The destructing of La Encrucijada Biosphere Reserve in Chiapas for Palm oil

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Oil palm cultivation is aggressively expanding over Protected Areas, such as the La Encrucijada Biosphere Reserve. In this region of the Mexican Pacific, at least seven thousand illegal hectares of this exotic plant have been identified, which the government and companies intend to legalize through the reduction of the Reserve and a certificate of sustainability.

One of the greatest environmental treasures in Mexico is the La Encrucijada Biosphere Reserve (REBIEN), which houses an important system of wetlands, with mangroves up to 35 meters high. However, they are threatened by an enormous extension of oil palm tree monocultures that contrast with the diversity of the vegetation.

REBIEN is located in the coastal region of the state of Chiapas, in southeastern Mexico. It was created on June 6, 1995, through a presidential decree and is regulated by a Management Program published in 2000, which determines that in areas with mangrove vegetation it is prohibited to carry out any type of activities “that alter the ecological balance”, except those “for the preservation of scientific research, monitoring, education, and training, under strict regulations and surveillance.”

However, during the last decades, the ecological balance of La Encrucijada has been altered. “ Inside REBIEN there are more than 7,000 hectares of cultivated palm,” complains Juan Carlos Castro Hernández, current director of REBIEN, which is part of the National Commission for Protected Areas (Conanp).

Avispa Midia asked Conanp for the report and georeferences of the oil palm plantations registered within La Encrucijada. The institution delivered two databases that report the presence of producers, as well as a scattered palms in the Reserve.

One of the documents, the Conanp Southern Border, Isthmus and South Pacific Regional Directorate Annex, although it does not indicate the year of preparation, records that there are at least 518 producers who grow palm within REBIEN.

The data provided is conservative, as it does not contain the total record of palm plantations within the Reserve, since palm crops that are not included in this database can be identified through satellite images.

For her part, Matilde Rincón, Mexico landscape manager for the Earthworm Foundation, confirms that they have registered 500 producers who cultivate some 7,700 hectares of palm within La Encrucijada. This foundation works with companies and small producers in Chiapas to promote the sustainability of this crop. “Sixty percent of them (producers in the Reserve) struggle to comply with government land-use regulations,” she details on her De Ella web platform .

The proliferation of large palm plantations inside the Reserve has alerted Conanp since 2014. According to the institution, these crops have spread without a protocol over more than 33,000 hectares in the REBIEN area of ​​influence, up to provoke the invasion of this exotic plant towards mangrove ecosystems in the core zones.

The palm is so invasive that even the plantations outside the Reserve should be regulated, “because there is palm even on the banks of the canals and the seed has the ability to migrate, either by water currents, hypothetically also by fauna”, admits Castro, the director of REBIEN.

Another document provided by Conanp is a database called Register of African palm location sites in REBIEN 2014, 2015 and 2016. There appears Agroindustrias de Mapastepec SA de CV (Agroimsa), one of the companies that grow and process oil palm in the region, which is part of Industrias Olepalma SA de CV

These same plantations reappear in another cartographic database prepared by the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which records an area owned by Industrias Oleopalma, through its subsidiary Palmicultores San Nicolás . , SPR of RL

This area extends from the buffer zone, in the municipality of Villa Comaltitlán, towards the interior of one of the two restriction areas, in the fraction that corresponds to the municipality of Huixtla: the La Encrucijada Core Zone; According to the Management Program, this zone corresponds to “the best-conserved areas and of greatest value from the environmental point of view, where practically no human activities can be carried out”.

There is one more company on the RSPO register. This is Oleosur SAPI de CV, which, through its subsidiary Plantaciones del Soconusco SAPI de CV, also has palm plantations within the REBIEN buffer zone, in the municipality of Villa Comaltitlán, one of the regions with the largest amount of monoculture on the coast of Chiapas. Avispa Midia requested an interview with Industrias Oleopalma who assured that they would send a response via email, which did not arrive until the closing of this report. Oleosur was also asked for an interview and they mentioned that they would transmit the information to a manager who could respond, which did not happen.

