Center’s Work Leads to Partial Victory in Mexico

A wind farm company, partially funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), has decided to relocate its project that would have negatively impacted seven indigenous communities in Oaxaca, Mexico. 

The decision comes after an IDB review panel agreed to investigate a claim filed by the Center that the land rights of seven communities were being violated by the project.

“We filed the complaint because the IDB failed to secure the project-affected indigenous communities full participation in the design of the project,” said Center Senior Attorney Leonard Crippa.  “The relocation of the project is a partial victory because one of the communities we represent will still be affected by the wind farm.”

The project, now mostly located in the Juchitan de Zaragoza Municipality, includes a massive wind farm, transmissions lines and roads that would directly impact members of the large Zapotec indigenous community.  The IDB will continue its investigation with a focus on violations in the original territories listed in the complaint.  Currently, no guidelines exist in the rules of procedure that govern the IDB’s project-complaint mechanism on how the relocation of a project should be addressed when there is a related complaint being processed or how to include the new site as part of the investigation.  Regardless, the Center will continue to represent the affected community and seek a fair and just solution. 

“We should be clear that these indigenous people are not against development,” said Armstrong Wiggins, director of the Center’s Washington, D.C. office.  “Indigenous communities want to work toward sustainable development, at the same time, they want to build up their communities in the process as equal partners and rightful land holders.”

The Center is monitoring the IDB’s project-complaint mechanism to assess whether or not it effectively processes communities concerns over projects.  In addition, the Center and the Assembly of Indigenous Peoples of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Defense of the Land and Territory from Oaxaca, Mexico have submitted comments during the recent IDB policy and review process because the IDB failed to consider participation of indigenous peoples in the first stage of the review.  

“Ultimately, we need a new approach to development projects that empowers indigenous communities rather than perpetuating a life of poverty,” said Wiggins.