~ This article was originally published by SinEmbargo on January 18, 2016 ~
During the predawn hours of Saturday, a group of workers and heavy machinery, guarded by police, entered the Tajamar breakwater mangrove forest, destroying it in preparation for the construction of condominium developments promoted by the National Fund for Tourism Development (Fonatur). In light of these actions, citizens and activists have named the governor of Quintana Roo, Roberto Borge Angulo and Mayor of Cancún, Paul Michell Carillo de Cáceres as those responsible for these environmental crimes.
“They orchestrated an operation in a place where families gathered because practically all the beaches of Cancún have been more or less sold to private interests. It is incredible how in a few hours they managed to erase what nature took so long to create. It is incredible the capacity for destruction that our governor and mayor have, it is terrible,” says Gerardo Solís, a member of the organization Cancún Salvemos el Manglar (Save the Mangroves Cancún) and the honorary president of the Defensoría Internacional de Derechos Humanos AC (International Human Rights Defense Lawyers) in Quintana Roo.
The activist alleges that there have been a series of irregularities. He recalls that last weekend the authorities cordoned off the area, blocked access, and “the bandits began to fill in the mangrove lagoon, they buried crocodiles alive, they did not relocate the animals there, even though they are endangered.”
In the Facebook page “Salvemos Manglar Tajamar,” environmental protection activists charge that in a few days more than 90 percent of the mangroves have been destroyed.
Similarly, they allege that in Cancún there is tremendous social inequality and therefore many residents of the city do not have the resources to pay the entrance fees at the numerous parks in the region, as those fees are quite high, and for that reason, Solís says, they come to the mangrove lagoon for diversion.
“It is sad and lamentable that Cancún is a leader in tourism and also in judicial inequality,” he affirms.
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Last July, when work began in the mangrove lagoon, activists presented a complaint to the state human rights commission, which issued precautionary measures ordering that authorities should respect the ecology of the lagoon, nevertheless “economic power corrupts political power, and surely they found the authority’s price, or the authorities are also partners in the project, and obviously they put aside the precautionary measures, destroyed the area, and thus far the national human rights commission has not done anything,” he concludes.
“The complaint was presented to the national human rights commission because, in accordance with Article 4 of the constitution, everyone has a right to a healthy environment and in cutting down trees, filling the marsh, they are attacking our human rights,” he accuses.
This Monday a modified complaint was presented to the state human rights commission, which declared itself unable to address the matter and passed it to the national commission. Nevertheless, “it appears as though the complaint is frozen,” he laments.
Just a few days later, Sara Rincón Gallardo, a member of the Cancún Animal Protection Society presented a denunciation of environmental crimes to the national attorney general’s office that accuses the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat) and Federal Prosecutor for the Protection of the Environment (Profepa) of complicity in the environmental crimes at Tajamar. Nevertheless, that denunciation “is frozen,” they claim.
“There is no rule of law, it is an embarrassment, supposedly Cancún has been classified as one of the places with the highest quality of life and that is not true. Perhaps on the block where the mayor lives there is an excellent quality of life, but there are enormous social inequalities. It is terrible what is happening and the authorities act as though nothing is happening,” Rincón Gallardo insists.
|See Also: With the Permission of the National Tourism Fund, Local Police Destroy Mangroves in Cancún Before Sunrise – by SinEmbargo Staff|
Activists and Journalists Denounce Threats
Moreover, the activists claim that the local press has been forced to remain silent on the matter, and journalists have revealed that the authorities have threatened to pull public advertising from their outlets, for example.
Gerardo Solís also alleges that he and other activists have been threatened by police who are guarding the area, “they tell us ‘you’re going to wake up in the lagoon’.”
Journalist Pedro Canché Herrera, who was jailed for 272 days under [trumped up] charges of sabotage, denounced that he was the target of threats both from the state government and from businessmen, threats of death or disappearance for publishing photos and videos of the destruction of the mangroves, he told SinEmbargo in an interview.
Additionally, he says that “the persecution is continuing, even though [Roberto Borge] should apologize because the U.N. asked him to apologize to me and the national human rights commission is asleep, they will not receive me.”
“Roberto Borge is an environmental criminal… there is a double standard by the federal government, on one hand they punish the poor, they go against the poor, and for the rich they offer legal support and the military and police forces to destroy the mangroves. This double standard of Enrique Peña Nieto and Borge makes them cowards because they go against the poor and now they are going against the defenders of the mangroves,” the Mayan journalist says.
“They stabbed the heart of Cancún, its ecology,” says the activist who recently visited the Federal District to receive medical attention for the physical ailments caused by his torture while in jail.
Borge Defends the Project
Through a press release, Roberto Borge asserted that on Saturday the work at Tajamar was carried out “according to the law.”
Similarly, he noted that Fonatur, the developer of the Tajamar Breakwater area, obtained in 2005 the environmental impact studies from the Semarnat that allow it to work in the area.
“As a government and as the authorities we are obliged to care for the environment, but we are also promotors of investment and development, because we want Quintana Roo to remain the tourism leader in Mexico and Latin America, although it is our obligation to guarantee that our natural attractions are preserved and can be enjoyed by future generations,” the release concluded.
Ivette Lira writes for SinEmbargo’s animal-oriented section “Mascotas y Salvajes”. This article was originally published on January 18, 2016 under the title “La destrucción en Tajamar, QRoo: “Rellenaron el manglar y sepultaron cocodrilos vivos” and is available at: http://www.sinembargo.mx/18-01-2016/1600897
Translation by Michael Lettieri, Trans-Border Institute