Destruction of Mangroves
Lagoon and restaurants at La Barra de Potosí

It's been reported that the construction crew for the business Desarrolladora Interad, SA de CV, whose lawyer is Pedro Olea Bracamontes and whose architect overseeing the workers is Roberto Mario Guala from Argentina, are in the process of destroying mangroves and filling in a section of the Laguna de Potosí to build a road to the property they are allegedly trying to steal from the Garibo Vargas family. The "authorities responsible" for upholding the federal environmental laws that are supposed to protect mangroves have remained notoriously absent and silent and have thus far allowed the destruction in spite of all the local publicity this issue has received. Quite to the contrary, the local Petatlán tourist police have allegedly been protecting the workers of the person trying to steal the land.

The inspector from PROFEPA (the federal environmental prosecutor) showed up on Monday, August 18th at La Barra and bore witness to the destruction of mangroves and other species as well as the filling in of an area of the lagoon that affects the natural flow of water. Sr. Justo Villa Villa said that, after the initial investigation and report by his office, it is probable that the case will be turned over to the PGR (the federal attorney general's office) for prosecution.

Here's a message from Barra de Potosí resident and lodging owner Laura Kelly that she posted on my Zihuatanejo Message Board

Profepa has been contacted by the locals in La Barra and visited the site yesterday. They observed the damage and interviewed a worker confirming who the responsible parties are.

Profepa announced that their visit confirmed that the developers have in fact destroyed protected mangroves with the building of the tepetate road (500 meters done). They have also mentioned that apparently no Environmental Impact Report exists (necessary before such a road should be even begun even if they had legal possession of the land involved which they don't by the way) and that this would be difficult to obtain given the law protecting the mangroves.

As reported in El SUR de Acapulco, Profepa says they will initiate the corresponding administrative proceeding and that if this action reveals a criminal situation that they will denounce the development company (Pedro Olea Bracamontes as representative and Roberto Mario Guala known as the Architect [head] of the firm Desarrolladora Interad, SA de CV) to the PGR (corresponding to the Attorney General's office in the USA).

Let's hope this can produce some action quickly to stop them now from doing any more damage.

Meanwhile the community is working against this in various ways including forging contacts for help from the outside with environmental activists on Regional and Federal level.


Since the government at all levels has so far failed to do their job and has instead allowed lawlessness to fill in the vacuum of their absence, local ejiditarios have taken machetes in hand in defense of their neighbor's property and have vowed that blood will flow if the government continues allowing this injustice to take place.

It saddens me immensely that this is happening to what should be such a peaceful community undisturbed by lawlessness, rapacious greed or corruption. When "progress" destroys communities and ruins lives then it is not the progress we seek, and in this region of Guerrero it will only foment more animosity against authority and the perceived members of the social class seen as responsible for the injustice.

Here is a video of part of the road that the developers are widening and building up so heavy equipment can pass as well as the area where mangroves are being destroyed before the destruction began.

For more background on this subject see the following articles:

Se vislumbra una tragedia por un predio - El Diario de Zihuatanejo, Viernes 4 de Julio del 2008 (apparently the article has been removed from the archives of this newspaper)

Denuncia una familia que pretenden quitarles un predio en Barra de Potosí, Petatlán - El Sur de Acapulco, Lunes 5 de Julio del 2008

Van a la SRA a protestar por amenazas de desalojo familias de Zihuatanejo y Petatlán - El Sur de Acapulco, Domingo 6 de Julio del 2008

Interviene la Armada en pleito ejidal en Petatlán - La Jornada de Guerrero, Viernes 8 de Agosto del 2008

Cumple la familia Garibo 24 horas de vigilancia en sus terrenos para evitar que los despojen - El Sur de Acapulco, Sábado 9 de Agosto del 2008

Destruyen el cercado particulares que les quieren quitar sus terrenos en Barra de Potosí, denuncia la familia Garibo - El Sur de Acapulco, Miércoles 13 de Agosto del 2008

Inspecciona el MP federal la zona del conflicto en el cerro del Huamilule, en Barra de Potosí - El Sur de Acapulco, Jueves 14 de Agosto del 2008

Azolvan con tepetate la laguna de Barra de Potosí y destruyen el mangle, denuncia la UCD - El Sur de Acapulco, Lunes 18 de Agosto del 2008