CONSERVATION INTERNATIONAL: THE TROJAN HORSE
José Merced Hernández Gómez
José Leopoldo Castro
Ernesto Ledesma Arronte
Translated from Spanish by: Laura Raymond
San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas.
Real de Guadalupe #55, altos 3, Zona Centro,
San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, México 29230
Tel y fax: +52 (967) 678 9738 e-mail: email@example.com
2. Projects and presence on the American continent.
3. Who invests in Conservation International?
1.1 Description and Characteristics of the Organization
Conservation International (CI) was founded February 28, 1987 in the Tabard
Inn of Washington DC by Peter Seligmann and Spencer Bee with the mission
of conserving and rehabilitating the natural environment.
CI operates internationally in more than 25 countries (Belize, Bolivia,
Botswana, Brazil, China, Camboya, Columbia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, United
States, the Fiji Islands, the Philippines, Ghana, Guatemala, Guyana,
Indonesia, Japan, Madagascar, Mexico, New Caledonia, Panama, Papa New
Guinea, Peru, The Salomon Islands, and Surinam).
In Latin America, Conservation International is present in all of the
Mesoamerican Corridor and in the Mayan Jungle.
1.1.1 What are CI’s Characteristics?
Monica Morales describes Conservation International as a civil association
founded in 1987. The international organization intervenes in areas of the
world considered to be the most threatened and their mission is to conserve
To achieve this goal, CI utilizes the finances of large corporations such as
McDonald’s, Ford, Starbucks and Intel, companies that do not necessarily
have an “ecological” profile nor do they represent sustainable development
Furthermore, the directors of these corporations also form part of
Administrative Council of CI2.
INTERNATIONAL CIVIL COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS OBSERVATION IN CHIAPAS, MEXICO: final report of the
third visit of the CCIODH (February 16-March 3 2002) pg.621: interview (March 11 2002) with Monica G Morales Mendoza
Presidente del Comité Ejecutivo y cofundador de CI.
Gordon E. Moore: Intel Corporation.
Lewis W. Coleman
Presidente de la Gordon
and Betty Moore
Meredith Auld Brokaw.
Conservacionista. Story Clark Resor.
Board of Directors
Henry H. Arnhold: Arnhold & S. Bleichroeder, Inc.
Lord John Browne of Madingley: BP p.l.c.
Barry Diller: USA Interactive, Inc.
Mark L. Feldman: L&L Manufacturing Company.
Robert J. Fisher: Gap Inc.
Michael H. Glawe: UAL Corporation y United Airlines.
Orin Smith: Starbucks Coffee Company.
Lorenzo H. Zambrano: CEMEX.
Joel Korn: WKI Brasil Servicos Ltda.
Peter McPherson: Michigan State University. East Lansing, Michigan.
Nicholas J. Pritzker: Hyatt Development Corporation.
Kenneth F. Siebel: U.S. Trust Company of California, N.A.
Stewart A. Resnick: The Roll Corporation
Judson Green: Navigation Technologies Corporation
Ray Thurston: Edgewood, LLC.
Edward O. Wilson, Ph.D: Profesor de Harvard University
Oscar M. Lopez: Holding Corporation
John E. McCaw, Jr.: Orca Bay Capital Corporation
CI is also involved in capacitating and constituting business associations, the
private, corporate conservation of Natural Protected Areas, corporate
ecotourism, and pharmaceutical uses of tropical jungle species. In
pharmaceuticals, they coordinate with large transnational corporations such
as NIH, Bristol-Myers, and Squibb.
CI works with private institutions and with projects of governments that
refuse to sign the Kyoto Protocol (Indonesia, the Philippines, the Salomon
Islands and the United States) and, through their projects, they share funding
without pressuring them to commit to signing this protocol. Meanwhile, truly
ecological organizations consider the signing of the Kyoto agreement a
fundamental requisite for collaboration.
CI has signed an agreement with UNESCO for capacitating, advising, and
bringing donations of computer equipment, with Internet service, to 25
Natural Protected Areas in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
Thanks to the Global Conservation Fund, created in 2001, as well as to the 100
million dollars of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, CI finances the
creation and expansion of protected areas in the world. Buying land and
giving concessions are among their priorities. Currently, “CI finances
projects in 22 countries covering 55 million land and marine hectares”3.
1987: Conservation International was born. It was founded by Peter
Seligmann and Spencer Beebe in the Tabard Inn in Washington DC on
January 28 along with 35 integrated members and directors, including
Chuck Hedlund, Louise Emmons, Bill Hutton, F. Noel Perry, Ken Siebel,
Peter Stroh, Jack Vaughn and Alan Weeden. Thanks to the generosity of
two “anonymous donars” the funding of CI was possible.
CI launched its’ strategy of “eco-systemic conservation” in Bolivia,
Mexico, and Costa Rica, combining habitat protection with regional
participation for regional economic growth. With the collaboration of the
McDonald’s Corporation, this approach was able to gain strength in 1990
through the AMISCONDE project in Costa Rica.
The first “debt for nature swap” began when CI bought part of Bolivia’s
external debt. The debt was re-invested to finance conservation efforts in
the Beni Biosphere Reserve. Since then, more than one billion dollars has
been re-invested with this same strategy.
1988: Chicago’s Natural History Museum becomes a CI associate,
supporting their studies of the Amazon Jungle.
1989: CI begins its’ work in Bolivia, Mexico (the Lacandon Jungle) and
Costa Rica, promoting environmental conservation strategies through
projects with local communities.
1990: Thanks to support from McDonalds, one of their most important
associates, CI begins their work in Africa, in the Asian Pacific regions and
in Costa Rica. Also this year, CI creates its’ project ECOTOURISM.
CI adopts the term “hotspots” from Norman Myers. By the end of the 90’s
CI will have identified 25 hotspots that represent 1.4 percent of the Earth’s
surface but contain 60% of the world’s species diversity. From this point
on CI will dedicate themselves to intervening in the “care for the riches”
of these areas.
1992: CI publishes the first global map that registers the human impacts
1995: CI creates the Madidi National Park in Bolivia with 4.5 million
hectares. The park becomes one of the largest in the world.
1996: In collaboration with a group of researchers about World Bank
development projects, CI becomes interested in the Atlantic Jungle in
1997: CI commits itself to health and sanitation projects.
1998:Thanks to funding from Richard and Rhoda Goldman Foundation,
CI builds the Central Nature Reserve in Surinam. Also in this year,
Starbucks Company, together with CI, participates in organic coffee
projects in Chiapas, Mexico.
1999: CI buys 19,400 acres of the Fazenda Black River, in Brazil, using it
for an ecotourist project and for research regarding biodiversity.
Thanks to 15 million dollar from “anonymous donors” the “Five Brothers
Fund” is created; scholarships for researchers. Five million dollars are
used to open a fund for the protection of tropical nature”.
2000: Together with the World Bank, the MacArthur Foundation and the
Global Environment Facility, CI starts the Critical Ecosystem Partnership
Fund, funds for creating projects that intervene in the planet’s hotspots.
CI organizes a conference called “Struggling Against the Destruction of
Nature”, where more than sixty scientists come together to discuss
2001: CI and the Ford Motor Company Foundation create the
Environmental Leadership in Business, with the function of involving the
private sectors and corporations in environmental conservation projects.
The Energy and Biodiversity initiative looks to integrate biodiversity
conservation with the development of gas and petroleum extraction and
distribution techniques. This project is in collaboration with BP, Chevron,
Texaco, Shell, Statoil, Fauna and Flora International.
