The author, Darcy Tetreault, explains how modernity and neoliberal reform/policy in Mexico have led to environmental injustice for several indigenous groups and communities. Global demand for metals, petroleum, and agricultural products, paired with global consumerism of the wealthy and middle class, has driven Mexico to allow large multi-national mining companies to override the rights of local and indigenous people. As one of the world’s leading metal producers, Mexico attracts foreign companies by offering mining concessions and tax exemptions, and disregarding environmental laws that protect both the people and the land. Companies are given permission to operate on sacred land and conservation areas, dispossess indigenous groups/local people/small farmers from their land, and lie about the scale/impacts of their projects. Any resistance from the effected groups is often met with coercion, bribery, death threats, and sometimes murder.
Tetreault begins by describing how current growth in the mining sector and new technology prompt Mexico to continue to offer land to foreign companies, even when this land is owned or used by indigenous groups. Many of the machines used and operations performed on these lands have high economic benefits for the federal government, yet are completely destructive to the environment and the people around it. The people living near these areas of destruction are most often poor, indigenous, or apart of small businesses, and must deal with the consequences while big companies reap the benefits. Tetreault then lists 6 specific examples in which indigenous communities have protested and banded together as activists over the use of their land, some finding small successes and other facing failure. However, the end of the article sums up that the power of indigenous groups and attempts to fight for their rights have not proven to be enough to stop these mining companies. Until these resistance movements are able to provide an alternative form of modernity that contains both economic and social gains, Mexico’s federal government will continue to favor mining companies over the livelihood of its own people.
The concept of human rights for indigenous groups in Mexico is the main discussion in this article. Land and property rights are completely overlooked when the federal government sees an opportunity to make a profit. Using violence and disillusionment to respond to any indigenous resistance disregards their rights as well. Accumulation by dispossession is highlighted as one of the roots of conflict between the groups, leading to protests for natural resources outside of the capitalist system through “environmentalism of the poor.” All of the topics in this article are highly compatible with what we will learn in this course; Tetreault is able to analyze how environmental issues and economic decisions can both influence human rights.