Tuesday morning, police officials from La Paz, Mexico, forcefully removed protesting fisherman from their beach blockade against the housing company MIRA, a company with ties to Colorado State University and its educational center in Todos Santos.
At least two to three people were injured from the intervention: one with a broken arm and the other’s injuries are unknown at this time. Since Oct. 29, 2015, fisherman had blocked the road to Punta Lobos beach where MIRA was constructing a hotel as part of its major housing development in the region.
The development includes land donated to CSU for a research center, however the center has been scrutinized by activists criticizing the University’s relationship with the housing development.
“CSU is not involved in any negotiations or activities at Punta Lobos,” CSU spokeswoman Tiana Nelson wrote in an email to the Collegian. “The university extends support for the wellbeing and livelihood of all Todos Santos community members, as well as respect for Mexico’s legal process.”
Members of the Punta Lobos Fisherman’s Cooperative decided to protest against the development after citing many environmental and social harms the development could cause to their historic fishing beach that has been used for generations near the town of Todos Santos.
MIRA’s construction on the hotel halted after the protest began in October. The company was recently in negotiations with the fisherman to resolve the dispute. According to John Moreno, a local lawyer representing the protesting fisherman, there was supposed to be another dialogue later this week between the two parties and government officials, but intervention from police has left many blind-sided.
Moreno said there was no warning that police would intervene. Officials dressed in SWAT gear approached the beach at about 5:00 am and began to tell people to leave.
According to Moreno, injuries occurred after officials from MIRA was allowed through to the beach. Other fisherman tried to follow to the beach, at which point police began to march forward. Moreno said police had blocked access to the beach from the public and all fisherman including the other cooperative that is not part of the protest and have only allowed members from the development, including Project Director Ernie Glesner.
“Ernie was with uniformed police officers,” Moreno said. “And they are totally favoring, it’s unheard of … completely out of line.”
The Collegian reached out to Glesner for a response, but have so far received no comment.
In a letter to the editor to the Collegian, Glesner wrote that the leaders of the Punta Lobos fisherman cooperative had not wanted Moreno to represent the fisherman and that he did not have the cooperatives best interests.
According to Ricardo Madrazo, an activist for the fisherman, the fisherman leaders met officials from the housing developer without alerting the entire group. Madrazo said the cooperative forced the leader’s resignation after they signed a deal with MIRA without a majority vote from the cooperative.
Earlier last week, Madrazo and six other activists against the development were charged by police on claims of dispossession and invasion. Madrazo called the charges a fear tactic.
Video Courtesy of Baja Sur TV.
Tensions between the housing development and activists have grown substantially in the past month. On Jan. 23, over two hundred people from the Todos Santos community participated in a march against the housing developer, with another impromptu march happening soon after it was announced activists were charged.
Collegian Executive Editor Skyler Leonard can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Skyler_Leonard.