~ This article was originally published by SinEmbargo on January 16, 2016 ~
On Saturday morning before dawn, a convoy of workers, dump trucks, and backhoes entered the Tajamar breakwater area to destroy the mangrove forest there and prepare for the construction of condominium developments promoted by the National Fund for the Development of Tourism (Fonatur).
Last August, after 4,000 citizens presented a complaint to the Federal Prosecutor for the Protection of the Environment (Profepa) regarding the large scale environmental destruction occurring in the Tajamar area, a provisional suspension of the work was issued.
The Federal Agency arrived at the site where the destruction had occurred in four lots and placed the announcements of the suspension. Profepa ordered the suspension due to violations of the Environmental Impact Report.
Citizens have denounced that the area is home to endangered species protected under Mexican law by the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat), including leopard frogs, striped iguanas, and Moreletti crocodiles, as well as various birds.
Last week it was announced that, after five months of paralysis, the Tajamar project could restart at the end of January as part of the tourism development programs in the area.
The Quintana Roo newspaper Por Esto! revealed that the legal department at Fonatur had managed to untangle the legal actions that had been taken against the project.
Profepa had determined that the company formed by the Italian consortium Bi & Di and the Ultramar group would have to continue under the environmental limitations imposed on August 12 when the projects were temporarily halted.
Until yesterday, the Profepa maintained a total suspension of any type of work in the zone.
The Mexican Center for Environmental Rights, whose experts in environmental law have compiled a solid legal complaint to achieve the total and definitive suspension of the work, had obtained the temporary stoppage.
Before Dawn, And With Police, They Entered the Lots
On social media citizens denounced that around three in the morning, with the protection of dozens of municipal and state riot police, heavy machinery and dump trucks entered the lots at Tajamar to prepare for construction.
The Facebook page “Salvemos Manglar Tajamar” posted:
“Urgent! This is happening since 3AM at the Tajamar Breakwater! Come join a peaceful demonstration at the entrance to the breakwater in front of the Fiesta Inn hotel.”
“Unfortunately they have already devastated all the mangroves that were there. This photo was taken today and it is one of the lots that had a temporary suspension issued by Profepa.”
A peaceful demonstration was also organized to demonstrate disagreement and ask the authorities to stop the illegal destruction of the Tajamar mangroves.
According to the local news outlet Noticaribe, the lights on the breakwater were turned off and under cover of darkness the police set up blockades and dispatched a heavy police presence in the zone—it was calculated that around 130 riot police stood guard.
On January 4, with permits obtained through false information, workers began the first attempt to finish the destruction of the mangroves, destroying more than 100 meters of wetland on a plot in Tajamar.
Citizens Tired of the Devastation
An article published last August in the newspaper Por Esto! pointed out that the unprecedented reaction of Cancún residents to the destruction of mangroves in Tajamar deserved special attention. It is uncommon, in cases of environmental issues, for the community to mobilize so rapidly, decisively, and energetically.
This large and almost instantaneous citizen response occurred even though the majority of the news outlets, controlled by the state government, attempted to minimize or distort the matter, disorient public opinion, or simply remained silent on the matter.
This indicates, Por Esto! noted, that the inhabitants of Cancún have reached a breaking point with regards to the systematic destruction of their natural resources and the resulting deterioration of their quality of life.
“Over the course of decades they have been almost powerless as the forests, beaches, dunes, and wetlands have been destroyed, owing to the tolerance, indifference, or overt complicity of the authorities at different levels of government. They have seen how what could have been a model city known for its green spaces ended up becoming a concrete and asphalt lot. But, as we have said, it appears they are no longer willing to permit that this continues,” the article by Juan José Morales notes.
When pressed on a response to the citizen complaint, the state minister for the environment, Carlos Rafael Muñoz Berzunza declared that “the development is not going to stop… Tajamar is already planned for development. If they want repose, go to the Sian Ka’an [biosphere, located several hours south]. We’ll relax in Cancún.”
And so it was, the construction work resumed today.
Social groups convened today around the zone and announced that they would appeal to international organizations such as the Ramsar Convention (a wetlands protection agreement) after federal, state, and municipal authorities once more trampled the citizenry by carrying out environmental crimes at Tajamar.
This article by SinEmbargo staff was published on January 16, 2016 under the title “Con permiso de Fonatur, policía local destruye manglar de Cancún en la madrugada” and is available at: http://www.sinembargo.mx/16-01-2016/1599871
Translation by Michael Lettieri, Trans-Border Institute