Human rights, indigenous sovereignty, environmental and anti-globalization activists are calling for protests and boycotts of three major US retail chains-CompUSA, Sears and Kmart-due to their involvement with plans for a hydroelectric dam that would displace tens of thousands of indigenous subsistence farmers in southern Mexico and destroy critical tropical forest ecosystems. A 2006 United Nations report listed the planned "La Parota" dam near Acapulco as Mexico's top economic, social and cultural rights concern.
Endorsing the call are Root Force, Rising Tide North America, Arizona Earth First! and Florida-based Justicia Global.
"When consumers shop at these stores, their money goes directly to people who are profiting from violence and the destruction of threatened tropical forests," said Ben Pachano of Root Force.
Mexican businessman Carlos Slim, who Forbes lists as the third richest person in the world, owns a number of companies that have publicly expressed interest in financing and building La Parota. Slim also owns CompUSA (a computer retail chain) and Sears Roebuck Mexico. The owner of the Sears brand-Sears Holdings Corporation-in turn owns Sears and Kmart in the United States.
"Sears Holdings Corporation is ultimately responsible for the behavior of anyone who is authorized to use the Sears name," Pachano said. "By withdrawing his right to use that name, it can place substantial pressure on Slim to end his involvement in La Parota."
Great controversy has arisen over the planned dam, primarily due to its anticipated effects on local indigenous communities. Road blockades and lawsuits by these communities have stalled the project, but the cost to locals has been high. Internal conflict fomented by the Mexican government has led to the deaths of at least six people, while others have been beaten and arrested by local and federal police. On January 6, Benito Jacinto Cruz, a farmer opposed to the dam, was shot and killed by assailants unknown.
La Parota dam has also drawn fire for its anticipated impacts on soil and water quality, a particular concern given its placement in the Sierra Madre del Sur mountain range-globally renowned for its high concentration of rare and endemic species. In addition, environmentalists are concerned that the dam would contribute to the pace of global warming. Studies have shown that dams in tropical regions actually produce from two to 40 times as much carbon dioxide as an equivalent coal plant ( http://www.irn.org/programs/greenhouse/resemissions.html).
"Slim is gambling with the very future of our planet, " said Nina Williams of Rising Tide. "We hope shoppers of conscience will agree that no one should profit from that." Boycott organizers have stated that the campaign against CompUSA, Sears and Kmart will not end until Slim publicly guarantees that none of his companies will participate in the "La Parota" project in any capacity.
Background information: www.rootforce.org