Chiapas in Electrical Resistance and Against the Puebla-Panama Plan

Chiapas in Electrical Resistance and Against the Puebla-Panama Plan

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By Gustavo Castro Soto

Upcoming mobilizations will be registered in the following weeks against the privatization of electricity, the PPP and the dams that threaten like ghosts a landscape of more displaced people in the jungle, border and northern regions, although the ecclesiastical hierarchy does not agree and oppose for the people to express themselves freely.

The Puebla-Panama Plan (PPP) faces a thousand obstacles, among them the lack of consensus and the much discredit that drags the federal and state governments headed by Vicente Fox and Pablo Salazar, respectively, who champion and facilitate the new conquest over the poorest in the country. But another of the obstacles that the PPP faces is the active resistance against the payment of electricity by thousands of indigenous, rural and urban communities throughout the state of Chiapas. And if electric power continues with its privatization trend, the confrontation will then shift from a government-partnership to a transnational corporation-partnership. The large transnational electricity companies are taking everything in Latin America and specifically in the PPP region: Endesa, Unión Fenosa, AES, among others.

The Approach

The Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) and Luz y Fuerza del Centro (LyFC), state companies that distribute electricity in Mexico, serve 24 million 609 thousand customers throughout the country until the beginning of this year 2002. Only nine states in the South-Southeast of the country that officially comprise the PPP, add 6 million 289 thousand clients that represent 25.5% of the total clients in Mexico. In order of importance, according to the number of clients, they are: 1) Veracruz with 1 million 632 thousand (equivalent to 6.63% of the country); 2) Puebla: 1 million 106 thousand (4.49% of the number of clients in the country); 3) Oaxaca: 802 thousand (3.25%); 4) Chiapas: 802 thousand (3.25%); 5) Warrior: 640 thousand (2.60%); 6) Yucatan: 475 thousand (1.93%); 7) Tabasco: 427 thousand (1.73%); 8) Quintana Roo: 241 thousand (0.97%); and 9) Campeche: 164 thousand clients (equivalent to 0.66% of the country's clients). All these states of the Mexican PPP represent 17.28% of the Gigawatts / hour (Gwh) sales of the entire country.

According to the official document "Communications and Energy Infrastructure" of the PPP for the State of Chiapas, the investment for the electricity subsystem in the entity will be, during the first three years of the PPP, from 2001 to 2003, 1,166.6 million pesos (116.8 for 2001; 482.6 for 2002 and 567.1 million pesos for 2003). In the midst of the PPP electricity plan for Chiapas, many expressions of resistance are moving throughout the state. Resistance to the property payment, against militarization, against hunger, against the maquiladoras, against the expulsion of lands and the Montes Azules Reserve, against the privatization of the ejido, against the introduction of transgenic corn, against government projects that they divide and confront; even the Catholic indigenous resistance against the Vatican policies that deny them the right to the formation of deacons, including the episcopal policies that seek to subject the communities to the designs of the PPP and convince them of its benefits, offering that Florencio Salazar expose what the Catholic congregation has not done publicly through informed consultations; as if the aggression of the paramilitaries and all of the above were not enough. For this reason, next mobilizations will be registered in the following weeks against the privatization of electricity, the PPP and the dams that threaten like ghosts a landscape of more displaced people in the jungle, border and northern regions, although the ecclesiastical hierarchy does not agree and oppose the people to express themselves freely. And it is that if there is an antidote to the expansion of the neoliberal model of capitalism, it is the trenches of the indigenous peoples, their lands, their territories, their resources that they defend for the good of the Nation and not for a few.
The arguments used by the government to try to privatize electricity are a sham. Among them are: that the government does not have money to invest in the electricity sector, so subsidies must be eliminated; that private initiative investment is necessary, or there will be blackouts; that the demand for electricity will grow and the government no longer has money to invest; that only with direct foreign investment can electricity costs be lowered; among other arguments. Although we will deal with the analysis of them in another "Chiapas al Día" Bulletin, where we will verify that this is not real and much less if we take into account the experiences in other countries on the deregulation of the sector, for now we will analyze here some of these arguments from Chiapas within the framework of the PPP.

