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Lumber and Murder: Following The Paper Trail

GS & JNP | 13.04.2008 23:30 | Ecology | Globalisation | Repression | London | World

CIPO-RFM in Oaxaca have documented to date 517 detentions and tortured people, 103 police and paramilitary incursions into their communities, 81 prison orders, 229 penal, civil and commercial processes, 263 people assaulted, 37 death threats and 27 murders.

This article follows the money trail of those profiting from the lumber extraction in Oaxaca State.

In 1956, the Mexican government awarded concessions and favourable terms to private companies in order to attract their capital and technology. In Oaxaca State the main company that reaped these concessions was Fabricas Papeleras de Tuxtepec (FAPATUX), the largest extractor of lumber and paper in the state.

The Fapatux factory, located at Benito Juares, Tuxtepec, generates 350 million-weight and exports 60,000 tons of paper a year.

The 1956 concessions took control of the forest away from the indigenous communities and gave Fapatux the sole right to organise logging and purchase lumber. In affect this destroyed the indigenous land rights protected in Article 27 of the 1917 Mexican Constitution.

Between 1967 and 1972 the forest-based communities in the mountains ranges north of Oaxaca refused to sell lumber to Fapatux and other companies in protest at losing control of their ancestors land and instigated strikes.

Fapatux and their government sponsors argued it was in the interest of the forest that the company took control, as the way the indigenous people were using the forest – the ways their ancestors had taught them, dating back generations – was destroying the forest. Destruction examples given were goat grazing and uncontrolled burning, which had been practiced by the indigenous people for centuries to no ill of the forest.

But no, the way to save the forest was for a big company - Fapatux - to come in, take control and regulate the logging.

For 25 years the tug-of-war between indigenous ways and corporate profit-making waged. The indigenous communities of the forests took jobs in Fapatux, first as loggers, then crane operators and finally in forest management, allowing them to have the final say on what was and what wasn’t cut down. Despite the government deliberately changing the law to favour the company, the final call was still coming from the local people whom the logging would affect first and foremost. The indigenous people working inside the company also nearly succeeded in calling for company regulations to employ only indigenous community members for logging.

The true extent of indigenous community control over those years can be seen in the logging figures. In 1950 22,973 hectares of forest was cut down, by 1980 only 5,016 hectares was touched by the chainsaws.

In 1982 Fapatux tried again to further control the forest by re-enforcing the government concessions, but community pressure, newspaper coverage and national outrage halted this.

In 1999 a new company stepped in, a multinational company: The Durango Corporation. In that year Durango took total control of the Fapatux plant in Tuxtepec.

The Durango Corporation (Corporacion Durango – former US-based Gilman Paper) is the largest paper manufacturer in Latin America. Durango operates across North, South and Central America and incorporates the Durango-Georgia Paper Company. They have headquarters in Brazil, Mexico, but the main listed headquarters are in Michigan, USA, where they are part of the corporate collective Bowen, which also consists of the Bowen Gas Corporation and the Edwards Energy Corporation.

But Durango does not only deal in paper and lumber. The corporation encompasses Colorado-based Durango Corporation Real-Estate (hotels and homes), who became a target for the late journalist Hunter S. Thompson in his attempts to stop multinational billionaires destroying his homeland of Aspen in return for tourist dollars.

Durango also has its hand in the US railroad workers pension and unemployment schemes, under the name of the Durango Railroad Corporation (former Saint Mary’s Railroad - SMR).

On 28 June 2007 Fapatux went into liquidation and it was last reported that the company owners were refusing to pay their workers back-dated pay.

Durango continues to operate across all the Americas, including Mexico.

It is currently unknown whether Durango or Fapatux are continuing to cut lumber from the northern mountain ranges in Oaxaca, those forests around the communities surrounding San Isidro AloÃipam.

But Fapatux and Durango are only two of several lumber and paper corporations operating in Oaxaca. According to CIPO-RFM the pro-logging PRI-ista town of San Miguel AloÃipam are selling lumber directly to US-based Parr Lumber.

In the coastal ranges of Guerrero Oaxaca, Idaho-based Boise-Cascade is operating, who proudly proclaim they are “the thirteenth largest forest products company in the world”.

In 2004 Boise-Cascade (trade name Boise) sold their paper and lumber assets to Madison Dearborn Partners and took the name OfficeMax Inc in 2003.

OfficeMax Inc, the third largest office supplies retailer in the US, is otherwise known as Staples (the world’s largest office supply retail), Office Depot and OfficeMax Print & Document Services.

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Article addition - Durango and NAFTA

14.04.2008 12:14

On 8 October 2001 the Durango Corporation merged with Grupo Industrial Durango (GIDUSA) under the approval of GIDUSA shareholders. The consortium remained under the Durango Corporation name.

In return for the merger GIDUSA became a larger, more powerful member of NAFTA.

This meant that as well as the Durango subsidary Fapatux operating in Oaxaca State, Durango also gained control of a second lumber company in Oaxaca, CODUSA, which was a subsidary of GIDUSA.

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