La Parota Dam Follow-up


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on the Parota Dam


The Puebla-Plan Panama represents a multi-billion dollar investment by national governments and multi-lateral organizations in large-scale infrastructure projects in Mexico, Central America and Colombia. Initiated in 2001, the plan includes significant investments in the transportation, telecommunications and energy sectors. Part of the plan in Mexico includes the proposed construction of the Parota hydroelectric dam on the Papagayo River in the southern State of Guerrero. If constructed, the proposed 180-metre dam would become the largest dam in Mexico, flooding 17,000 hectares affecting the lives of at least 25,000 campesinos directly, as well as another 75,000 campesinos indirectly. The project entails significant cultural, economic, social and environmental repercussions that extend beyond the local level alone. The Parota project has provoked opposition among local and indigenous communities in the affected areas and a mounting level of conflict between opponents and supporters of the project. To date, there have been four deaths related to these conflicts, and numerous social mobilizations and legal protests pertaining to the proposed dam project. There is now a plethora of social actors involved in the Parota conflict, including state and federal levels of government in Mexico, as well as local, national and international indigenous and civil society organizations concerned not only with the potential detrimental impacts of the proposed project, but also with the abuse of the human rights of individuals and communities opposing the Parota project. An update and chronology of recent key events related to the Parota project is outlined below.

Update and Chronology of Events



The Parota case is considered for the first time by the Latin American Water Tribunal (TLA). Presented by the Council of Ejidos and Communities Opposed to the Parota (Consejo de Ejidos y Comunidades Opositores a La Parota, CECOP)[1] against the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE), the State Government of Guerrero, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT), and the Agrarian Attorney’s Office, none of whom agreed to appear in front of the Tribunal.[2] In their verdict, the Tribunal rules in favour of the cancellation of the project. During the same month, Espacio de Derechos Economicos, Sociales y Culturales (Espacio DESC)[3] and CECOP organize a visit to the affected region for a number of activists and journalists participating in the International Forum in Defence of Water and the Fourth World Water Forum in order to deepen understanding of the Parota project and its impact on local communities.


Subcommandante Marcos, as part of la Otra Campaña (the Other Campaign), tours the areas affected by the proposed dam project.


Espacio DESC presents the Report of Civil Society Organizations on the Situation of Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights in Mexico (1997-2006) to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Geneva, underlining those violations associated with the Parota case in the State of Guerrero. In the report’s final recommendations, the Committee urges the Mexican Government to:

…assure that the indigenous and local communities affected by the La Parota Hydroelectric Dam project or other mega-projects in the lands and territories which they possess or traditionally occupy or use, be duly consulted, and that their prior informed consent be procured in any of the decision-making processes related to these projects which affect their rights and interests recognized in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in concordance with the International Labour Organization (ILO) Agreement 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples. The Committee also urges the State Government to recognize the ownership and possession rights of the indigenous communities on the lands traditionally occupied by them, and if required, assure that the indigenous and local farming communities affected by construction of La Parota Dam or other infrastructure projects within the Puebla-Panama Plan receive adequate compensation and/or alternative relocation and fertile crop lands, and that their economic, social and cultural rights be safeguarded. To this effect, the Government of Guerrero should refer to the Committee’s General Comments Nº 14 and 15 regarding the right to enjoyment of the highest possible level of health and the right to water (paragraph 28 of section E “Suggestions and Recommendations”).

Finally, the Mexican Movement for those Affected by Dams and in Defence of Rivers (MAPDER) organizes a caravan passing through several Mexican states, including Guerrero, to focus on the impact of dam projects such as the Parota.


At the request of CECOP and the Tlachinollan Mountain Centre on Human Rights (Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Montaña Tlachinollan), Rodolfo Stavenhagen, the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous Peoples, visits the areas affected by the proposed Parota project. During his visit, Stavenhagen emphasizes the need for the Mexican Government to consult with those affected by the project and to respect the decision of the campesinos opposing the construction of the project on their lands.



