More than 150 farmers from communities near Texcoco, Mexico, where the new International Airport of Mexico City is slated to be built, protested Tuesday with machetes in hand outside the offices of the Agricultural High Court.
Trinidad Ramierez, coordinator of the Peoples' Front in Defense of the Land (FPDT) of San Salvador Atenco -community closest to the proposed project, says they oppose the 6 runway, international airport because it threatens their lands, agricultural activities, and cultural heritage.
“They say they won’t build on the lands around Atenco, however we see that they are,” says the farmworker leader, “Since twelve years ago we learned that territory does not just mean land, but rather our customs and roots.”
The major project announced last week by President Enrique Peña Nieto, which will cost an estimated $168,800 million pesos between 2015 and 2020, is an echo to a similar project proposed by then-president Vicente Fox in 2001.
The authorities then applied a presidential decree to reappropriate the legally recognized comunal farmlands – known as an ejido, for an international airport. However after stiff civil resistance and protest by farmworkers, the airport plan was nixed in 2002.
Although the authorities now say the airport will be built on federal lands adjacent to the current airport in the eastern edge of Mexico City, many from the souronding communities question this affirmation.
In June, local authorities organized an ejidal assembly to change farmland titles from communal, ejidal lands to private property, opening the door to selling off the land. Members from the FPDT say the assembly was illegal and a majority of those present were not actual residents of the community.
“The social transcendence that changing land from social to private property can have, would practically be a dispossession, eviction of original peoples and farmers from lands that have given them sustenance for a long time,” says Ricardo Lagunes, legal representative of the ejidatarios of San Salvador Atenco.
They demand that the Agricultural High Court and local court in Texcoco, nullify the assembly and its results, calling it “riddled with irregularities.”