Peru approves legislation to demarcate environmental territory that
permits private administration of protected areas. The law permits direct
private investment in more than 100 million acres of tropical forest and
leads to the creation of the 3.3 million acre Cordillera Azul National Park.
The CI research makes the regulation possible and the negotiations7
between CI, its’ associates, and the Peruvian government makes its’
approval possible. CI mentions that this is a model that can be reproduced
throughout the whole world.
The Betty Moore Foundation gives CI 261 million dollars with the
– to develop a global system of control, using installations in
places considered hotspots
– to create a Global Conservation Fund with the intention of
creating and expanding protected areas with the richest
2002: There are more than 1000 CI groups working in more than 30
countries on 4 continents. In total, CI has invested more than $315 million
in over15 years towards the “conservation” of dozens of millions of acres
of the richest habitats on Earth.8
2. Projects and Presence on the American Continent
2.1. Biopiracy and Biotechnologies
Ignacio March, the director of Conservation International-Chiapas, said:
“The genetic resources of the Lacandon Jungle or any jungle are very
important. Many of these genetic resources are being lost without us even
learning what they are. Bioprospecting doesn’t necessarily extract
pharmaceutical properties, rather, it also holds the possibility of studying
genetic processes of organisms that can help better the human condition”
(interview with International Civil Commission of Human Rights
Observation [CCIODH for its’ Spanish initials] in May of 2002).
CI denies having bioprospection projects and also declares that “The
Pulsar group has been a fundamental donor to CI in the past 5 years, and
it offers its’ support without special interests. Pulsar does not do anything
that is outside of the law”. (CCIODH interview with Ignacio March, CI
director, May 2002)
In the past, CI was involved in an agreement with Hyseq Inc., from
California in the USA, who specializes in human gene mapping.
In the state of Chiapas, Mexico, CI currently cooperates with El Colegio de
la Frontera Sur (ECOSUR) through the Geographic Information System
and Regional Monitoring in the Mayan Jungle, also through the creation
of a CD speaking against the indigenous settlements in the Montes Azules
2.1.1 The Collaborators:
“El Colegio de la Frontera Sur (Ecosur) is a research and education center
on a postgraduate level, focusing on the development and integration of
Mexico’s Southern border. Its programs generate scientific knowledge, the
formation of “human resources and the design of technology and
strategies for innovations oriented in sustainable development”5.
Ecosur has been working for 25 years and has more than 115 researchers,
associates, and licensed professionals distributed in five headquarters
which are located in four of Mexico’s southern border states: Tapachula,
San Cristóbal de las Casas, Villahermosa, Chetumal, and Campeche6.
Ecosur, Chiapas’ College on the Southern Border, became involved in a
bioprospection project in the Highland zone of Chiapas.
The project started in 1997 with the goal of contributing to the
conservation of Mayans from the Chiapan Highlands’ traditional
knowledge of medicinal plants, to investigate the scientific roots of the
traditional medicine and to develop alternative uses and medicinal
The participants in the project were: the University of Georgia (UG),
Ecosur, and the Gales biotechnology laboratory, Molecular Nature
Unlimited. This project also included 2.5 million dollars of funding from
the US government8.
In their 1999/200 report, submitted to UG in July 2000, the Ethno-biology
Laboratory of UG told the ICBG-Maya proposal that they had
accomplished a “successful ethno-botanical sampling of the study areas of
Chenalhó, Oxchuc, Tenejapa, and Las Margaritas, resulting in the
collection of 5.961 samples, with 7 copies of each one, by the end
December 1999.” The botanical, ehthnobotanical, and ecological facts of
the samples had already been computerized. They estimated that they had
studied between 1000 and 1500 different species. They also realized the
registration of close to 200 different traditional medical formulas, from the
above mentioned municipals9.
2.2 Projects and Campaigns.
2.21 The Mesoamerican Region:
Conservation International works in the Petén Region, in the Maya
Biosphere Reserve, one of the richest regions in biodiversity in the world.
The Petén region is over a third of Guatemala’s landmass with more than
17,000 km2, land that is covered with forests and that constitutes a very
important archeological zone.
7 http://www.etcgroup.org/article.asp?newsid=19 8 ibid
The Petén zone is conformed by 12 municipals: San Benito, San Andrés,
San José, San Francisco, La Libertad, Sayaxché, Santa Ana, Dolores,
Poptún, San Luis, Melchor de Mencos y Flores, which make up the
CI’s projects in Guatemala include: “Community-based concessions”, or
rather, the administration of the natural resources in the Petén area,
together with local communities.
The Geographic Information and Regional Monitoring System project in
the Maya Jungle, in collaboration with NASA (who is also operating in the
Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve), has the goal of controlling human
activity in natural areas. Among their activities, they are caretaking
various ecotourism projects with Guatemalan businesses such as
“EcoMaya”. And, with USAID on the shores of the Usumacinta River, a
project with Ecoescuela and the Bio-Itza (Spanish schools for foreigners)
which “looks to avoid” the illegal trafficking of wild fauna in Flores11.
CI founded an organization, ProPetén, that is dedicated to organizing CI’s
Guatemala programs, and which has connections with the Guatemala
Tourism Institute and with the administrations of Petén’s municipals.
Currently, ProPetén is in a process of reorganization12.
Since 1998 CI has also promoted the Green Alliance Association, a private
non-profit organization that works on ecotourism projects, distributes the
magazine Destinación Petén, and controls tourist centers in the region
through a certification program.
The Popular Communities in Resistance of Petén, Guatemala have openly
expressed their worries of what CI is trying to do in their lands13. CI has
stated its interest in supporting the Maya Jungle’s communities, whom in
some cases have expressed their interest in CI’s project but whom also are
in resistance to investment projects and bioprospecting inside of their
10 http://www.conservation.org/xp/CIWEB/regions/meso_america/meso_america.xml 11 ibid 12 INTERNATIONAL CIVIL COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS OBSERVATION IN CHIAPAS, MEXICO: final report of the
third visit of the CCIODH (Feb 16- March 3, 2002) pg.633 13 ibid pg.641-64211
188.8.131.52 Costa Rica and Panama:
Conservation International is present in the La Amistad Biosphere
Reserve, the largest and most diverse ecosystem in the entire
Mesoamerican region, declared a Human Heritage site by UNESCO due
to the variety of wild animals, medicinal plants, and tropical jungle
In these lands there are settlements of indigenous groups such as the
Bribri, the Cabecear, the Nasos, and the Ngobes.
Since 1987, the US organization has worked in this zones through health,
ecology, and natural resource management programs.
Due to the farming and forest fires that destroy the jungle, CI denounces
the danger that the local community represents15.
In Costa Rica they have also developed (up until the end of the 90’s) the
AMISCONDE (from the Spanish initials of Friendship, Conservation, and
Development) project: a project of sustainable development and
biodiversity conservation. Initially developed in two hydrographic valleys
in the buffer zone of the pacific slope of the La Amistad Biosphere Reserve
in Costa Rica and Panama. With a project site in each country their first
pilot phase was executed by two private environmental agencies (The
Tropical Science Center in Costa Rica and the Sustainable Development
Foundation in Panama), in association with Conservation International,
Texas A&M University and foreign corporations (McDonalds, Coca-Cola,
Sony, and Monsanto). After five years in operation and with substantial
generated experience, the organized groups took on the responsibility of
impelling the philosophy generated by AMISCONDE and taking over
many of the conservation activities and integrated development
14 http://www.conservation.org/xp/CIWEB/regions/meso_america/costarica_panama/costarica_panama.xml 15 http://www.conservation.org/xp/CIWEB/regions/meso_america/meso_america.xml 16http://www.mag.go.cr/Direcciones/Extension/Agricultura_conservacionista/cong 17http://www.conservation.org/ImageCache/CIWEB/content/publications/amisconde_2epdf/v1/amisconde.pdf12
2.2.2 South America
There are various projects in Brazil:
-The Amazon: CI works with the indigenous Kayapo in a project of
natural resource management for 2 million hectors. It is also studying ecotourist
projects and “economic activities”18.