The Electrical Conflict in Chiapas

In Chiapas, for the year 2000, there were 764,479 users of electricity that in their totality consumed 1,513,907 Mwh, and whose sales represented a total of one million 8 thousand 133 pesos for the CFE. All these users are divided into 6 sectors:

1) Domestic is the main sector with 703,089 users, and they are equivalent to 91.9% of total users when the national average is 87.95%. Households consumed 51% of the Mwh and in total paid 37.25% of what the CFE received for the service charge in that year.

2) The Commercial indicates the existence of 57.841 shops. That is, 7.5% of users when the national average is 10.32%. Merchants consumed 13.31% of the Mwh in the same period and contributed 25.74% of the CFE's income.

3) The Services sector has 1,226 which represents 0.16% of users when the national average is 0.65%. In total, I spend 4.20% of the Mwh consumed in the year and the payment for the service corresponds to 9.99% of what was collected by the CFE in 2000.

4) Agricultural users are only 948 which are equivalent to 0.12% of users when the national average is 0.49%. The agricultural sector spent 3.25% of the Mwh for the year and contributed 1.43% of the total income that the CFE collected for the service.

5) The Medium Industry is very stunted and amounts to 1,375
companies that are equivalent to 0.18% of users when the national average is 0.59% including large industry. However, after domestic users, it is the one that spends the most Mwh with an average of 26.20% of the total consumed in the year, and pays less than businesses with the equivalent of 25.59% of the CFE's total income in 2000 .

6) Finally, the Big Industry. Of these, there have been none since 1998 (0%).

Only 8% of users are entrepreneurs who are distributed among the sectors of commerce, services, agriculture and medium industry. The rest are residential houses. However, this 8% consumes around 50% of the electric power and pays around 62.75% of the income received by the CFE.

The total effective electric power capacity in Chiapas is 3,928.4 Megawatts distributed among seven hydroelectric plants: Eng. Manuel Moreno Torres (in Chicoasen with 1,500 Mw); Nezahualcoyotl (in Tecpatan with 1,080 MW); Dr. Belisario Domínguez (in Venustiano Carranza with 900 Mw); Gral. Ángel Albino Corzo (in Ostuacan with 420 Mw); José Cecilio Del Valle (in Tapachula with 21 Mw); Bombana (in Soyalo with 5.2 Mw); and Schpoina (in Venustiano Carranza with 2.2 Mw). The nearly 1,100 CFE workers in Chiapas are distributed in the three zones. San Cristóbal de las Casas serves the Altos region with agencies in Benemérito, Chenalho, Comitán, Fontera Comalapa, Ocosingo, Palenque, Margaritas, San Cristóbal, Teopisca, Venustiano Carranza and Yajalon. The Tapachula Zone has agencies in the municipalities of Acapetahua, Arriaga, Cacahoatan, Huixtla, Mapstepec, Motozintla, Pijijiapan, Porvenir, Suchiate, Tapachula and Tonala. And the Tuxtla Gutiérrez Zone has agencies in Chiapa de Corzo, Cintalapa, Concordia, Copainala, Villaflores, Ocozocoautla, Suchiapa and Tuxtla Gutierrez. The San Cristóbal de Las Casas Zone has 23.8% of the distribution transformer power, Tapachula with 18.5% and Tuxtla Gutiérrez with 57.7%.

Some sources place Chiapas among the producer that generates between 45 and 65% of the country's hydroelectric energy. However, total energy production is often confused with the exclusively generated production of hydroelectric plants. In any case, most of the hydroelectric production in Chiapas is destined to feed Mexico City and its domestic and industrialized urban area, at the cost of the displacement of the indigenous and peasant population that until today has not been properly compensated. In addition, many affected residents did not have electricity or other basic services long after the land was flooded by the hydroelectric plants. Even today, after 30 years, many indigenous communities continue to demand that the CFE carry out social support works for neighboring communities that were expelled or damaged by hydroelectric dams. Furthermore, from another point of view, peasants and indigenous people have been subsidizing the government and the CFE since the compensation has not been adequately paid to hundreds of them from various regions that have been affected by the flooding of their lands, for the massive power cuts in many communities and for the non-payment of the property tax to the government by the parastatal.