For her part, the researcher Claudia Ramos Guillén, who has participated in studies on the effects of oil palm in America and Asia, asserts that the commercialization of palm cultivated within the REBIEN deserves “multiple infractions.”

The Decree creating REBIEN itself describes one of the violations of the law. It points out that any exploitation, extraction or use of natural resources within it may only be granted in accordance with the General Law of Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection (LGEEPA). Said norm prohibits the introduction of invasive alien species in protected natural areas, the alteration of ecosystems and, in buffer zones, not to carry out activities that threaten the natural structure of populations and ecosystems.

green certification

Caption: Oil palm monocultures expand from the Chiapas coastal highway into the La Encrucijada reserve. Photo: Santiago Navarro F.

On a tour of the Reserve, Avispa Midia found that, in the midst of hundreds of palm plantations, on the banks of the San Nicolás River, there is an Oleopalma processor. This is the first plant that this company founded, in the year 2000, which is on the edge of REBIEN’s area of ​​influence.

According to the Mexican Federation of Palm Growers (Femexpalma), the processing plants must be installed as close as possible to the plantations, since the maximum time to extract the oil is three days. There are 18 palm processing facilities in the country; Chiapas concentrates 12 of them. Seven of them are established in the region of influence of La Encrucijada, where the Oleopalma processing plant is also located.

This company is relevant to the current market for this product since, in March 2020, it became the first Mexican company to receive certification in accordance with the specific criteria of the RSPO, an initiative that proposes to reduce the negative impacts of oil cultivation of palm on the environment and communities.

Caption: In 2020, Oleopalma became the first Mexican company to obtain RSPO certification for its Palenque processing plant and its plantations located in the north of the state of Chiapas. Photo: Oleopalma

The RSPO certification emerged in Switzerland in 2004, under the leadership of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), together with financiers such as the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the Bank Group. World, and multinational companies that buy palm oil, such as Cargill, Nestlé, Unilever, PepsiCo, and Procter & Gamble, among others.

However, the RSPO has been criticized globally for failing to deliver on its promises. In 2015, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) report Credibility of Sustainable Palm Oil Remains Illusory revealed widespread fraudulent assessments at RSPO. In addition, it registered that, in plantations owned by its members, labor abuses, forest felling, territorial conflicts, and even human trafficking have been allowed. By 2019, the EIA disclosed that the RSPO had not yet taken significant steps to address these issues.

For its part, the Destruction:Certificate report, published by Greenpeace International in 2020, emphasizes that, after 30 years of implementation in supply chains, product certification is serving for business greenwashing. Matilde Rincón says that, globally, the RSPO does not allow the purchase of oil that comes from a Protected Natural Area; however, she assures that Mexico is the exception because palm from La Encrucijada is allowed to be grown and marketed.

An advertising video for the Earthworm Foundation notes: “Here in La Encrucijada in Chiapas, Nestlé’s supplier, which is Oleofinos, has a very strong presence in this region. They buy most of the oil that comes from La Encrucijada and then sell it to Nestlé.”

Both Oleopalma and Olefinos are part of a conglomerate of 15 companies that make up Grupo Oleomex, founded in 1978 by engineer José Luis Pérez Martínez. This group is the main seller of palm oil for the multinationals Cargill, PepsiCo and Nestlé.

According to its website, Nestlé has been a member of the Earthworm Foundation since 2010, with whom it works to make “far-reaching commitments to respect people and nature in its supply chains.”

Avispa Midia requested an interview with the transnational, which maintained that its spokespersons maintain a very saturated agenda. Through a public relations document, Nestlé assures that in Mexico, “100% of our raw materials come from responsible sources.”

The company also highlights that the supply of its ingredients in Mexico comes from regions with zero deforestation, as in the “project with Oleofinos and Earthworm Foundation in the production of palm oil in ‘La Encrucijada'”.