-Pantanal: the administration of resources together with local
governments, ranchers and communities.
-Cerrado: agriculture programs with peasant farmers from Emas, and the
maintenance of a station where various scientists do biological research on
1.77 million acres in Tocantins (in the arid region of Jalapao).
CI also promotes Pequi, a local organization, which carries out biological
research, and which, together with the University of Brazil and the
government, is working to create a plan for the area’s administration.
Abrolhos y Corumbau.
CI Works in the Abrolhos National Marine Park, in the southern region of
Bahía and on the coral coast of Corumbau, with ecological and eco-tourist
programs, as well as with programs to control the activity of fishermen.
In 1998, CI and the Surinam government created the Central Nature
Reserve of Surinam, an area of 1.6 million hectares. Here CI works with
ecotourism and resource management (with bioprospcting and the
production of non-wood products from the Reserve). In particular with
the bioprospecting project, CI “utilizes the knowledge and traditional
plants of the indigenous for pharmaceutical research”19, along with their
associates ICBG, and the US National Health Institute. CI provides the
“tribal communities” (as stated on their website) with technology,
training, and equipment to harvest their own resources.
18 http://www.conservation.org/xp/CIWEB/regions/south_america/south_america.xml 19 ibid13
Glaxo/Smith Kline Beechan, the largest pharmaceutical corporation in the
world, had 17,834 million dollars in total declared sales in 1998 alone, and
this only controlling 7% of the world market. Even more significant are
their net margins: in the same year their earnings were around 30%. The
10 largest pharmaceutical corporations in the world controlled 44% of the
market valued at $301 billion dollars in 1998. Some of these corporations
were or are beneficiaries of ICBG subsidies: Monsanto jointly with
Conservation International in Panama, Bristol-Myers Squibb and
DowElanco Agrosciences jointly with Conservation International in
Surinam and Madagascar, Monsanto-Searle Co. in Peru, Glaxo Wellcome
in Laos and Vietnam, American Home Products jointly with universities
in Chile, Argentina, and Mexico20.
The group ETC affirms that “the NGO Conservation International has also
received donations from this fund (the ICBG fund from the US
government) for bioprospecting together with corporations”21.
CI has proposed that Guyana’s government create a protected area in the
southeast region, in the Kanuku mountains.
In 2000, CI obtained a concession of land in the Essequibo area22.
2.2.3 The Andean Region
CI has worked since 1989 in the Southeast Tropical Reserve23.
After long negotiations between CI and the Commission of Protected
Areas of Bolivia’s Government, the Berna Sucesores company, in
December 2001, expressed its consent in giving wood concessions to CI. In
the Pilón Lajas mountains (195,000 acres). Berna received compensation
from CI, through CI’s Global Conservation Fund and from the Gordon
and Betty Moore Foundation.
20 http://www.etcgroup.org/article.asp?newsid=19 21 http://www.etcgroup.org/article.asp?newsid=111 22 http://www.conservation.org/xp/CIWEB/regions/south_america/guianas/guianas.xml 23 http://www.conservation.org/xp/CIWEB/regions/south_america/andes/andes.xml14
They have other projects in the country, including presence in the Madidi
National Park (in the Vilcbamba-Amboro corridor)24.
CI is present in the Galapagos Islands through ecotourism programs
and resource administration25.
CI is doing research on the shores of the Basin River26.
CI studies and analyzes the protected areas of the country, controls the
mountainous area from Páramo to Guerrero in central Columbia,
researches biodiversity in the Caparú station (close to the Caquetá River,
in the Amazon zone), reforestation projects, and protection in the zones
from Sabana to Bogotá. In the Cauca and Santander Valley, they also have
a coffee project in collaboration with the Columbian Coffee Federation.
CI Columbia and CI Ecuador collaborate on a maintenance and
conservation project in the Chocó-Manabi Corridor27.
184.108.40.206 Gulf of California Project
The goal of this project, established in 1987, is “the biological and cultural
conservation of marine, coast, and insular species”28. The operational base
is situated in the port of Guaymas, Sonora, Mexico’s most important
CI has various activities in the Gulf of California: primarily supporting the
direction of the High Gulf of California and Colorado River Delta Reserve
and cooperating with local tourist companies (through a guide service).
24 ibid 25 ibid 26 http://www.conservation.org/xp/CIWEB/regions/south_america/andes/andes.xml
27 ibid 28 http://www.ci-mexico.org.mx15
For four years, CI has been developing a fact base for the Gulf’s coastal
and marine macro fauna, with more than 5,000 registered species, their
complete taxonomy, basic ecology, and their distribution.
In the fishing sector they work with the industrial branch, “in the
evaluation of the capture mechanisms incidental in the dragging nets for
Since January 2002, CI has been investing millions of dollars in the largest
hydroponics project in Latin America, situated in Baja California.
220.127.116.11 Mayan Jungle:
Various projects exist in the Mayan Jungle. The Mayan Jungle covers the
Lacandon Jungle and bordering jungle areas such as those of Guatemala.
The following is a chronology of activities programmed by CI-Chiapas for
the Mayan Jungle. This same chronology was presented in Tuxtla
Gutiérrez, Chiapas on August 28, 2000 to the United States’ Agency for
International Development as part of a project that reads: “towards the
implementation of conservation and sustainable development projects in
the Lacandon Jungle, Chiapas (Exercise 2000-2001) Version 2.0”30.
1994 “A research project in the Black River Valley, in the center of the
Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve, was initiated.
With the active participation of CI Washington, the design, application,
and integration of a workshop evaluating the conservation of the Mayan
Jungle, was realized in San Cristóbal de las Casas.
The elaboration of an Evaluation map of the Mayan Jungle’s conservation.
The initiation of the establishment of SIG (System of Geographic
Information) for CI’s Chiapas Program.
They begin monitoring vegetation cover with over flights and visual
analysis of satellite images”.
1995 “Initiated the design of the Integrated Monitoring Plan for the
Conservation of the Lacandon Jungle.
The systematization of over flights to monitor vegetation cover.
Supported the definition of limits between the workers from Nueva
Palestina and Lacanjá Chanasayab, in the Lacandona Community.
Supported the definition of agrarian limits in Naha and Metzaboc.
Maintained a continuous evaluation and denouncement of the invasions
in the Protected Natural Areas (PNAs) of the Lacandon Jungle”.
1996 “The definition, verification of countryside, and limiting description
of the Protected Natural Areas of Nahá and Metzabok, in preparation of
their decree of establishment in 1997.
Evaluation of Bonampak’s highway and tourist project impact.
Realization of a proposal of ecological micro-ordinances in workers from
Nueva Palestina and Boca de Chajul.
Presentation of the first proposal of the Integrated Monitoring Plan for the
conservation of the Lacandon Jungle.
Generate cartographic information for the Montes Azules Reserve (INESEMERNAP
‘Today known as SEMARNAT’)”.
1997 “Planning and initiation of CI Washington’s Monitoring and
Evaluation Program to monitor CI Chiapas’ projects
Planning and coordination of the HIGRAPHIC High Resolution Aerial
Photography Study, with CI Washington and a specialist from the
University of Massachusetts.