In March 2007, the Rapporteurs on Housing, Food and Indigenous Peoples[4] write a joint letter to the Mexican Government.[5] According to available information, this letter expresses that the CFE is in contempt of existing legal resolutions that prohibit it from entering communal lands to carry out any work related to La Parota. Despite legal resolutions prohibiting it from doing so, the CFE – through the State of Guerrero – is building access highways to the proposed dam site on communal lands. The letter also affirms that inconsistencies exist between various official documents related to project preparation. For example, such inconsistencies are evident regarding the number of persons directly and indirectly affected by the dam project among different official documents. The Rapporteurs also express concern regarding some provisions included in documents related to compensation for the communal farmers affected by the project, in particular those documents that refer exclusively to restitution for housing and not restitution or indemnification for crop lands. The Rapporteurs also make clear that, according to available information, there has never been a case in Mexico in which persons relocated after construction of a dam have improved their living conditions based on the compensation package received. The letter also expresses that assemblies organized to discuss the project with affected communities were apparently plagued by multiple irregularities, and concern is expressed regarding the climate of insecurity and harassment experienced by the region’s inhabitants related to the conflict surrounding La Parota. This climate of insecurity and harassment does not allow inhabitants to live and work peacefully and to carry out their livelihoods in such a way to improve their well-being and quality of life. The Rapporteurs request a response from the government within 60 days, which should be included in its report to be presented in Geneva to the new United Nations Human Rights Council.

On March 27, the Unitarian Agrarian Tribunal (TUA) issues its decision on Judgement 447/2005 pertaining to the communal lands of Cacahuatepec (Bienes Comunales Indigenas de Cacahuatepec), deciding in favour of the campesinos opposing the Parota project.[6] The verdict of the TUA revokes the proceedings of the August 23 Assembly, as well as all the accords, agreements, and judicial actions agreed to therein. This decision is significant given the fact that the campesinos supposedly authorized the CFE to expropriate their lands as part of the Parota Dam project in the proceedings of the August 23 Assembly. The judgement affirms that neither the state nor the federal government can legitimately enter or occupy the communal lands of Cachuatepec and that all actions in contravention of this decision are invalid and likely to accentuate existing levels of conflict in the region. Faced with this decision, authorities decide to call a new Assembly for May 6, 2007.


At the end of April 2007, Rodolfo Chavez Galindo, one of the advisors to the opponents of the Parota project, is detained and imprisoned for five hours. This action is widely seen as part of renewed efforts on the part of the CFE to push through the Parota project.

Towards the end of April and the beginning of May, a delegation of opponents to the dam, including the CECOP, Espacio DESC and the Tlachinollan Mountain Human Rights Centre, with the support of the German Coordinating Body for Human Rights in Mexico and the International Institute for Food and Development Policy, travels to Germany, Brussels and Geneva to seek solidarity for their cause. Part of this strategy includes meetings with: parliamentarians from Germany and the European Union, representatives from the European Commission and various branches of the United Nations (UN) and the ILO affiliated with human rights work, and other human rights organizations. In addition, details of the Parota conflict are presented to delegates at the International Congress, Mexico: The only way out of the uprising? Facing the human rights violations in Oaxaca and Guerreo”[7] held in Bad Boll, Germany.

A group of German and European organizations attending the congress undertake an “urgent action” and demand that Mexican authorities respect the human rights of those opposing the Parota project and avoid the use of force in settling resulting conflicts. This action includes a letter to Mexican President Felipe Calderon (of the National Action Party [Partido de Acción Nacional, PAN]) and to State Governor of Guerrero, Zeferino Torreblanca (of the Revolutionary Democratic Party [Partido de la Revolución Democrática, PRD]) demanding: respect for the human rights of the indigenous and campesino communities affected by the Parota project; meaningful consultation with affected peoples; establishment of a dialogue with comuneros[8] opposing the project; and avoidance of the use of force to resolve conflicts. The letter also highlights a number of concerns regarding the organization of the May 6, 2007 Assembly in Cacahuatepec (see below). Finally, a group of German parliamentarians makes plans to visit several of the communities opposing the Parota project in September 2007. They also make plans to meet with their Mexican counterparts to discuss the Parota project.


According to CECOP, the assembly called for on May 6, 2007 was intended to legitimize the expropriation of the comuneros’ land in order to begin the construction of the Parota dam. In short, this assembly sought to reinstate the one that took place on August 23, 2005 in San Marcos that was annulled by the Unitarian Agrarian Tribunal in March 2007 in favour of campesinos opposing the Parota project (see above). To counter this concern, an observatory mission is sent to monitor the procedures of the May 6 Assembly held in San Juan Grande, Acapulco. The observatory delegation includes 36 people from 16 national and international organizations and networks, including Amnesty International, Espacio DESC, and Service for Peace (Servicio para la Paz , SERAPAZ).