For his part, Juan Carlos Castro Hernández, the director of REBIEN, warns that the Reserve Management Program does not indicate that palm cultivation is allowed, but that the institution under his charge does not prohibit it either. He argues that such a ban would harm farmers who were already growing palm. “Possibly it was perceived that planting in the reserve was allowed, I don’t know,” he adds.

The Management Program was created in 2000 and describes the importance of the ecosystems in the REBIEN area to maintain the ecological cycles essential for the quality of coastal waters. It also points out that the installation of agribusiness for the extraction of palm oil has contributed to the increase in the contamination of rivers, lagoons and estuaries.

Green Seal Deficiencies

Caption: Palm oil processor owned by Zitihualt, located in Villa Comaltitlán. In 2017, Paech fined this company for operating without environmental impact authorization. Photo: Santiago Navarro F.

The director of the REBIEN points out that the RSPO does not eliminate the risk of a “black market” for palm oil, since only certain control would be achieved in the supply to the processors and this does not ensure that the commercialization that does not comply with the norm will continue. .

Although Matilde Rincón considers that this certification can be an opportunity to convince producers to implement “good practices” that help them certify and sell their product, she also agrees with the danger of what she calls “fruit laundering.” She explains that this would happen if a producer with palm crops in core areas, who was unable to market it, sold his production to another producer who did comply with RSPO standards. According to her, for this not to happen, verification work is necessary “plot by plot”, a task that has not yet been carried out “and that still needs to be done.”

According to Oleopalma’s 2020 RSPO progress report, this company obtains 90% of the fruit it processes from small independent producers, which makes it difficult to monitor the origin of palm production. For this reason, in 2018, Oleopalma y Oleofinos, with the support of PepsiCo, launched the Support Fund Program for Small Producers of the Sustainable Oil Palm Roundtable. Its objective was to train 157 small producers, who would serve as a model of sustainable development for the oil palm industry in Mexico, in order to impact 52 thousand hectares of plantations.

Photo caption: Women from the coast in rebellion and the NGO Agua y Vida during a tour of oil palm plantations in Pijijiapan. The organizations denounce environmental effects caused by monocultures. Photo: Aldo Santiago

Oleopalma also announces that it has special mechanisms for the treatment of its contaminants, including the chemicals used in palm crops. In turn, “the ashes can be used as organic fertilizer or to make compost, reducing waste and the use of agrochemicals,” it argues in its 2020 sustainability report.

However, Gabriela Madariaga, a researcher at the Autonomous University of Chiapas, conducted studies in municipalities in the area of ​​influence of La Encrucijada during 2018 and identified that 80% of producers used chemical fertilizers without any protection and only 20% applied chemical fertilizers. organic. The most widely used chemicals were Triple 17 and the herbicide Paraquat, the latter considered mutagenic and highly toxic to humans if ingested. Its use was prohibited in 2017 by the courts of the European Union.

In 2021, there were still deficiencies in the sanitary infrastructure, including in the plantations owned by Industrias Oleopalma. This is confirmed by a report prepared by IBD Certifications, which in March of that year made a visit to the company’s farms, in the municipality of Mapastepec. In the place, they found that the workers did not have the proper protections “for the moment of the application of the agrochemicals.” However, the certifier considered this as a minor breach and granted RSPO certification for four company plantations located in the region of influence of REBIEN.

In addition to the above, La Encrucijada is impacted by the waste from the processors. “On the one hand, there are the effects on the environment due to agrochemicals, but there is also the pollution due to emissions and residues from the processors that reach the mangroves,” says researcher Claudia Ramos Guillén.

The Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection (Profepa) is responsible for overseeing complaints of contamination caused by oil palm monoculture. However, it has been promoting its own certification of plantations through the National Environmental Audit Program for Extraction Plants (PNAA). This program is the result of an agreement with the Association of Edible Oil and Butter Manufacturers (ANIAME), the main promoter of the RSPO standard in Mexico.