Initiation of their collaboration in capacitating and working in the
countryside with ENDESU’s Butterfly Project in order to define the UMAS
of the ejidos Boca de Chajul, El Piru and Playon de la Gloria.
Contribution to workshops on community participation for the realization
of the Management Program in the Montes Azules Reserve.
Participation in the design of Yaxchilán’s Ecological Ordenamiento
1998 “Conclusion of HIGRAPHIC High Resolution Aerial Photography
Participation in coordination of the first workshop on Monitoring and
Evaluation in CI Chipas, with CI Washington.
Elaboration on the cartographic base for the book “Lacandon Jungle: A
Refuge from Extinction” edited by Pulsar International.
Realization of social cartography in coordination with ENAH of 8 ARIC
communities in the Region of the Valleys, as well as basic training on this
theme to this campesino organization.
Satellite digital photographing of the Lacandon Jungle in March 1998.
Carrying out workshops on threats to the Montes Azules Reserve’s
Contribution to the elaboration of maps of the Mayan Jungle’s Vegetation.
A continuous evaluation of forest fires in the Protected Natural Areas of
the Lacandon Jungle”.17
1999 “Support for the zoning process in the Montes Azules Reserve.
Participation in the diagnosis of the ejido Ixcán.
The establishment of the Lacondon Jungle’s Integrated System of
Environmental Monitoring (SIMASEL for its’ initials in Spanish)31.
Contibuted to SIG’s management training for Southeast Mexican
Began supporting studies of habitat and radio tracking of the red parrot
(Ara macao) with overflights and by following marked birds”.
2000 “The publication of a map of the Mayan Jungle’s vegetation.
Participation in the zoning and elaboration of management programs of
the Naha and Metzaboc Reserves.
The first spatial analysis of the Lacandon Jungle for the Strategic
Conservation of the Lacandon Jungle in the 21st Century.
Support for the generation of monitoring training for the Coffee Project of
(“Note: In various moments since CI’s beginning, they have collaborated with research
and cartography studies for diverse institutions such as: INE, SEMARNAT, ENDESU,
INAH, ENAH, AGROMOD, FUNDACIÓN ARA, UNAM, SERNyP, and various foreign
They present two principal projects “(…)we have successfully looked for
funding (from USAID) for the completion of prioritized projects of
conservation and development in the Lacandon Jungle region during the
period of 2000-2001”:
“a. A project of developing a joint strategy for the conservation of
“b. A monitoring project for critical areas in the Lacandon Jungle”32.
In the same site it is stated that “(…) both projects are considered
fundamental for the conservation of these tropical rainforests which
contain the majority of Mexico’s biodiversity, paralleling the challenge
they face, which can not be postponed or avoided, in looking for
development methods which are sustainable”33.
Attempts to realize workshops that would be “(…) facilitated by strategic
planning specialists, in particular the Centro de Estudios Estratégicos
31 INTERNATIONAL CIVIL COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS OBSERVATION IN CHIAPAS, MEXICO: final report of the
third visit of the CCIODH (Feb 16- March 3, 2002) pg 624. 32 http://www.ci-mexico.org.mx/comuniINTERNA/documentos/Programa%20Chiapas/Direccion/AID2000.pdf 33 ibid18
(CEE) of the Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey
Attempt to “Realize meetings by sector or interest group in order to
expand the strategy; (…) an attempt to define and prioritize the projects
and activities in order to consolidate the short and medium term
conservation of biological diversity”. Amidst the themes and interest
groups that have been identified are the following:
• Systems of agriculture production.
• Management and conservation of forest resources (wood and
• Development of tourist activities
• Education and Health
• Industry and energy
• Urban development, communications, and transportation
• Biodiversity, wildlife, and protected natural areas management34”
As for monitoring the Lacandon Jungle’s critical areas the following is
proposed: The realization of vegetation cover and soil use monitoring in
the critical areas of the Lacandon Jungle using the following as principal
“b.1. Using remote sensors to gather information about forest cover. The
classification and analysis of satellite images from LANDSAT 7
corresponding to 2000.
“b.2. Gathering information regarding the countryside.
Planning and carrying out systematic over flights.
Planning and realizing trips to the countryside to verify information.
Gathering information using tools such as GPS, photographic cameras,
and video cameras”.
b.3. The integration of information into databases and SIG.
Preparing the information to be used in digital formats in SIG ERDAS and
ARCVIEW. Continued development of data bases and SIG ARCVIEW
Analysis of relevant information and map prints for field work, report
presentations, and action/strategy planning”35.
34 ibid 35 ibid19
Conservation International carried out a program of over flights that
permitted wide scrutiny of the Mayan Jungle region; the following is a
look at the flights36:
1st Semester. (Gc.- Large cover overflight; Fo.- Focused overflight)
MAIN ÁREA OF
OTHER ÁREAS DE
JAN 3 V1.Gc The recovered
Cañadas-Miramar; Río Negro;
Palestina; Chaquistero; Corredor
FEB 2 V2. Fo Naha
MARCH 2 V3. Fo Cañadas-Miramar
Río Negro; Villaflores-Ojo de A.
Ribera del Lacantún; Corredor
ABRIL 1 a 4 Poor visibility due to
MAY 1 V4. Fo Cañadas-Miramar
JUNE 1 V5. Fo The recovered
San Javier-C. Corozal
2nd. Semester (Gc.- Large Cover Overflight Fo.-Focused Overflight)
MAIN AREA OF
OTHER ÁREAS OF
JULY 4 V6. Fo Chaquistero
Ribera del Lacantún
Marqués de Comillas
AUGUST 1 a 4 Poor visibility
SEPT 1 a 4 Poor visibility
OCT V7. Gc The recovered
San Javier-C. Corozal
DEC 3 V8. Gc Cañadas-Miramar
Meseta Agua Escondida
Cañada del Perlas
For these costs, CI-Mexico solicited funding from CI and USAID for nearly 5
million pesos (in total that is $4,856,476, of which USAID put $1,865,996 and CI
Conservation International Mexico, A.C. promises 6 trimester reports to USAIDMexico
in two modalities: one financial report with a base in the existent format
and the other a technical report that resumes the advances made in activities. The
products that are generated will be attached to the reports. CI promises to report
on all the additional information that USAID requires to follow up on project
18.104.22.168.1 Population and Environment
Conservation International also works to contain overpopulation.
Conservation International mentions that it also works in a “preventative
manner […] within our project with IMSS and MEXFAM in Emiliano Zapata,
Frontera Corozal and Ixcán […] which basically attempts to inform indigenous
women about family planning options […] the truth being that Indians and
women have the right to be exposed to family planning methods and can have
less children in order to lead a better life and avoid being turned into incubators
for the communities’ labor force39.
22.214.171.124.1.1 The Collaborators:
Founded in 1965, The Mexican Foundation for Family Planning is “a non-profit
civil association governed by volunteers, specializing in diffusing the practice of
voluntary fertility regulation in the necessary sectors of the Mexican
MEXFAM works together with CI and with funding from PACKARD and
USAID in the “Population and Environment” project with the goal of combating
overpopulation in the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve.
MEXFAM is also interested in the Jungle’s conservation and has said, “The
protected natural areas of Mexico cover only 5% of the country and it is
estimated that 80% of the national territory has deteriorated in some manner.
