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Communities Reject Ecotourism Plans in the Lacandón

Hermann | 04.06.2012 09:57 | Climate Chaos | Social Struggles | Zapatista | World

** For the Zapatistas, the aim is to rob them of their lands

** Analysis by the investigator Alicia Gómez of UAM-Xochimilco

Sent by: Hermann Bellinghausen,

San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, June 1, 2012

A recent study documents how the Zapatista communities in the northern part of the Lacandón Jungle are, from their resistance, opposed to the ecotourism projects in the region, as well as to monoculture and agribusiness, agrochemicals, bioprospecting (by the bio-coyotes), and how they see the government’s social programmes as strategies to divide the communities and alienate their lands and means of subsistence. The study concludes that the autonomous campesinos have a clear conscience about the deterioration of the jungle, and that there is a commitment from the communities to the care and restoration of the environment.

“No, ecotourism is not useful. It is a total lie that it helps indigenous peoples. I went to Chajul, over by Benemérito de las Américas, and one of those projects is there. But the people are very screwed, because they no longer have any lands. They say that they haven’t destroyed the jungle, but it’s a lie; I saw that they took out many trees and that when they cross the lake it is in a boat that leaves the water very dirty, also later those who come to that hotel take away animals and plants. Ecotourism is only to benefit the gringos who are with the bad government, who want to carry off the wealth and want to privatize it so that it is no longer for the Communities”.

Based on testimonies like these, the investigator Alicia Gómez Bonilla, from the Autonomous Metropolitan University (UAM)-Xochimilco, has produced an analysis of the visions and feelings about environmental deterioration (Visiones y sentires sobre el deterioro ambiental) (2011) of the Zapatista support bases in Ricardo Flores Magón autonomous municipality. After several years of direct observation, Gómez Bonilla found that “for the Zapatistas, environmental problems are caused directly or indirectly by governmental policies”, and their consequence is “a diminution in the quality of life”. Also, sustainable management “is an important issue for guaranteeing the autonomy of the Zapatista municipality”.

The study, which is based on the “environmental perceptions” of Zapatista society, and on the observation of its agricultural practices and its relationship with the natural environment, found that the bio-prospecting promoted by the jungle’s professional conservators, according to the peoples “does not contribute anything”, and “it is a lack of respect and a theft of knowledge from the communities”, which “only benefits the pharmaceutical companies”.

The monocultures promoted by the government, as well as the [aerial] spraying by the Moscamed Programme, harm nature; the latter has been used as part of the counterinsurgency. The Zapatistas also consider that the fires, which in past years have affected the jungle, were caused by paramilitaries (“the government paid them” to do it). “The idea of destroying the mountain was to leave the Zapatista support bases without those resources, and thus weaken the resistance. Others responsible for the fires were the soldiers, who intentionally burned the mountain using the pretext of looking for Zapatistas”, Gómez Bonilla writes.

A common sentiment of those interviewed is that it is unjust to blame the peoples for the environmental deterioration. “They say a lot that the peoples destroy the jungle, that they cut down trees, that they hunt, and on that pretext they want to take away our lands and send us somewhere else, but they don’t say anything to the finqueros, even though they are the ones who cut down the jungle”, says another witness. To the older campesinos, “the government’s (conservation) projects are a contradiction, since they promoted clearing the land for many years.”

Another problem documented by the study is the deterioration of the soil due to agricultural use, and most importantly through the use of agro-chemicals, which are virtually non-existent in Flores Magón. The indigenous first rejected them because they came from the government, but with time they discovered that it was better not to use them, because they damage the land “and they make us dependent; it’s like a drug”. In what turns out to be more than just a metaphor for government policy, a Zapatista comments: “The PRIístas, each time they plant they need more and more”. The opposite of autonomy and sustainability.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Saturday, June 2, 2012
En español:

Based on an English translation by the Chiapas Support Committee for the:
International Zapatista Translation Service

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