Baja California Sur
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Mexico’s President Felipe Calderón cancelled the permit for the Cabo Cortés mega development project just prior to presiding at the summit of leaders of the world’s top twenty most influential countries (G20). The summit was held nearby the reef threatened by the project. (Photo: courtesy of the President’s Office).
However, he added that the government is still willing to support investors in undertaking a new project

“In no way will the investors, owners and landowners will be left defenseless. The federal government is determined to respect the rights of the investors and to protect their assets. Also the government is disposed to support their interests in undertaking a new project that will generate benefits to inhabitants through tourism; a project that fully guarantees the conservation of the natural heritage of the country.”

Before finishing his speech, the president confirmed “green growth” as a priority on his agenda that he promises to address at the G20 Summit in Los Cabos. The G20’s members are among the most influential nations of the planet and represent about 90% of the GNP, 80% of the commerce and 2/3 of the total population of the world.

“It is possible to follow a model of sustainable development that permits us to take advantage of our country’s natural assets and to attract investment and tourism to generate jobs without affecting in an irreversible manner ecosystems and biodiversity,” he said. “This is how we manage green growth.”

Only this is not the norm in the current stage of savage capitalism.

Cabo Cortés is just the first reversal of governmental decisions in order to stop projects that not only affect the environment but also

Coastal Development Threatens Mexican Reef
By Miguel Ángel Torres*

Following efforts by members of civil society to protect one of Mexico’s most important coral reefs, political pressures obligated President Felipe Calderón to cancel the permit for the Spanish investment company Hansa to build a tourist development called “Cabo Cortés”.

At the meeting of the G20 from June 18 to 20 in Los Cabos, Baja California–just a few kilometers from Cabo Pulmo, where the development was planned–thousands of demonstrators protested against the project. Days earlier, on June 15, thousands marched to protest the development in Mexico City. These demonstrations focused world attention on the potential damage caused by the project at a time when international press was gathered in Mexico for the summit.

The risk that the protests could hurt the president’s image and have a negative effect on his party in the elections scheduled for July 1 was undoubtedly a factor in Calderón’s decision.

In announcing the “cancellation of the project” on June 15, Calderón pointed out that it was “the only coral reef in the Gulf of Mexico … an unequalled natural heritage of Mexico and one of the reefs with the greatest coral coverage in the world.”

He also noted the internationally recognized environmental significance of the area: in 1995, more than seventeen thousand acres of the Cabo Pulmo area were decreed a Natural Protected Area and National Marine Park; in 2005, UNESCO designated the area as a Natural World Heritage Site, and in 2008 it was included on the Ramsar Convention's list of Wetlands of International Importance.

Hansa Baja, the Mexican branch of the Spanish investment company Hansa, “began the application process for the construction of a giant tourist development called Cabo Cortés,” Calderon explained. “Owing to the ecological importance of Cabo Pulmo, the possibility that the resort in Cabo Cortés would be constructed caused unease among local communities, academics and environmental organizations.”

the integrity of the traditional cultures and way of life of the majority of Mexicans who are recognized for knowing how to live with the resources in their environment–water, air, vegetation and soil.

Calderón and his cohorts have distinguished themselves by benefitting big investors at the cost of the well-being of the people and the conservation of nature.

Now after the G20 meeting and the presidential elections, it remains to be seen what they will really do in the halls of power. In this new era of devastation of peoples and natural resources, the G20 members seek to save capitalism to maintain and increase profits of those on top.

The fate of Cabo Cortés will be a test. The presence of Hansa threatens and contradicts the proposals of the local communities, of the scientific community and of the environmental organizations that say that they don’t need developments or megaprojects that put the natural wealth and daily life of the people at risk.

The risks of losing the ground gained continue. The spontaneous rejoicing of the civil society organizations at learning of the supposed cancellation was a well-deserved if perhaps premature celebration.

*Codirector, Journalism to Raise Environmental Awareness

Adapted from the original translation by Esther Buddenhagen


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“The concerns were that a development of such scale could damage the coast, the beach and generate severe harm to the reef’s ecosystem.”

Calderón concluded, “…the federal government determined that the Project Cabo Cortés, as it was presented, has not clearly demonstrated sustainability so it has been decided to cancel the conditional the environmental impact authorization for the project.”

Responding to the expressed concerns of environmentalists and civil organizations, all environmental, technical, and legal aspects of the project’s were revised.

The Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) yielded once to Hansa in granting a permit to the company, and a second time to Calderón to revoke the permit.

Calderón expressed himself clearly and resoundingly: “As a result of this decision, the Mexican Government has determined that the Proyecto Cabo Cortés as it has been presented, is a project that does not clearly demonstrate its sustainability.  Therefore the conditional authorization of its environmental impact statement has been revoked."
Journalism to Raise Environmental Awareness