According to the direct testimony of CIEPAC, in some indigenous communities of Chiapas there are many cases where today the CFE can charge an indigenous family from 120 to 300 and even more than a thousand pesos every two months (between 13 and more than 100 dollars, approximately) for the electric power service, when you only have 3 or 5 light bulbs in your home. This can represent from 25% to 50% of the income that an indigenous worker can obtain per month, if it goes well. Compared to the city of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, the charge can reach 60 or 90 pesos to a house that has 10 light bulbs, television, refrigerator, sound apparatus and even computer equipment, among other household appliances. This would be enough to understand how understandable the indigenous and urban resistance to non-payment of electricity is, which is not that they refuse to pay, but rather that they want to pay just enough.

When on February 7, 2002, the federal government's determination to eliminate subsidies for domestic electricity consumption rates came into force, the Chiapas Congress signed an agreement rejecting this measure and ruled in favor of a rate preferential for the entity. For their part, some legislators have spoken out for the state government to desist from criminal action against approximately 200 people who have arrest warrants for encouraging non-payment in the face of CFE abuses. And there are no political divisions in this. Peasant, indigenous and urban activists and sympathizers from all political parties have come together to prevent CFE workers from entering the communities and cutting off the power supply in some towns. Others have been held back or have not been allowed to get off the power pole until the worker reconnects it. In extreme cases, they have been tied to poles when they return from power outages.

According to the Popular Daily, in the entity there are around 450 thousand families in 78 municipalities that since 1994 have declared themselves in civil resistance to the non-payment of electricity service, so to date they owe at least 177 million pesos (20 million pesos). dollars, approximately). (El Diario Popular, Friday, February 8, 2002). But the CFE has other figures. According to the superintendent José Domínguez Narváez, the accumulated debt of users who have not paid is almost 42 million pesos (5 million dollars, approximately). They come from 48 municipalities (40.67% of the total number of municipalities in the state) and add up to a total of 128,635 debtor clients that represent 16.82% of all users in Chiapas. Most of the debtors come from the rural sector of the northern areas, Altos, Selva and Fronteriza de Chiapas, including Las Margaritas, Ocosingo, San Andrés, Chenalho, etc. (Heraldo, January 31, 2002). However, in the Costa and Sierra region, organized resistance is very strong. But there are other data. Among the 48 municipalities that make up the superintendency of San Cristóbal, there are 246 thousand users, of which 19,603 are located in rural or indigenous areas where 52% are in resistance with the CFE. (Cuarto Poder, January 31, 2002; Heraldo, p. 3F, January 31, 2002, CFE press briefing). The dance of figures continues and the CFE itself does not agree. At other times, the parastatal has stated that there are around 182,759 users who are in resistance to the payment of the electric power service, in approximately 3,595 communities in 45 municipalities of the entity, representing an annual loss of 77 million 559 thousand pesos (Bulletin "Chiapas al Día" No. 288).

The poor are bargained for what the rich are given away. Between 2002 and 2004, Mexico will have to pay 53.9 billion dollars for public and private external debt, which is equivalent to approximately 490.100 million pesos. On the other hand, what the government intends to deliver to the "Mexican" banking system controlled 80% by foreign banks is 681 thousand 917 million pesos, which are the total liabilities at the end of 2001 of the Institute for the Protection of Savings Banking. (La Jornada, March 26, 2002).

Despite the fact that the government argues that it is losing money and does not have to invest in the sector and blames, among others, the debtors, the CFE reports that it has 98.8% of the collection opportunity throughout the country and boasts of be the best public company in Mexico, even than many in the Continent, with the best service and efficiency. However, before trying to sell it, it has generated internal competition and subsidies are being eliminated, known today by neoliberal discourse as "protectionism", when in the markets of the northern countries they are maintained in many sectors with millions of dollars , but there it is called "investment incentives", "bonuses", bonuses "," compensations ", etc. The worst thing is that there are those who consume and gladly reproduce the neoliberal discourse that accompanies, in this case, privatization of the energy sector, and there are even those who defend it with a progressive cloak, which in other countries has already been seen to be a failure, including some local governments in the United States who regret the "deregulation" of the electricity sector turned into the hands of the monopoly and robbery of transnational corporations, such as Enron, which embezzled public finances and increased energy costs. And in Latin America there are plenty of experiences of greater blackouts It is, increase in the fees and terrible service on the part of the transnationals that took over the electric power of the countries.