Through the PNAA, Profepa intends that palm companies submit “voluntarily to obtain one of the environmental certificates issued by the Attorney General’s Office,” the then Deputy Attorney General for Natural Resources, Ignacio Millán, explained in 2016 during a tour of oil palm plantations in Acapetahua, Chiapas coast.

Avispa Midia requested from Profepa, via access to information, the records of inspections derived from complaints about the affectation of palm monoculture in the coastal region and the area of ​​La Encrucijada. Until the closing of this journalistic investigation, no document was delivered.

Photo caption: Demonstration in Benemérito de las Américas, Chiapas, against contamination from the oil palm industry. One of the plants that operates in the region is owned by Oleopalma. February 2021. Photo: Jeny Pascacio

On the other hand, the Regulation of the Environmental Law for the state of Chiapas establishes that the Environmental Attorney in the State of Chiapas (Paech) is in charge of verifying, inspecting and monitoring compliance.

In an interview, Alejandra Domínguez, head of the legal area of ​​the Paech, explains that the agency has indeed followed up on the complaints arising from the activity of the palm companies, especially the processors, to which visits have been made. inspection. However, she does not specify which ones have been supervised and she appears surprised when she is asked about the presence of plantations owned by Oleopalma within REBIEN. “I am taking note of that point to verify, because all the (visits) that have been made are not within the Reserve, it is a serious point,” she replies.

Reduce REBIEN, government solution

Photo caption: Oil palm plantations are located along canals within the Reserve. This situation causes the dispersal of the plant’s seeds, which migrate until they reach mangrove areas where they invade the ecosystem. Photo: Santiago Navarro F.

In one of the reports provided by Conanp, prepared within the framework of the Program for the Conservation of Species at Risk (PROCER), it is highlighted that the expansion of palm cultivation is due to changes in land use, especially in “high-value areas”. of Conservation” within the Reserve.

The Pronatura Sur organization, which prepared this document, also points out that, in order to prepare the area to allow the installation of monocultures, drains were opened in order to regulate excess water and maintain adequate conditions for development. of the plantations.

According to the Management Program, forest exploitation and change of land use within the REBIEN without authorization from the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat) is prohibited; Therefore, Avispa Midia requested, via access to information, the registration of the authorizations issued during the last decade. The institution replied that “no authorization was located, in terms of change of land use in forest land issued by this General Directorate, located in the La Encrucijada Biosphere Reserve, in the state of Chiapas.”

Photo caption: The palm fruit is transferred to strategically located collection centers, such as the one located in the Matamoros ejido, municipality of Acapetahua, near the REBIEN buffer zone. Photo: Aldo Santiago

Conanp and Semarnat attribute the problem of palm dispersal to the lack of control by producers; For this reason, they have sought strategies to legalize it. Thus, in October 2015 they presented the Preliminary Justification Study for the Modification of the 1995 Declaration of the REBIEN, which sought to disincorporate areas where there are crops, and livestock and where fishing is practiced.

Both dependencies sought to reduce the Reserve to regularize oil palm, ensuring that “its purpose is to adapt the zoning, in particular the core areas to which surfaces with ecosystems in a good state of conservation will be incorporated, and surfaces will be disincorporated in which they carry out agricultural, livestock and fishing activities”, underlines the document to which Avispa Midia had access.

Thus, they intended to disincorporate an area of ​​3,376.85 hectares, of which 745.2 correspond to the El Palmarcito Core Zone and 2,631.65 hectares to the La Encrucijada Core Zone. This proposal was stalled.

In accordance with the regulations on Protected Natural Areas of the LGEEPA, the next step to continue with the proposal to modify the Reserve is the publication of the previous study for public consultation, before proposing its modification to the Federal Executive, which it didn’t happen

The current director of REBIEN says that the families that today grow and depend on palm are very visible, since they are involved in different activities within the production chain, not only with the plantations, but also as transporters or working in the processors. “There is an economy already with some strength in the region around the African palm,” he says. In addition, he emphasizes that he cannot denounce this situation, because “it would create a much greater social and economic conflict.”