Today Mexico is considered to have the highest level of deforestation in the
37 ibid 38 ibid 39 INTERNATIONAL CIVIL COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS OBSERVATION IN CHIAPAS, MEXICO: final report of the
third visit of the CCIODH (Feb 16- March 3, 2002) pg. 643 40 http://www.mexfam.org.mx 41 http://www.mexfam.org.mx/esp_need_fam.htm21
126.96.36.199.2 Ecotourism Projects
CI promotes a Responsible Tourism Network (Y’axBe’) and maintains a
biological station called Ixcán, “a project that was financed by Grupo Pulsar and
is now run as a cooperative…”42.
188.8.131.52.3. Participation in the Direction of the Montes Azules Reserve
“(…) we work with the Federal and State Government institutions, with the
Instituto Nacional Indígena (INI), MEXFAM, IMSS, Secretaría de Desarrollo
Social (Sedesol), Consejo Nacional de Áreas Protegidas (CNAP), Instituto de
Historia Natural (IHN), Colegio de la Frontera Sur (ECOSUR), Universidad de
Artes y Ciencias de Chiapas and the Comisión Nacional del Agua because we are
part of the management team of the Usumacinta Valley”43.
184.108.40.206.4. Evictions promoted by Conservation International in the Lacandon
“Ernesto Enkerlin of the National Commission on Protected Natural Areas, said
this past February that Conservation International Mexico was among the
environmental NGOs that were pressuring the eviction of the communities
within the Montes Azules BioReserve. This NGO has been one of the principal
pressures on the government for the ‘relocation’ of the communities within the
Montes Azules reserve”44.
When the International Civil Commission on Human Rights (CCIODH) asked
Ignacio March (CI’s director) about Ernesto Enkerlin’s (the General Director of
the national Commission on Protected Areas)45 declarations during various
forums that CI is pressuring for the eviction of the Lacandon Jungle
communities, Ignacio March answered that, “yes, it is true that we have been
pressuring the government to stop the invasions. It is my social mission […] to
limit this. In many cases they are not committing crimes but in others, yes,
because they are invading zones where there is no possibility to engage in
formalities. They are ignorant people (the people of the communities ‘irregularly’
42 INTERNATIONAL CIVIL COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS OBSERVATION IN CHIAPAS, MEXICO: final report of the
third visit of the CCIODH (Feb 16- March 3, 2002) pg.622 43 ibid pp. 633-634 44 http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2003/ene03/030105/mas-sonoro.html 45 former member of the Comité Consultivo Público Conjunto (CCPC) on the Commission for Environmental Cooperation. The CCPC
is a transnational organism formed by 15 people (5 from each country involved in NAFTA: Canada, US, and Mexico). Each member
is distinguished by their environmental activities. The CCPC acts absolutely independently and is incharge of giving recommendations
on all matters related to the Acuerdo de Cooperación Ambiental de América del Norte (ACAAN).22
settled) that are tricked and sent there. The point is that we need a solution
which does not bring this perverse incentive and I do not have it.46”
In March 2003 CI assured that “the politicization and the absence of effective
ecological programs from the authorities, such as the tolerance of invading
groups of supposed Zapatistas, increase the risks of intercommunal conflict and
accelerate the devastation of the last 500,000 hectares of the Lacandon Jungle’s
protected areas in Chiapas. The international organization criticizes the
immobility of the federal and state government, assuring that the tolerance from
these authorities provokes invasions and such in the Chiapan jungle”47.
220.127.116.11.4. CI in the Montes Azules Reserve (RIBMA): The Denunciations
September 2001: Publication of a CD called The Treasure of the Lacandon Jungle
(in collaboration with Pulsar, USAID, and Ecosur). This CD included a
description of the Jungle’s resources and the importance of conserving them.
April 2001: In the city of Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas. Conservation International
Mexico organizes a meeting about the “Strategic Plan for the Lacandon Jungle”,
financed by USAID, with the objective of conserving the Jungle48.
September/October 2001 United States personnel enter into The Lakes zone with
material and scuba diving equipment and, after a short time, a delegation of
United States diplomats arrived “integrated with military attaché, as well as
someone in charge of economic-commercial matters and someone in charge of
political matters for the US Ambassador to Mexico”49.
The US delegation also traveled to Tuxtla, where they met with the CI-Chiapas
director. Later, a delegation member visited COMPITCH, and declared in an
“I work with the American embassy in Mexico City, I basically am involved in
commercial politics. I accompany all the work that has to do with NAFTA,
problems between the US and Mexico, and one of my jobs is to work with the
theme of intellectual property—a very controversial matter”.
46 INTERNATIONAL CIVIL COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS OBSERVATION IN CHIAPAS, MEXICO: final report of the
third visit of the CCIODH (Feb 16- March 3, 2002) pg. 649 47 http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2003/mar03/030325/036n1est.php?origen=estados.html 48 http://www.ci-mexico.org.mx/comuniINTERNA/documentos/Programa%20Chiapas/Direccion/AID2000.pdf 49 INTERNATIONAL CIVIL COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS OBSERVATION IN CHIAPAS, MEXICO: final report of the
third visit of the CCIODH (Feb 16- March 3, 2002) pg.636-63723
“One of my reasons for coming here was to try to better understand the
controversy around bioprospecting in the Jungle […] there is more research here
because, obviously, there is more and more research being done throughout the
world regarding the properties of medicinal plants […] the theme is of global
interest and of interest to our government”. When asked “Is it strategic?”
Schonander responded: “yes”.
He continues, “(…) we are very accustomed to a certain manner of protecting
intellectual property but it is up to each country to define this. Within the WTO,
certain measures have been taken in the commitment in protecting intellectual
property, but not specifically with the forms of bioprospecting […] the official
interest (of the US Government) is that there is a need for bioprospecting not
only here but in all of the world[…] we have corporations that do bioprospecting
but so do England, Germany, and France. I am not going to deny that there is a
very commercial aspect, there definitely is […] the basic reason is that a large
percentage of North American business in pharmaceutical production depends
on the Intellectual Protection System […] and here are 15,000 of the 30,000 plant
varieties in existence, which is why we are interested in Chiapas50.
The organization ARIC Independiente denounces that the eviction attempts are
made in an effort to position transnational capital and they propose that the
areas’ communities are those left in charge of managing and preserving the
jungle. CI answered “We currently do not consider these communities as having
the knowledge to manage these areas. The collective historical knowledge of the
Lacandones in incomparable with other groups such as the Tzotziles, Tzeltales,
whom are from colder or temperate lands, more so then the Tojolabales”.
(Interview with Ignacio March, May 2002, International Civil Commission on
Human Rights Observation in Mexico).
January 2002: CI organizes a press conference where the president and general
director Peter A. Seligmann declares that the situation in RIBMA is “critical” and
they propose an alliance between the government and the private sector to
March 2002: Pablo Salazar presents the Forest Law that will impose very severe
sanctions against anyone who harms trees within the state of Chiapas. On March
13, this law is presented by the local legislature (of Chiapas) to the Jungle and
Forest Commission for their approval.
50 Interview between COMPITCH and Carl Schönander (Office of Trade Matters to the US Ambassador to Mexico)24
March 12-15 2002: (transcribed from a Conafor report, March 1, Zapopan, Jalisco)
“From the 12th to 15th of next March, New York City will host the II United
Nations Forum on Forests, which will be attended by the Director General of the
National Forestry Commision (CONAFOR), Ing. Alberto Cárdenas Jiménez, and
the Lic. José Manuel Bulás, head of CONAFOR’s Unidad de Cooperación y
Financiamiento. This forum has the objectives of promoting the management,
conservation, and sustainable development of every type of forest and
reinforcing the political promises of carrying this out.”