By the way, in information published on the inside pages of "El Sol de México", it reveals that Acapulco occupies the first national place in theft of electrical energy, which is carried out both in popular and tourist areas, a situation for which the CFE lost only 300 million pesos last year, denounced Gabriel Pérez Pérez, CFE's zone superintendent (press summary of January 27, 2002, CFE). There are only 20 thousand "hangers" in the peripheral colonies of the port. However, in this state there is also resistance. The power cuts that the CFE carried out during the month of June in the main cities of Guerrero have generated economic losses of 12 million pesos, said business leaders, who are preparing a criminal lawsuit against the parastatal company. The CFE argued that it is due to the occupation of the Petacalco hydroelectric dam, in the municipality of La Unión, on the border with Michoacán. This accusation was rejected by the 23 fishermen who for two months have been blocking the five accesses to the Plutarco Elías Calles thermoelectric plant to demand the cancellation of the debt for the electricity, the withdrawal of the arrest warrants and production projects. The fishermen say that "it is a vile lie on the part of the CFE that we are affecting the works of the thermoelectric plant, but that is not true. The plant is working 24 hours a day and the chimneys have not stopped working in these 59 days of seedling". (La Jornada, June 21, 2002).

In the city of Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the state capital, the Mercado de Los Ancianos reported a drop in sales of up to 40% due to the increase in electricity prices. "The only thing that is achieved by raising the rates is that the economy of the town is injured," said José Luis Sánchez Huerta, who assures that the prices of products will skyrocket with this measure (Cuarto Poder, February 26, 2002). Curiously, on the same day, February 26, 2002, a sinister blackout left a large part of the country without electricity for several hours in the afternoon, specifically in 7 southeastern states included in the PPP: Yucatán, Quintana Roo, Campeche, Tabasco , Chiapas, Oaxaca and part of Veracruz. Shops, banks and other businesses canceled all services; in addition to affecting transport, hospitals, residences, etc. Immediately the versions ran on the failures in the distribution system of the hydroelectric dams of Chiapas (La Angostura and Chicoasen), up to failures in the central computing system. Faced with this impressive blackout, the annoyances of the population arose and already foreshadowed the dirty government mechanisms to direct privatization through the constitutional deregulation of the energy sector and deliver it to the most powerful foreign transnational companies of light. (Fourth Estate, February 26, 2002).

According to Rene Avalos Carranza, Deputy Manager of Generation of the Grijalva Hydroelectric System Plants of the CFE, Chiapas generates around 500 thousand kilowatts, while in the Televisa News it was stated that the hydroelectric dams in Chiapas work at 50% of their capacity (6 March 2002). For their part, personnel from the La Angostura dam affirm that of the 5 turbines that the hydroelectric plant has, with less than the capacity of one of them, electricity would be given to all the inhabitants of the state. The Department of Power Generation of the La Angostura dam in Chiapas reported that the reservoir levels are at 50%, with more than 15 meters of useful volume, operating normally, as in previous years. For the manager of the CFE's Southeast division, the management of dams is carried out by the National Water Commission (CNA): "The CFE only uses the vital liquid as an input and abides by the existing availability for generation of electrical energy ". (Press Release of the CFE, Mexico, DF, May 6, 2001).

Electrification for the Lacandon Jungle

The head of the Representative Office for the Development of Indigenous Peoples, Xochitl Gálvez Ruiz, reported that 100 million pesos will be invested in various Chiapas communities, in road infrastructure, electrification and drinking water (Reforma, January 27, 2002). Then, the Secretary of Energy (Sener) announced that it would carry out the Rural Electrification Program that has the purpose of providing electricity through photovoltaic technology, since it considers that of some 1,200 indigenous communities, 860 could have this system taking into account that the consumption of 25 kilowatt-hours per community would mean the development of installed capacity of approximately 22 megawatts of photovoltaic power (January 5, 2002, CFE press release summary). This is the government's proposal: for the poor, let the sun shine on them, but not a company because the poor are not profitable.

