Since 2005, ProDESC — a Mexican economic, social, and cultural rights organization — has accompanied communities affected by extractives and other development projects. It employs an integral defense methodology whereby the community and the organization work hand in hand throughout the steps of a human rights campaign. To date, most of its efforts have focused on corporate accountability and land, territory, and natural resources issues, whether with indigenous peoples, rural landowners, workers, migrants, or women.

Two of ProDESC’s cases — one with indigenous farming and fishing communities inOaxacaand another with rural landowners in the jungle of theYucatán Peninsula— have taken place within the context of the energy transition. The first involves a windfarm project in theIsthmus of Tehuantepec, Oaxaca,site of Mexico’s megaproject to create the shortest transmodal shipping corridor between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. There,Électricité de France— the French State-owned enterprise, known as EDF — sought to build a windfarm on indigenous land in the Unión Hidalgocommunity without obtaining consent for use of the land.

Following a multi-year community organizing and strategic litigation effort, ProDESC submitted the second case in France using that country’s due diligence law, together with support from theEuropean Center for Constitutional and Human Rights(ECCHR). Though the French court has yet to render a final decision, ProDESC, ECCHR, and the community obtained favorable procedural rulings. More importantly, in 2022, the Mexican Government canceled EDF’s production contracts. Subsequently, an agrarian court recognized that the lands of Unión Hidalgo are not subject to individual ownership.

The second case, involving rural landowners (ejidos) in the Yucatán Peninsula, concerns attempts by the State to dispossess theDziuché communityof its lands in order to develop eco-tourism projects as part of theMayan Train megaproject,which seeks to join massive fossil fuel projects and tourism sites through a combined industrial and passenger railway. Having initially lost 10,000 hectares without having been consulted, the community asked ProDESC for assistance and filed an amparo suit against the expropriation. As of early 2024, ProDESC and the community had regained 8,000 hectares and were suing to obtain the rest.

Though both cases were provoked by corporate capture— illegal permits for EDF in exchange for renewable energy development in Oaxaca and astro-turfing and greenwashing in Yucatán —the deeper issue is how corporates and States divide communities and exploit disunity.

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