“In this international conference, CONAFOR will speak about their strategic
principals and action steps towards achieving sustainable forest development in
“Vincente Fox Quesada declared that forests should be considered a matter of
national security because of the impacts, benefits, goods, and services that they
provide. Therefore, the head of CONAFOR, before representatives from 188
countries of the United Nations, will propose that forests be considered a matter
of international security.”
May 27, 2002: In an interview with Ignacio March taken by the International
Civil Commission on Human Rights Observation in Mexico, the question was
asked: “We are aware that you work with Lacandon communities. Is it true that
you have provided them with facts and photographs so that they could
denounce and demand the removal of the irregular settlements in the jungle?”
Ignacio March responded, “Yes, Absolutely true. We have an environmental
monitoring project […] that works on two levels: one with satellite images, which
we make available to the general public and to research stations via the Internet.
We are the eyes of the national and international community. If something
happens, such as trees being cut, we know about it. We have the money and the
interest to do it […] we recognize the legitimate property of the Lacandones,
Choles, and Tzeltales”51.
51 INTERNATIONAL CIVIL COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS OBSERVATION IN CHIAPAS, MEXICO: final report of the
third visit of the CCIODH (Feb 16- March 3, 2002) pg. 646-64725
3. WHO INVESTS IN CI?
The influence and economic power of Conservation International on a national
and international level has been fundamentally constructed with the
participation of large national and transnational corporations, many of which are
in some way linked with the hegemonic sectors of the US’ economic power.
3.1 List of Corporations and Foundations52:
Arnhold and S. Bleichroeder, Inc.
Bank of America Securities LLC
Bank of America
Bitumenes Orinoco, S.A.
Busch Entertainment Corporation
Cemex, S.A. de C.V.
Chiquita Brands International
Discovery Communications, Inc.
Exxon Mobil Foundation
Ford Motor Company
The Franklin Mint
Green Mountain Coffee Roasters
Home Box Office
J.P. Morgan Chase and Company
Keidanren Nature Conservation Fund
Sony Pictures Entertainment
Starbucks Coffee Company
United Airlines Foundation
The Walt Disney Company
The globalization of the neoliberal economic model
is the worst threat that the indigenous peoples of the world
have suffered during to their ancestral struggle for the land
and the demand for their legitimate right to self determination.
The different roles Conservation International plays in the implementation of the
neoliberal economic model, in the interests of large transnational corporations, in
the hegemony of the United States over every country in the world, obligates us
to learn and study CI’s projects. It obligates us to widely monitor them so that
large transnationals, with the approval of the implicated governments, do not
appropriate or assume management of natural resources in spite of indigenous
Conservation International reiterates again and again that they realize all of their
projects respecting the laws of the different countries that they operate in.
However, this does not necessarily mean that they respect human rights. To use
the pretext of caring for the environment while ignoring or even affecting other
established rights in international human rights law is emulating the
nearsightedness of those that accumulate capital in a way that is detrimental to
the majority of people, or those that defend the right to liberty in spite of the
right to equality.
This is precisely the dilemma that CI has regarding the indigenous territories
where they operate.
The Implications of CI in Mexico
During this past year, the intensification of a powerful campaign in
communication media has developed a strong interest regarding transnational
countries and how the federal government handles the country’s natural and
strategic resources. In May of this year the “pro environment” campaign
alarmingly intensified its’ call for the evictions of indigenous communities living
within and on the periphery of Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve (REBIMA) in the
state of Chiapas.
During May 2003, various national and Chiapan media outlets started seriously
paying attention to the issue. Various declarations from functionaries of
Procuraduría Federal de Protección al Ambiente (PROFEPA), Áreas Naturales
Protegidas (ANP), Secretaría del Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales
(SEMARNAT), Instituto de Historia Natural y Ecología del estado de Chiapas27
and Conservation International generated a lot of pressure for the relocation and
eviction of indigenous populations settled in the region and also generated the
risk of serious confrontations between REBIMA’s populations.
To directly intervene in the REBIMA without considering the agrarian, territorial,
political, social, cultural, and military history of the region represents a serious
risk of violence to the populations who are settled in this region as well as a state
of indifference in the face of flagrant human rights violations which have related
to this region for a very long time. This is the region where Conservation
international focuses much of their work.
The Montes Azules region has been Mayan territory for centuries. The presence
of the Yaxchilán, Bonampak, Palenque and Toniná ruins testify to this. Through
the centuries, the Mayan populations, divided into their diverse peoples,
Tseltzal, Ch’ol, Tojolabal, Tsotsil and Lacandón, have been migrating inside of
this territory depending upon the political situation of the moment; from the fall
of the classical Mayan kings, to the mexica hegemony in MesoAmerica, Indian
politics during colonization, up until the total eviction that came with the Lerdo
law in the second half of the 19th century.
This eviction provoked the denunciation of uncultivated lands in what was
called the Desert of Solitude, today’s Lacandon Jungle, by timber companies
from Tabasco who used the labor of the indigenous of these lands, whom had
lived and used the land’s resources in a traditional manner. The large extensions
of land for exploitation, (principally of coaba) is what preceded the large farms
that came later, which, despite the Revolution of 1910 and the agrarian reforms,
were thriving up until the middle of the 20th century.
Many of these farm peasants had come to re-conquest the Desert of Solitude,
founding ejidos and towns: Ch’oles, Tseltales, Tojolabales, Tsotsiles and, of
course, Lacandones. On March 6, 1972, Luis Echeverría decreed the “Lacandon
Community”, giving 66 Lacandon families 614,321 hectares (9,037 hectares per
family) some by presidential resolution and others in this process, affecting 4,000
hectares, distributed in 47 towns, which were in danger of evictions. This
resolution was to “reinstitute” the land rights to their legitimate owners, which is
to say the Lacandones, without seeing that their Mayan brothers also had these
In March, 1978, the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve was decreed by
presidential resolution, occupying 75% of the Lacandon Communities land.
53 Facts were taken from report “No to the Evictions” of Maderas del Pueblo del Sureste AC April 2003.28
Later, they created new “Protected Natural Areas”: the Bonampak Natural Park
(1991), the Yaxchilán Natural Park (1991), the Lacan-Tún Biosphere Reserve, the
Metzabok Flora and Fauna Refuge, the Nahá Flora and Fauna Refuge54, without
recognizing the land claims made by the indigenous people, the violent agrarian
problems and, above all, the communal property rights of indigenous people
that are protected by international human rights law.
“In 1989, president Salinas de Gortari, (…) legally recognized 26 ejidos of the
ARIC Union of Unions, all of which were settled inside what is called the
Lacandon Community and, the majority of them, inside the REBIMA”55.
“The pressure and intimidation created by the massive Federal Army presence
from 1994 to date and by the paramilitary groups whom act with impunity in the
Lacandon Jungle and other regions of Chiapas (particularly between 1995 and
2000) drove an undetermined number of indigenous people and communities,
among them Zapatista bases56, to take refuge in the REBIMA territory in order to
survive, now converted into war refugees”57.
On February 23, 2002, the autonomous municipality of Ricardo Flores Magón
made a public denouncement and gave an extensive chronology of the historical
antecedents of these lands58. (See Annex 1).
The background of the historical, political, and legitimate rights to these lands is
extensive. To try to override these rights by creating environmentally protected
areas with the stamp of “legality” represents a hotspot59 to the affected peoples
in the face of the pretensions of Conservation International and other
economically powerful sectors and actors.
Let’s review. Mexico signed and ratified the UN’s International Convention on
Civil and Political Rights on March 23, 1976. In Article 27, it is established that
“In those states where ethnic, religious, or linguistic minorities exist, those whom
pertain to the stated minorities are not to be denied their right, in communities with other
members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own
religion, or to use their own language”.
