Oteapan is a community that was already displaced once. In the collective memory it is still present that 300 years ago they had to leave their lands that were located on the border between Tabasco and Veracruz, they denounce that this displacement was caused by, “problems of the rich”. They denounce that now, after so many years, the rich are again trying to dispossess them to continue destroying and now making money with other lands.

On the fourth day of El Sur Resiste caravan, we headed to the community of Oteapan in Veracruz. This highway follows a similar route to that of the proposed Interoceanic Train route. The communities of Veracruz and Oaxaca have been unified in the fight against one of the most predatory and destructive projects of the fourth transformation (4T).

Oteopan is the belt of the region. Similarly to other stops in the caravan, the welcome was warm in Barrio Naranjal, a neighborhood that borders the Barrio de la Dina, the compañeroswho resist there launched firecrackers announcing our arrival. In addition the political acts were accompanied with traditional music from the south of Veracruz and a tribute was made to Bety Cariño Jyri Jaakkola, recognizing the ten year anniversary of her murder, which occurred while they were traveling with a humanitarian caravan in San Juan Copala, Oaxaca. Members of the Oteapan community memorialize their walk-in struggle with Bety, poems were read in her honor by youth and children from the community.

The panoramic facing the Oteapan community is not very different from what we have documented since day one, the 4T has tried, by all possible means, to destroy the community fabric in order to impose the Interoceanic Corridor along with all its associated megaprojects.

A youth from Oteapan denounced that two years ago the government expropriated 2,000 hectares from the community. This problem has been on-going for more than 80 years, initially the government of Veracruz sought to take 200 hectares from the community. As of 2022, the government has tried to remove seven neighborhoods: La Dina, Tierra Colorada, Tapalan, Porvenir, Rancho Alegre, Predio Viveros, and El Naranjal. These lands cover the territory where the train tracks are planned to pass, adjoining to the Transístmico highway that connects with Oaxaca.

Given these facts, the community carried out a road block on March 7, 2022, where they demanded dialogue and sought to have their territorial limits be respected. The states response however was violence through eviction with the use of police forces and tear gas. On March 8, they were beaten by police officers who burned 50 motorcycles belonging to people from the community and four cars.

“We do not agree that the government comes to collect a vote and treats us in this way.”

Picture by Dave Muoz

While the caravan morning event was taking place, we learned that the Mogoñé Viejo Tierra y Libertad Camp, in Oaxaca, the community where the caravan had been just a day ago, was brutally evicted by SEMAR, the National Guard, and municipal police.

The response of the caravan El Sur Resiste was solidarity through organized action. Following the announcement of the news, the people of Oteapan and other communities in Veracruz decided to block the Transístmico highway.

Picture by David Valero

Open pit coke dump

Since 2013, an open-air coke (coal-based fuel) dump over water-springs has been installed in Jaltipan, a municipality adjacent to Oteapan.  The plant receives toxic waste from the oil refining process at the Pemex plant, General Lázaro Cárdenas, in Minatitlán, Veracruz.

For years, the Jaltipan community, as well as  other neighboring communities have denounced the negative impacts of this activity on the region’s environment and on the health of the inhabitants. However, no authority has responded to the complaints from the population, and up to now, the plant continues to operate.

When speaking to a young woman from the community, she expressed her concern about living near this plant. Which although is not located in Oteapan, has an impact on the entire region.

“Coke  is extremely toxic, it contaminates the groundwater table, the gasses evaporate and spread throughout the entire area… we don’t know how far it goes, it is highly carcinogenic.”

According to the residents, campesinos who live near the coke plant have been able to observe that the activities are beginning to encroach the territory of Oteapan. Another problem that none of the three levels of government have dealt with up to now.

Picture by Karen Castillo