Published On: Sat, Jul 26th, 2014

PROFEPA Arrests 15 “Ejidatarios” in Holbox

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On Thursday July 24th, officers of the Mexican Navy (Semar) and agents of the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection (PROFEPA) arrested 15 villagers (ejidatarios) on the island of Holbox.  In retaliation, the ejidatarios kidnapped one of the PROFEPA inspectors and kept him for several hours inside the Ejidal Office.  The ejidatarios who were arrested were taken to the Attorney General’s Office (PGR) in Cancun, apparently for the removal of mangroves in violation of environmental laws.

 

Four species of mangrove listed by the government on the NOM-059 as endangered species were allegedly harmed by the suspects: red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle), black mangrove (Avicennia germinans), “botoncillo” mangrove (Conocarpus erectus) and white mangrove (Laguncularia racemosa).

 

The president of the ejidatarios, Nivardo Mena, condemned the operation performed by the authorities, calling it illegal, part of a political plot, and an “aggression against the people of Holbox.”
“People were clearing their land to build their homes. These are people who have lived on the island for more than 20 years. These lands are designated as areas of residential expansion and the residents have our approval to clear the land.  These so-called inspectors claim that this is part of a national operation but this is not true; the accusation was allegedly made ​​by a citizen, but they provided the name of a person that nobody in Holbox knows and probably does not even exist,” said Nirvardo Mena.

Ejidatarios being arrested  by Profepa and Semar agents

Ejidatarios being arrested by Profepa and Semar agents

Quintana Roo’s State Government Secretary, Gabriel Mendicutti, confirmed that he was notified of the operation by Ludivina Menchaca, Delegate of the PROFEPA in Quintana Roo, who argued that the arrests were conducted in response to a complaint filed before the Mexican Center for Environmental Law (Centro Mexicano del Derecho Ambiental, CEMDA).  Meanwhile, the regional coordinator of CEMDA, Alejandra Serrano, said that PROFEPA keeps a list of complaints in a “stand by” status, complaints regarding, for example, the killing of manatees or illegal trade of turtle eggs, so “it seems very strange that this particular complaint was attended to so swiftly.”

 

Serrano also pointed out that CEMDA has always had a good relationship with the ejidatarios community of Holbox, especially a few weeks ago, when they required the support of the Department of Protection of Flora and Fauna in denouncing the environmental irregularities regarding the “La Ensenada” Project. (See story on TYT: http://www.theyucatantimes.com/2014/06/the-holbox-situation-what-is-really-happening/).  But now it seems that the authorities intend to pit CEMDA against the ejidatarios.

Ejidatarios were take into custody

Ejidatarios were take into custody

“It is counterproductive for the authority to be reinterpreting events this way;  we would like to think that there is no intention to pit CEMDA against the community”.

 

CEMDA has worked on conservation projects with the people of Ejido Lázaro Cárdenas municipality for years.  More than once though, ejidatarios have reported alleged improper and arbitrary conduct by PROFEPA inspectors. Inspectors have been accused of incompetence and of lacking the proper training and knowledge to determine the parameters of sustainable harvesting of timber and forest resources.

 

Affected ejidatarios underscored the inspectors’ lack of education and training in environmental issues, claiming that they are only administrative officials, and therefore unprepared to act as environmental authorities.  In addition, the ejidatarios claim that PROFEPA only acts against their community and not against the large hotel corporations and other companies that deforest huge areas of rainforest and mangroves along the coast of Quintana Roo to build their developments.

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