56 We refer to “Zapatista bases” as the indigenous civilians who sympathize with the EZLN but whom act independently of the
57 Ibid Maderas del Pueblo Sureste
58 http://www.enlacecivil.org.mx/denuncias/020223-2.html 59 term used by CI to determine endangered biodiverse regions29
The Committee on Human Rights has established that the systems and
traditional patterns of indigenous land use and possession are aspects of culture
protected in Article 27 of the aforementioned Convention60. In this sense, as the
Lacandon Community was decreed before the signing of this Convention, this as
well as the creation of REBIMA and the Protected Natural Areas violate in a
continuous manner the rights of indigenous Mayan peoples to enjoy their own
culture in relation to the use and possession of the land.
Also, Mexico as part of the Convention 169 of the International Labor
Organization, regarding Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, should have been taking
measures to comply with Article 14 since September 1991: 1. The right to property
and possession to traditionally occupied lands of interested peoples should be recognized.
Also, in appropriate cases, measures should be taken to safeguard the right of interested
people to utilize land which is not theirs but they have traditionally had access to for
traditional and subsistence activities…Also: 2. Governments should take the necessary
measures to determine the lands that interested peoples have traditionally occupied and
guarantee the effective protection of their property and possessive rights(…).
To the contrary, Article 27 of the Constitution was reformed one year later,
bringing an end to the agrarian distribution, destroying the indispensable and
inalienable character of the ejidos and agrarian communities, the only figure that
would defend the community possessions of indigenous lands, and creating new
evictions for the creation of the coming Protected Natural Areas in the Lacandon
In the same manner, Mexico violates the American Convention on Human
Rights61 that it was part of in March of 1981, which established that: Article 21.
The Right of Private Property. 1. Each person has the right to use and enjoy its’ goods. 2.
No person can privatize its’ goods, except by paying a fair indemnity, for reasons of
public utility or of social interest and in those cases and according to the norms
established by law(…).
The International Court on Human Rights referred to this article: 148. (…) Article
21 of the Convention protects property rights in a manner that comprehends, among
other things, the rights of indigenous community members in the framework of
communal property(…).62 This recognition requires that the State delimit, demark,
and title said lands.63
60 E/CN.4/Sub.2/2001/21, 11 June 2001. Indigenous peoples and their relationship to land. Final working paper prepared by the
Special Rapporteur, Mrs. Erica-Irene A. Daes. Par 54. Translated fron Spanish.
61 Convención Americana de Derechos Humanos, subscribed in San Jose, Costa Rica, November 22, 1969, in the Conferencia
Especializada Interamericana sobre Derechos Humanos.
62 Sentence from the InterAmerican Court on Human Rights, Case of the Mayagna (Sumo) Awas Tingni Community vs. Nicaragua
(Sentenced August 31, 2001). http://www.cejil.org/sentencias.cfm?id=162
63 ibid. Paragraph 173.30
This same Article 21 of the Convention recognizes that the law can subordinate
such use and enjoyment to the social interest. The REBIMA has been appropriated
for public utility but the rights that indigenous peoples have under Article 15 of
the Convention 169 have never been considered: The rights of the interested peoples
to the natural resources existing in their lands should especially be protected. These
rights include the right of these peoples to participate in the utilization, administration,
and conservation of the said resources. This is the purpose of the Reserve. But, to the
contrary, it tries to evict the indigenous communities, displacing them yet again
from their lands.
The lack of recognition of indigenous territorial property is not a small matter.
During this new government, 653 conflicts related to land ownership have
persisted, concentrating in the states with the most indigenous presence64. If the
government really wanted to prevent and resolve land ownership problems in
indigenous communities, including in Montes Azules, it should first recognize
the right to property, which includes their responsibility to delimit it, demark it,
and title it so that later the Reserve can be protected for the common good with
the participation of the legitimate owners, in its’ usage, administration, and
conservation in accordance with the responsibilities established by the Mexican
state to the international community and, above all, to its own interests.
The presumed worries of CI
Conservation International is not interested in these rights and it seems that they
can’t, or don’t want to, see that by not respecting the rights the violence is
prolonged, and the protection of the environment is put at risk.
Maderas del Pueblo del Sureste, in point 11 of its’ report, mentions the attitude of CI
in the face of the displacements:
“In May-June 2002, Organizations of International Conservationists
(Conservation International and the World Wildlife Fund) and national
organizations sponsored by SEMARNAT, looked to manipulate public opinion,
through journalists whom tried to make people believe in the existence of “170
forest fires in Montes Azules” that “were destroying 10,000 hectors of the high jungle
and which were provoked by invading indigenous communities”, and the journalists
solicited that they be “evicted, for the good of the nation”. In reality, and in
accordance with the official figures published by SEMARNAT (August 2000), in
that year, only 398 hectors had been burned in the entire Lacandon Jungle”65
64 From Arturo Jiménez, “Subsisten focos rojos por pugnas de la tierra”, in El Universal Nove, 14, 02, cited by Servicio de Análisis y
Opinión del Centro Prodh, “Conflictos agrarios y derechos humanos en la Mixteca Alta” Number 63, Feb 10, 2003 65 ibid.31
Among the diverse pressures and declarations by Conservation International in
favor of the displacement of communities settled in REBIMA, Sr. Ignacio March,
the director of CI-Chiapas, stated to the International Civil Commission on
Human Rights Observation:
“We are aware that you work with Lacandon communities. Is it true that you
have provided them with facts and photographs so that they could denounce
and demand the removal of the irregular settlements in the jungle?”
Ignacio March responded, “Yes, Absolutely true. We have an environmental
monitoring project […] that works on two levels: one with satellite images, which we
make available to the general public and to research stations via the Internet. We are the
eyes of the national and international community. 66
Paradoxically, on May 30, 2003, declarations by March appeared in a local paper
that warned of the risks of violence between Choles and Lacandones and accused
the state and federal governments of lack of political will on resolving the
conflicts with the so-called irregular populace in REBIMA.67
He also recognizes that yes they are pressuring the government to stop the invasions or
to evict them and he accuses the irregularly settled communities of being ignorant
peoples whom are tricked and whom are sent and he doesn’t consider the
communities as being knowledgeable enough to manage the areas.68
Giving facts and photographs to the Lacandones with the intention that they (the
Lacandones) could make demands against the irregular settlements is not a
minor case. Pitting the Lacandones or Caribes against Tseltales, Ch’oles, Tsotsiles
y Tojolabales, Zapatistas or members of ARIC Independiente is a serious
irresponsibility. A violent confrontation between these groups would represent
an inter-ethnic conflict that has never before existed in Chiapas.
Collaborating on the evictions in REBIMA
However, the pressure has not come solely from CI. From 1994 to the present, the
strategies to evict the indigenous communities, principally the Zapatistas, has
been modified from year to year.
66 INTERNATIONAL CIVIL COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS OBSERVATION IN CHIAPAS, MEXICO: final report of the
third visit of the CCIODH (Feb 16- March 3, 2002) pg.649. 67 Diario Cuarto Poder. B19. May 30, 2003.
68 Ibid. CCIODH.32
In the beginning, with the excessive presence and operatives of the Mexican
Army, forced displacement and eviction was attempted in diverse regions.
Facing strong national and international pressure, the military’s strategy has
been adjusted. The development and existence of both permanent and temporary
paramilitary groups and armed groups has tried to conceal the work of the
armed forces. It was these groups that brought about serious harassments and
threats, kidnappings, arbitrary detentions, and even murder and massacres, such
as Acteal. The likely goal the same in two veins: 1. to diminish the strong
Zapatista influence; 2. displace the communities.
