Villagers protest the sale of natural reserve in Yucatan; Gov. Rolando Zapata, in the spotlight

According to Mexican monthly political review Proceso, residents of the community of Nueva Laguna, Yucatán warned that lawyer Rafael Acosta Solis, linked to the former governor of Yucatán, Ivonne Ortega Pacheco, in complicity with the president of the ejido of Valladolid, José Matilde Cervera, had a meeting on Sunday Oct. 4, and are planning to seize the Natural Protected Area  known as “Otoch Ma’ax Yetel Kooh” (Home of the Monkey and the Puma, in Mayan) in order to build a megaresort in this natural reserve.

Currently a cooperative formed by a group of inhabitants of this town, which belongs to the municipality of Valladolid, carry out sustainable tourism activities in this natural protected area, as a sightseeing spot for the spider and howling monkeys (Mono araña y mono aullador); and also as a cenote area.

This cooperative obtained the concession of this area for 30 years, of which only nine have passed, and the consideration is $4,000 pesos ($236USD) a month for the ejido.

The meeting was going to be carried out two weeks ago, but was cancelled due to a clash between the group of community members that support Rafael Acosta and Jose Matilde Cervera and the group of “ejidatarios” (landowners) who belong to the cooperative and oppose the parceling. Ten people were detained.

Juan Jesus Canul Chan, a municipal commissioner, said Jose Matilde Cervera tried to cut the register of “ejidatarios” (landowners) to establish an artificial and illegal split majority to allegedly support the parceling of this natural reserve.

“Obviously, people were angry and the situation turned violent,” Canul said.

“At this meeting”, Canul Chan said, “they intended to end the concession, to approve the parcelling of the area and admit Rafael Acosta and others as landowners”.

Finally, the meeting took place in Valladolid, Yucatan on Sunday Oct. 4, and troopers of the State Police did not allow the “ejidatarios” to access the place of the meeting.

“Ejidatarios” ended up making a protest outside the “Casa Ejidal” in opposition to the interference of the state governor, Rolando Zapata Bello, for allowing ejido president Jose Matilde Cervera Chan and attorney Rafael Acosta Solis, who was deputy attorney general in the Ivonne Ortega administration, to trick them out of Punta Laguna.

The meeting finally took place and the parceling of about 30 thousand hectares of Punta Laguna was approved. Acosta Solis was appointed as legal representative of the ejido, and the sale of the land was agreed.

State police officers surrounded the “Casa Ejidal” in Valladolid and prevented access of community members opposed to the sale of Punta Laguna, allowing Cervera and Acosta Solis to have majority.

According to the municipal commissioner, Juan Jesus Canul Chan, ejido assembly agreements were made with impostors that do not belong to the community and that Cervera presented as landowners.

Villagers protest the sale of natural reserve in Yucatan; Gov. Rolando Zapata, in the spotlight (Image: Noticaribe)

“In other words, they took possession of the ejido and will divide it for sale illegally,” he said.

Canul lamented the participation of governor Zapata Bello, who is allowing this nature reserve to be affected only by groups favoring political and economic interests.

“The governor is looking the other way,” said Canul Chan.

However, he assured that this issue has not yet concluded and that will come to the end to avoid being despoiled.

“If they don’t listen to us, we are going to take justice into our own hands,” he said.

Otoch Ma’ax Yetel Kooh was declared a Wildlife Protection Area by former President Ernesto Zedillo in 2000; and Punta Laguna is within Ma’ax Yetel Otoch Kooh, and therefore it is a protected natural area.