The delegation notes several irregularities in the organization of the assembly, including failure to announce the meeting in the most visible places and failure to hold the meeting in Cacahuatepec, as consistent with community traditions. Other irregularities involve meeting registration procedures, including the fact that the Commissioner did not bring with him the official register of comuneros in contravention of Agrarian Law. Despite this, the Commissioner requests that registration for the meeting commence. Only two people then register, without showing adequate identification to prove they were comuneros. Immediately afterwards, the Commissioner, without having conducted an official attendance count, suspends the assembly, indicating the failure to achieve a sufficient quorum with only 543 comuneros in attendance. This figure is, however, impossible to corroborate given the lack of an official attendance count.

The May 6 meeting is cancelled by authorities only fifteen minutes after its commencement, with authorities posting (on their way out of the meeting) what appears to be a previously-prepared postponement notice announcing the second assembly for later in May. The postponement notice states that the assembly was cancelled because of “violent acts” on the part of opponents of the dam, a claim flatly refuted by the observatory mission. The observatory mission expresses its concern that such fabrications will be used to justify the use of state-sponsored force and repression in future meetings. In response to the assembly irregularities noted above, the observatory mission also calls for adherence to established meeting and consultation procedures in the interests of ensuring fairness and mitigating the mounting tensions between supporters and opponents of the Parota project.[9] The observatory mission also expresses its concerns regarding the lack of adequate information and consultation needed to properly discuss an infrastructure project with such significant social, economic and cultural implications. It calls for all parties to come together and resolve their differences through existing legal and political channels in a peaceful, fair and transparent manner.

As a result of the cancellation of May 6 Assembly, a second assembly is called for May 20, 2007. Another observatory mission is then organized to witness and monitor meeting procedures and consultation processes at the May 20 Assembly scheduled to take place in the community of Bejuco. Subsequently, the May 20 Assembly is also cancelled for failing to achieve quorum. Opponents to the dam then seek to negotiate a meeting to ensure that the next assembly will be used to provide information rather than voting on the expropriation of lands to construct a project for which there is insufficient information. The meeting to discuss the details of such an assembly – focusing solely on providing information on the Parota project – is then scheduled to take place on May 23.

The May 23 meeting takes place in the community of Agua Calientes and lasts approximately two hours. At the meeting, CECOP is recognized as a valid and legal interlocutor in the Parota project. Those present also agreed that any decisions pertaining to community lands belongs in the hands of the comuneros themselves, and not in the hands of the government or the CFE. It is also agreed that the CFE should provide more information on the advantages and disadvantages of the Parota project, although details as to how this will be accomplished are not finalized. Although these agreements still require further discussion and even ratification by additional committee members, this meeting is perceived as being a tentative but important first step towards a more productive form of engagement and exchange between supporters and opponents of the Parota project. Notably, this meeting marks the first time supporters and opponents of the dam project have met together since the conflict began.

Finally, campesinos involved in CECOP, along with the support of the Union of Mexican Electricians (SME), will take the Parota case to the ILO, citing violation of their consultation and participation rights as designated in Articles 6, 7 15 and 16 of the ILO’s Convenant 169. This action arises from the irregularities observed in the four community assemblies held to date with respect to expropriating the lands needed to construct the Parota project and the lack of meaningful consultation with the majority of those affected by the proposed dam project.

[1] Ejidos are a form of communal land or social property created by Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution.

[2] CECOP was formed in June 2003 by campesinos in the affected areas opposed to the Parota project.

[3] Established in 1998, Espacio DESC is a network of 13 civil society organizations dedicated to human rights and development with a long history of promoting and defending economic, social, cultural and environmental rights (ESCE rights) in Mexico. Espacio DESC’s work is defined by its member organizations, and the priorities and actions jointly pursued by members are established by consensus. Espacio DESC assumed the case of La Parota as one of its priorities four years ago. For more information, contact:

[4] The Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples had previously visited the region at the request of CECOP and the Tlachinollan Mountain Centre on Human Rights (Centro de Derechos Humanos la Montaña Tlachinollan).

[5] For more than three years, thanks to the lobbying of the Habitat International Coalition (HIC) and Food Firs Information Action Network (FIAN), the Rapporteurs for the Right to Adequate Housing and Food have sent letters to the Mexican Government expressing their concerns regarding the Parota case and requesting more information.

[6] The legal defence of the case at the local level is led by the Tlachinollan Mountain Centre on Human Rights (Centro de Derechos Humanos la Montaña Tlachinollan).

[7] The final declaration of the Congress can be read in Spanish and German at:

[8] Comuneros have certificates of agrarian rights or certificates for use of common lands.

[9] Established consultation procedures, for example, include those set out in Convenant 169 of the International Labour Organization (ILO) that pertain directly to indigenous communities.