At the same time, diverse programs such as Procede and Procampo, working
through the Secretary of Social Development (SEDESOL), have also played their
part. At times the Mexican Army has visibly reappeared while at other times it is
paramilitary groups. However, the social programs and the military and
paramilitary presence are being permanently maintained. In June 1999, el Centro
de Investigaciones Económicas y Políticas de Acción Comunitaria AC (CIEPAC)
published a report titled “Población Desplazada en Chiapas” (The Displaced
Population of Chiapas), which documented 21,159 displacements up until 1998.69
In August 2002, the paramilitary group Organización para la Defensa de los
Derechos Indígenas y Campesinos (OPDDIC) unleashed a series of
confrontations and persecutions against Zapatista communities, carrying out
homicides in Zapatista support bases, especially of authorities from the
autonomous municipalities. In these heated times, the suggestion of voluntary or
forced evictions represented a high cost to the Mexican government. OPDDIC
was used to obligate the forced displacement of communities settled in or
around REBIMA. The provocation to the Zapatista autonomous municipalities
and the EZLN was evident, but fortunately they did not respond violently.
One month later, the crisis of August took on new relevance. The Supreme Court
of Justice of the Nation (SCJN), after making their decision for several months,
gave their Third No to Mexican indigenous peoples rights, seemingly as if to
suffocate any action taken by the EZLN. The 320 Constitutional Controversies
(the same number as there are indigenous municipalities) published in August
2001 in the Diario Oficial, were declared irrelevant. Among other things, the
reform left out the right to autonomy, to possess and decide the destiny of
indigenous territory and its’ resources, betraying the substance of the San Andres
Accords signed in 1996 by both the Mexican government and the EZLN and
endorsed by the National Indigenous Congress and diverse social organizations
that together represented 49 of the 61 ethnicities recognized by the Mexican
69 Report: Displaced Populations in Chiapas. Page 31. July 1999. CIEPAC. 70 From socioeconomic indicators of the Instituto Nacional Indigenista (INI), http://www.ini.gob.mx/indica2000/lengua.html33
However, Conservation International, as well as large transnational
corporations-particularly from the US- and diverse sectors of economic power
both inside and outside of the government, leave this history of violence and
discrimination out of their considerations. To them, the implementation of the
neoliberal economic model is not in discussion, its development needs a
favorable legal framework to access unlimited resources for investment purposes
and the recognition of a new actor- indigenous peoples- in the decision making is
The attempts to enable the evictions or displacements have represented a new
phase in their strategy. To generate confrontations between Zapatista
communities or even the EZLN with the Caribes or Lacandones is a new tactic in
the old Trojan Horse strategy in order to accomplish three neurological aspects:
I- The displacement of communities settled in the REBIMA and its
II- The precious treasure of strategic resources and the implementation of
large ecotourism projects.
III- The political and military debilitation of the EZLN and the dismantling
of the Zapatista autonomous municipalities.
To push the evictions through, which Conservation International has been
responsible for with respect to denouncing the invasions in the Lacandon,
implicates them in human rights violations. The Lacandones, as in the times
of Echeverría, are, in the end, being used.
Conservation International, besides being financed, administered, and
directed by leaders of large transnationals, many of them with economic
interests in biodiversity, also reports on and gives all the available
information to the US Agency for International Development (USAID). In
other words, to the government of the United States, who sees Chiapas’
biodiversity as a strategic matter.
As one can consider from the first section of this report, in COMPITCH’s
interview with the economic/commercial aide to the US Ambassador to
Mexico, Carl Schönander, it was declared that, with respect to the properties
of medicinal plants in Chiapas, that the theme is indeed of interest to his
government, in fact, beyond that, he affirmed that it is of strategic interest to
them. He accepts that there is a very commercial interest owing to the large
percentage of the North American pharmaceutical production that is
dependent on Intellectual Property rights. He affirms that within the context
of the WTO, commitments were made to protect intellectual property.
We don’t know how the US government uses all the information
Conservation International gives them, but we have witnessed in recent
history how private economic interests have turned into military interests for
Based in their registration as a Civil Association, Conservation International
represents a Trojan Horse for large transnational corporations and the US
government for the use of the natural resources of Mexico and other nations,
including territories of indigenous peoples.
The strategy of CI is to request information and buy large extensions of land
with high bioprospecting potential. This permits them to manage the natural
and/or strategic resources of various countries and place them at the
disposition of large transnationals.
In many of these cases, as was illustrated in the first section of this report, the
acquisition and management of these lands has taken place in various
countries such as Bolivia, Peru, Brazil, Guatemala and Surinam. In Surinam,
bioprospecting, in association with pharmaceutical research, provides “tribal”
communities with the technology, training, and equipment in order to
harvest their own resources.
The Glaxo/Smith Kline Beecham case, illustrates the range and proportions
of the coordination between large transnational and Conservation
International. After they merged, “they converted into the largest
pharmaceutical company in the world, having 17,834 million dollars in total
declared sales in 1998 alone, and this only controlling 7% of the world
market. Even more significant are their net margins: in the same year their
earnings were around 30%. The 10 largest pharmaceutical corporations in the
world controlled 44% of the market valued at $301 billion dollars in 1998”.71
“Of these corporations, various have been or are beneficiaries of ICBG
subsidies: Monsanto together with the NGO Conservation International in
Surinam and Madagascar”.72 “Conservation International has received
71 http://www.etcgroup.org/article.asp?newsid=19 72 ibid.35
donations from this fund, (the ICBG fund of the United States) for
bioprospecting together with coporations”.73
In the face of these raw facts, to deny the role Conservation International
plays in large economic interests of transnationals regarding natural and
strategic resources would be absurd.
Paradoxically, Conservation International has ended up turning itself into a
hotspot for the indigenous peoples of the world.
The San Andreas Accords
The globalization of the neoliberal economic model is the most serious threat
indigenous peoples of the world have faced in their ancestral struggle for the
land, and in their demand for their legitimate right to self-determination. The
case of Mexico is no different. The impact of the neoliberal tidal wave on the
indigenous peoples, their cultures and their rights is arriving at ethnocide74 as
a result of the political economics established during the last 20 years as well
as a body of laws which has left them defenseless.
The political demand of the indigenous peoples for their free determination is
not a whimsical protest, it is a demand for the respect and protection of their
human rights and, because of that, an imperative ethic. It is right now, in the
face of the accelerated implementation of the neoliberal economic model, that
the San Andreas Accords take on even more relevance. These are Accords
that have already been signed and their incorporation into Mexican law are
crucial to the short, medium and long term defense of indigenous peoples as
well as the start of a profound State reform based in liberty, equality, and
respect of everyone’s human rights.
What would have or will happen if the same substance and energy that El
campo no agunata más had, or still can have, was concentrated on an already
signed Accord which would not permit us to be trapped into dividing
And if we social and civil organizations recommit ourselves to making the
completion of the San Andreas Accords our priority?
73 http://www.etcgroup.org/article.asp?newsid=111 74 Ethnocide is a process of cultural modification and destruction resulting from specific policies that destroy the self-preservation
capacity of cultural communities. Informe del Relator Especial sobre la situación de los derechos humanos y las libertades
fundamentales de los indígenas, Sr. Rodolfo Stavenhagen, presentado de conformidad con la resolución 2001/57 de la Comisión.
E/CN.4/2002/97. February 4, 2002. pg.22