In 2016, the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) issued General Recommendation 26/2016, to address damages in Protected Natural Areas and human rights. He highlighted the degradation of the REBIEN considering that the management of the reserve faces, “for a few years, the use of these lands for the establishment of oil palm plantations.”

In that same year, the Conanp, instead of supervising the plantations, contracted the civil organization Nature and Redes AC . to carry out the project Strengthening the African palm control strategy in REBIEN, which only focused on the problem of dispersion. With the information obtained in this project, actions were implemented for the eradication and control of oil palm individuals that covered an area of ​​11.5 hectares inside the Reserve.

Poulette Hernández, the co-founder of the Digna Ochoa Human Rights Center, clarifies that this task is not easy at all. She explains that people have a wrong idea, thinking that the palm is like any tree, that it can be felled and set on fire to eliminate it, when it is not. The director of La Encrucijada agrees that the eradication of this crop is not easy. He explains that it cannot be removed with a machete and doing it with a chainsaw is very complicated. In addition, all material must be removed from the site, because it can contaminate the mangroves.

On the part of Conanp there is a public record of the eviction, in January 2020, of what it considered two invasions of people, which, according to the institution, threatened the buffer zone and the core zone of the Reserve. At that time, the director of REBIEN assured that 911 hectares were recovered where damages were recorded due to the introduction of exotic species such as oil palm, landfills, and the removal of vegetation that were harming the ecosystem.

The business solution

Photo caption: Oil palm plantations within the La Encrucijada Biosphere Reserve. Photo: Aldo Santiago

In April 2019, during a presentation held in Switzerland, Clara Rowe, who was then responsible for Mexico and Central America for the Earthworm Foundation, shared part of her work at La Encrucijada. In her exhibition, she showed the results of a mapping where they identified 8 thousand hectares of oil palm within the Reserve.

This information was the result of an investment between said foundation, Nestlé and Grupo Bimbo, to use satellite technology that would generate a “detailed knowledge of the current use of the land in La Encrucijada,” reported the Earthworm Foundation.

Nestlé reaffirmed the above in its 2020 report, called Responsible Sourcing of Palm Oil, where it stated that the objective of this technology was “land use planning” within the Reserve.

Grupo Bimbo also pointed out that, together with the palm sector, they work together in “meetings with CONANP-Encrucijada to address the issue of updating the Decree and Management Program”, according to its 2021 Global Palm Oil Policy.

“ The goal is that we can help finance a process of updating the Management Program through the government and that this helps to legalize part of the palm”, expressed Clara Rowe. After an express question from an attendee about whether that would translate into less conservation area, she replied: “Yes, you have less formal conservation area, but the reality is that the palm is already there.”

Those responsible for the expansion

Photo caption: The governor of Chiapas, Juan Sabines, and the president-elect, Manuel Velasco, inaugurate the Zitihualt palm oil processing plant in Villa Comaltitlán. July, 2012.

This exotic species did not magically arrive in the Reserve. Oil palm requires a humid tropical climate, with ideal rainfall of 1,800 mm throughout the year; for this reason, the jungle and the coast of Chiapas – in this last area REBIEN is located – are ideal places for its expansion. Here, the volumes of annual precipitation are between 2,000 mm and 2,400 mm, which makes the La Encrucijada region of influence the most productive in all of Mexico for oil palm cultivation.

In its General Recommendation 26/2016, the CNDH points out that the advance of this crop in the REBIEN is not accidental, but rather “it is a productive change promoted by the state government for several regions of Chiapas, resulting in its expansion to lands of this conservation polygon (La Encrucijada)”.

