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Planned Mexico wind farm sparks protests

Protesters marched to oppose a planned wind farm in Oaxaca over the weekend, the latest in a series of mobilizations against developments in the southwestern state that is Mexico’s wind power generation hub.

Some 500 people from Unión Hidalgo marched Saturday to protest the planned Gunna Sicaru wind farm that firm Eléctricité de France (EDF) plans to build, according to local media reports.

The coastal town and fishing community of Unión Hidalgo is inhabited by people of the indigenous Zapoteco ethnic group, who claim to not have been consulted about the planned project. The protests included representatives of the Zapoteco communities of Juchitán, San Blas Atempa, Álvaro Obregón, Ciudad Ixtepec, Santa María Xadani, and the Ikoot towns of San Mateo and Santa María del Mar, local newspaper Istmo Press reported.

Protesters decried the lack of a consultation of local residents prior to the wind farm’s construction, which they claim violates International Labor Organization laws.

The energy ministry granted EDF a construction permit in June 2016 for the planned 252MW facility with 96 turbines, producing 825.7GWh, according to the reports.

Oscar Marín Gómez, representing communal landowners, said Oaxaca’s 23 wind farms have caused social, economic and political conflicts.

“We are concerned that wind power companies, such as Demex, installed themselves without prior consultation in an ecological reserve and now EDF is coming with offers of support for schools and other things in an attempt to convince the people that there will be progress, and we are not opposed to development,” Marín Gómez said.

Guadalupe Ramírez, a representative of indigenous women, said the second wind farm in the community will not bring development and progress, and called on people to fight for their lands and territory.

Several wind farms in Oaxaca state have faced local opposition.

Local residents protested the planned Eólica del Sur wind farm, despite the project being approved by the indigenous Zapotec community in Juchitán after an eight-month consultation process carried out by the energy ministry in 2015. Prior to that, the Zapotec community in Oaxaca’s El Espinal municipality had also given its approval.

Construction of Eólica del Sur was put on hold due to protests, and the project was further delayed by financing woes. In April 2016, Dutch pension fund PGGM decided to withdraw the 250mn euros (US$284mn) it had earmarked to invest as part of its 33.75% stake.

That project is now back on track, having procured new investments from sponsors that include Mitsubishi Corporation and Mexico’s national infrastructure fund (Fonadin) in May. That same month however, representatives of the Binnizá and Ikoos ethnic groups launched a petition in an attempt to stop the wind farm’s construction.

The Cinco Palmas wind farm, also operated by EDF, was blocked for several weeks earlier this year as landowners demanded more payment from the developer.