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When the Mexican Movement of People Affected by Dams and For Rivers (MAPDER) was about to begin its 10th meeting on Friday, August 2nd, to mark the 10th anniversary of the struggle against water privatization in Mexico, it became known that Noé Vazquez Ortiz, a 30 year-old local leader that was participating in the event was stoned to death while preparing for the opening ceremony.
They immediately took safety precautions to protect the participants, since Veracruz, the host state, is going under a lot of tension over the construction of dams by concessions granted by the federal state. The community where the meeting takes place, Amatlan de los Reyes, is also a place of strong resistance to dams.
Noé Vázquez was supposed to open MAPDER’s event by thanking the soil and the water, two key elements for living, and “so that the people coming here will see our people’s love for nature”. Noé was a craftman and through his work he promoted culture. Through Colectivo Defensa Verde and MAPDER he sent a message of alert about nature degradation mainly in the high mountains of Veracruz.
In a press release issued after the murder of the activist, MAPDER said that hydroelectric dam projects have increased since 2010 in Veracruz. So far they have tried to install 112 private dams. Since 2011 the hydroelectric project El Naranjal threatens the territory of Amatlan de los Reyes and seven municipalities of the region that would affect nearly 30,000 people. It is the largest dam in the state, it would have a capacity of 360MW. As a result of the protests, there is an atmosphere of intimidation against those opposing hydroelectric and mining projects.
Gustavo Castro, member of Otros Mundos Chiapas/Friends of the Earth México is one of the 200 participants who were already in Amatlan de los Reyes to participate in the event when the activist was killed. He told Real World Radio that he was very worried about the State’s role in the incidents because the municipal, state and federal governments, as well as human rights authorities were told about the event and were unable to guarantee its safety. This concern is even stronger considering that nowadays “the government is criminalizing any mobilization against mining, dams and other megaprojects”.
The two murderers of Vazquez Ortiz were caught and, despite the strong tension in Amatlan de los Reyes, the organizers of the meeting decided not to cancel it and do this 10th Meeting of Mapder in honor of Noe Vazquez Ortiz.