REBIEN’s director, Juan Carlos Castro Hernández, is quick to stress that oil palm growth advanced long before he took office. He adds that it has not been audited due to the large size of the Reserve “and perhaps due to political pressure”, although he reiterates that he is not aware of it, since it was a process that he did not witness.

What is known is that, between 2007 and 2012, the state government promoted cultivation through the Productive Reconversion Program and freely distributed four million plants without supervising where they would be cultivated. For this, it received 165 million dollars from the International Finance Corporation (a member of the World Bank Group). In 2011, this entity granted another loan to continue expanding the agricultural frontier for two more years.

The federal government also promoted the expansion of monoculture, through Trusts Instituted in Relation to Agriculture (FIRA)Through the Incentive program for production stimuli, in conjunction with Femexpalma, it proposed to provide infrastructure and technological packages to increase the productive capacity of oil palm.

These financings were destined, mainly, to small producers. However, businessmen who have palm within La Encrucijada also benefited. For example, through the 2014 and 2015 South-Southeast Productive Development Component, ranchers Francisco Reyero Fernández and Ariosto Pérez Luján received various supports promoted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA).

Photo caption: Governor Velasco, accompanied by businessman Francisco Reyero (on his left), during the inauguration of the Sustainable Palm Oils plant in the Benemérito de las Américas region, Chiapas. March, 2018.

According to information from the Annex provided by Conanp, Reyero Fernández owns the largest extension of oil palm plantations within the REBIEN, with a dimension of 88.8 hectares, a little more than 19 times the area of ​​the base of the city of Mexico.

The support of Sowing Life

Palm cultivation on the Chiapas coast gets a new boost with the government program Sembrando Vida. The director of La Encrucijada points out that there are oil palm producers who have “slipped in” and are growing palm within the Natural Protected Area, although ” they know they have to remove it.”

The Earthworm Foundation manager in Mexico reports that there are producers who are combining their oil palm crops with cocoa, as part of this government program that aims to address rural poverty and environmental degradation in the country. “The colleagues from Sembrando Vida promoted a farming model in which, within the palm, cocoa began to be planted, so there is a diversified crop,” says Rincón, who adds that there is a commitment on the part of the producers to eliminate the palma “at some point” if it is in an area where it is not allowed within the reserve.

In its 2020 Responsible Palm Oil Sourcing document, Nestlé assures that during that year it worked in La Encrucijada on palm farm management plans with 52 farmers who supply four different processors. “It partnered with the government subsidy program, Sembrando Vida, to measure the economic impacts of its intercropping experiment with oil palm and cocoa,” the text asserts.

In 2019, during the Analysis Framework of the First Government Report, the current head of Semarnat and then-Secretary of Welfare, María Luisa Albores González, maintained that the state of Chiapas is the most benefited from the Sembrando Vida program, with 200,000 hectares. She also pointed out that they are working in coordination with Semarnat in buffer zones of protected natural areas. “This is the case of the Tatana Reserve, the El Triunfo Reserve, the La Encrucijada Reserve, Los Zapotes, and the Montes Azules Reserve.”

Avispa Midia requested, from the Ministry of Welfare, the list of producers benefiting from the Sembrando Vida program located within La Encrucijada. The institution replied that no information related to the request was found.

The expansion of palm in Mexico also has the support of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (Sader). His owner, Víctor Villalobos Arámbula emphasized in 2019 his support for the palm industry. “La Sader is an ally of oil palm producers, so together we will reverse the unfounded and negative opinions of its cultivation with arguments based on science and research, which will result in expanding oil production,” said the official in a meeting with representatives of palm unions.

Photo caption: The head of Sader, in a meeting with representatives of the oil palm industry, promised to promote this crop in southeastern Mexico. May, 2019

In addition, the current government of Mexico, through Sader and the National Institute for Forest, Agricultural and Livestock Research (Inifap), have joined the goals of the transnational PepsiCo through its “Agrovita” program. During a meeting held in May 2021, between Villalobos Arámbula and directors of PepsiCo Alimentos México, headed by the company’s president, Roberto Martínez, it was announced that said program would represent an investment of 20 million pesos.