In this context, in Chiapas the CFE announced that it plans to electrify some 700 communities with more than 100 inhabitants in the next five years, according to the manager of the company's Southeast Division, Jesús Eliseo Ramos. In an interview, he indicated that the parastatal registers a growth of 1.5% in annual coverage, for which he considered that in five years attention could be given to all populations that do not have the service. He said that they have projects, studies and communication with the populations and the Planning Secretariat, "right now we are working on a project that comes from last year in Marques de Comillas to serve 30 populations on the border with Guatemala." The localities, 700 of more than one hundred inhabitants, are scattered throughout the state, although the greatest lag in terms of electrification is located in municipalities in the North, Altos and Selva regions. (News, February 13, 2002. Journalistic synthesis of the CFE).

After these statements appears the proposal for the Lacandon Jungle where currently only five of the 41 localities of the municipalities of Marques de Comillas and Benemérito de las Américas in Chiapas, have electricity. This border region of Chiapas with Guatemala along the Usumacinta Basin, only has a distribution line of 34.5 Kv, with a length of 315 kilometers, which is saturated. The promises of investment must arrive in the region so that the indigenous people are apparently rescued from oblivion.

Thus, in June 2002, President Vicente Fox inaugurated the Electrification Program for the Chiapas Jungle, "which will provide electricity to 18,925 inhabitants of the Lacandon jungle who live in 36 communities" of the region where immigrant trafficking, drug trafficking and timber have the support of the Mexican army. A highly militarized region, with strongly divided communities, with investments and fraud by large companies that came promising development with large rubber plantations; region with a lot of oil and gas, but with its wells plugged. It is here, along the Usumacinta Basin, where the PPP governments intend to form five hydroelectric dams that will involve the displacement of thousands of indigenous people from their communities, the flooding of Mayan temples, as well as a huge and irreversible ecological impact. The exploitation of so many resources, the creation of roads and other infrastructures that the PPP requires, require electric power transmission lines so far saturated by a meager service that covers only 12% of the indigenous communities in the region that do not they are profitable for capital.

The Program will provide this necessary infrastructure, but it will also serve as a pretext to affirm that the new "government of change" remembers the Indian peoples, or as a sedative to later introduce the Usumacinta dams. The Electrification Program will be carried out in two stages "and arose at the request of the Government of Chiapas with the aim of promoting the economic and social development of the region," according to the CFE Press Bulletin. This will be carried out with an approximate investment of 245.6 million pesos that will be contributed by the Federal and State governments and by the CFE. Why, then, is it said that the government and the parastatal do not have the resources to invest in the sector, but do in strategic regions for the PPP?

The first stage will conclude this year and 44 kilometers of 34.5 kilovolts (Kv) distribution line, six distribution networks and 18 kilometers of distribution line will be built, "which will benefit 2,645 inhabitants of the region." Investments in this phase will amount to 25.4 million pesos. In the second stage, the following infrastructure will be built: a 115Kv feeder in the Tenosique Substation (neighboring state of Tabasco), 94 kilometers of 115 Kv isolated line and a 115 / 34.5 Kv step-down substation. All with an investment of 103.8 million pesos. In the second stage, 1,049 kilometers of isolated distribution line at 34.5 Kv and 30 distribution networks will also be built, which will cost 116.5 million pesos and will benefit 16,280 residents (CFE, Press Bulletin, June 19, 2002) .

The demand for electrical energy for the towns is nothing new. It has been a requirement for a hundred years. But when the government refers to the current "demand" it is what transnational capital needs today. Without electricity, the maquiladoras do not arrive, the ports or airports do not work, there is no tourism, there is no exploitation of resources. The light has been, and will continue to be with greater force in the immediate future, a cause of struggle and resistance of the peoples to achieve justice.

Sources and bibliography: Federal Electricity Commission (CFE); South Process No. 44; Political Task 1061; INEGI Statistical Yearbook of the State of Chiapas; Puebla-Panama Plan, Energy and Communications Infrastructure for Chiapas, September 2001; Investment Program 2002 SCT of the PPP, January 2002; "Mexico-Guatemala Connection", PPP electrical interconnection, February 8, 2002; IDB; CIEPAC; The printing press; The Herald of Mexico; Fourth Power, Popular Daily; News, Reform; The Sun of Mexico; Noticieros Televisa, La Jornada.

* By Gustavo Castro Soto
Chiapas al día Newsletter Nº 298
[email protected]

Video: Exploring Chiapas - Mexicos Most Awesome State (June 2022).


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