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    Posted February 5, 2013 by
    Oaxaca, Mexico

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    U.S. backed renewable energy initiative hurts indigenous communities in Oaxaca, Mexico


    For more than a year now, Americans have heard of the failed Solyndra  Energy company that declared bankruptcy in late 2011 and the wasted  stimulus money that was granted to the company. Like this company, there  are others who took off with taxpayer funds and headed to another  country. Two of these companies are now in Mexico, and have angered the  Oaxacan communities affected.


    In a 2010 article, where congress harshly criticizes the use of stimulus money going to overseas companies, Investigative Reporting Workshop writes:  "The Danish company, Vestas, said it was halting production at a wind  turbine blade plant in Windsor, Colorado. The company said it would  probably have to slow development of two other facilities planned for  the same area. Gamesa, a Spanish wind turbine company, said it was  laying off about half of the remaining workers at a Pennsylvania  production facility."


    These two companies were recipients of state and federal incentives  in 2009 via the U.S. stimulus that promised to bring jobs back to the  United States. Instead, they packed up their bags and headed to the  Mexican state of Oaxaca.

    Since then, Gamesa has built wind turbines for Enel Green Power (EGP)  and installed a second plant in that state. While Danish Company Vestas  Wind Systems has agreed to construct wind turbines for Mareña  Renewables, the consortium leading the project. With the help of the  stimulus money, these companies were able to grow their profit margin by  seeking cheaper labor in Mexico and sealing a 10-year service and maintenance agreement with their respective companies.


    When these projects are completed, they will be the largest wind farms in Latin America.


    Perhaps more surprising is that this project is backed by the U.S. government.  In a scathing article last year, Upside Down World wrote:


    "In April of 2004, the United States Department of Energy (DOE) and  the US Agency for International Development (USAID) sponsored a study to  accelerate the development of wind projects in the state of Oaxaca,  which found that the best area for wind project development was in the  Isthmus of Tehuantepec, in the heart of the ancestral Ikoots territory."


    On Friday Energy Secretary Chu, known for his handling of the  Solyndra scandal, announced that he will be stepping down from his post  at the end of the month. President Obama praised Secretary Chu for  bringing a "unique understanding of both the urgent challenge presented  by climate change and the tremendous opportunity that clean energy  represents for our economy."


    The AP reports that "During his tenure, Chu helped move the country toward energy  independence, Obama said, citing Energy Department programs to boost  renewable energy such as wind and solar power."


    An article by the Huffington Post reveals that U.S. company, Sempra Energy, is among the organizations  "that have built huge wind towers that now crowd the Isthmus of  Tehuantepec [in Oaxaca], leaving the local population feeling invaded."


    According to many reports in Oaxaca, this has been done without the  consent of many residents there, namely the indigenous population. Most  of the people living in that region speak their native dialects, do not  speak Spanish and do not know how to read or write.


    Many argue that these are the communities that companies like Vestas,  Gamesa and consortium giant Mareña Renewables, have taken advantage of.  And in similar fashion, have taken advantage of American taxpayers.


    Far from the concerns for the environment that both the U.S. and  Mexican government have wanted their citizens to conceive, this is big business and not just for the companies involved. The Huffington Post states,  "So far in 2012, Mexico has posted a startling 119 percent increase in  installed wind-power capacity, more than doubling the 519 megawatts it  had last year, the highest annual growth rate listed in the magazine  Wind Power Monthly's 'Windicator' index. Mexico had only 6 megawatts  when [President] Calderon took office in 2006."


    This project promises not only to help the environment by generating  clean energy, but to help the state of Oaxaca and the country of Mexico.  However, many fear that much of it will go into the pockets of  government officials and the affected communities will see little, if  any at all.


    Half of the residents have tentatively agreed to allow Mareña  Renewables to install wind turbines in their territory.  Those that have  not, are being coerced to sell or give up their property. Concerns from  residents range from the impact that this project could have on the  flora and fauna of the region, fishing and gaming, in addition to their  communities. No social or environment plan has been established by these  companies.


    Carol Schachet, who works for Grassroots International, writes,  "...protestors say that they were not told of potential environmental  impacts of the projects when the companies initially informed them about  development, nor that existing wind farms have negatively impacted the  livelihoods of communities where they are located, including impeding  their ability to cultivate their lands. In this regard, the Mexican  government failed to fulfill its responsibility to create a process that  permits and ensures the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous  communities with regard to projects that directly affect them, as  required by national and international law."


    Citizens opposing the project have asked human rights defenders in  Oaxaca for assistance and protection due to increasing violence in San  Dionisio del Mar, where the incidents have occurred.  Many of the  residents affected, have families living in the United States --  especially in Los Angeles, where the largest Oaxacan community resides.

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