The main objective of Agrovita is to provide technical support and improved vegetative material resistant to pests for a thousand banana, cocoa and oil palm producers in Chiapas and Tabasco. This translates into a renewed impulse for the expansion of this monoculture plantations, mainly in areas that have the right climatic conditions, such as the coastal region, the jungle and the northern zone of Chiapas.

Non-compliance with international agreement

Photo caption: Mangroves in the buffer zone near Laguna El Palmarcito. Photo: Aldo Santiago.

Nestlé reports highlight the importance of the La Encrucijada wetlands and marshes, as they sequester up to 40 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. In addition, they are home to a great diversity of species, including several in danger of extinction. For this reason, this reserve has international support as it was declared a RAMSAR site on March 20, 1996.

The Convention on Wetlands, known as the RAMSAR Convention, is an intergovernmental environmental treaty established in 1971 by UNESCO. It serves as a framework for national and international cooperation actions to conserve and make rational use of wetlands and their resources.

Neither the RAMSAR declaration nor the decree creating the Reserve have prevented the degradation of wetlands and mangroves. Oil palm is one of the many factors that, over the last decade, have contributed to the loss of almost 3,000 hectares of mangroves alone along the Chiapas coast, as recognized by the National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity. (Conabi).

Therefore, Conabio warns that it is “imperative” to stop the advance of oil palm plantations established in the last 12 years “on the swamps and mangroves in the municipalities of Huixtla, Villa Comaltitlán, Acapetahua and Mapastepec, promoted by SAGARPA and the government of the state”, according to the 2020 report entitled Inventory and monitoring of the current state of the mangrove forests of Chiapas and Oaxaca. On the contrary, the director of La Encrucijada assures that the RAMSAR agreement is not at risk, since no mangroves have been lost within REBIEN.

Miguel Rivas, doctor in Ecology and member of the Oceana Mexico organization, affirms that, being part of the RAMSAR agreement, REBIEN receives resources from international funds for its conservation, so that, if the norms of the agreement are not complied with, violates national and international legislation and would stop receiving funding.

In the opinion of lawyer Agustín Bravo, specialist in environmental law and consultant for Oceana Mexico, the lack of protection of the RAMSAR site may lead to the wetland in question being removed from the list. With this, he explains, the non-compliance of the Mexican State is made visible at the international level. Even individuals can sue the State because the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation considers compliance with international treaties such as the RAMSAR Convention to be mandatory.

Bravo points out that the responsibility to protect wetlands and mangroves falls under federal jurisdiction to guarantee the right to a healthy environment. These powers fall directly to Semarnat and Conanp. Even, emphasizes the lawyer, wetland ecosystems havedouble protection, since the General Law of Wildlife and the General Law of National Assets are also applied to them, which, he regrets, goes unnoticed due to its poor execution.

The history of REBIEN is not unique in Mexico. The study Oil palm cultivation in Mexico , by Cristina de la Vega and Daniel Sandoval, among other authors, edited by the Center for Studies for Change in the Mexican Countryside (Ceccam), confirms that, after 21 years of oil palm production in the country, protected areas have been affected in Chiapas ; mainly, the La Encrucijada Biosphere Reserve and the Palenque National Park.

The biggest problem, as the researcher Claudia Ramos Guillén assures, is that these policies are not going to stop, because there are millions of dollars at stake and because “palm comes from an expansive policy at the international level, affecting, above all, ecosystems such as that of the Crossroads. So governments end up adjusting to the demands of the international market.”

“ The dilemma of La Encrucijada: the greenwashing of oil palm”, is an investigation carried out by Santiago Navarro F. and Aldo Santiago for Avispa Midia and CONNECTAS, in alliance with Pie de Página, within ARCO, with the support of the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) within the framework of the initiative for Investigative Journalism in the Americas.”

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