Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Environmental and Political Reasons Behind the Decision to Halt the Dragon Mart Project

Transnational project  in Quintana Roo Photo: Jake Sandler
The Dragon Mart megaproject in Quintana Roo state is on life support.  A couple of weeks ago, the federal environmental protection agency (Procuraduría Federal de Protección al Ambiente, PROFEPA) determined that the project--funded largely by Chinese interests--was causing too much damage to the fragile ecosystem of the area.  In addition to halting the project, developers were ordered to pay a fine and restitution 20 million pesos.  Read more in the most recent issue of SourceMex.

Quintana Roo’s Endangered Deciduous Jungle
The actual environmental transgressions cited by PROFEPA have mostly to do with violations of NORMA 059, which protects native Mexican species of flora and fauna. In particular, the Dragon Mart developers have been cited for violating the law’s ‘Anthropogenic’ clause, which evaluates changes in the use of soil and their impacts on human settlement.

The wetlands, mangroves and swamps most affected on the property known as “El Tucán” are not heavily populated. However, they contain some of the region’s most important and endangered ‘deciduous jungle’ species and ecosystems. Despite the heavy handed environmental protection policies on the part of the federal government, many critics speculate whether or not there is more behind the recent decision to halt Dragon Mart’s development; as articles such as this one in El Economista show, Quintana Roo is the same state where transnational interests in planting transgenic soy have superseded legitimate opposition. Others have sought to prove that a political dispute between Peña Nieto and Vicente Fox is actually what is behind the recent decision.

A Mexican-owned development?
Juan Carlos López Rodríguez, director of the Dragon Mart Cancun megaproject, has repeatedly stated that the company behind this project, Real Estate Dragon Mart Cancun SA de CV, is a Mexican company, founded in Monterrey and funded by 90% Mexican capital. A recent article in the daily business newspaper El Economista explains the company’s ownership in more detail: 45% is actually owned by Real Estate Dragon Mart Cancun, while another 45% is owned by Monterrey-Cancun Mart (of which Lopez Rodriguez is partner). Finally, the other 10% is accounted for by Chinese magnate Hao Feng, president of Chinamex, a company interested in introducing Chinese products throughout the world, and the same company that brought the first Dragon Mart to Dubai in 2003. As the name of Feng’s company suggests, ever since its founding in 2000, this Chinese firm has had its eyes on Mexico, particularly those places most visited by international tourists and businesses. That was the first year of Vicente Fox’s presidency, under which Lopez Rodriguez was involved in a China investment scandal while serving as a customs officer.

Speculation of a PRI power play against PAN
Reports have surfaced that  individuals linked to Fox are involved in 90% of the investment.  Among the names mentioned are José Luis Salas Cacho, ex-director of Maritime Transportation, and Manuel Bribiesca Sahagún, son of former first lady and Vicente Fox’s wife Marta Sahagún. So, is it possible that President Enrique Peña Nieto's administration is wielding its power via PROFEPA to land a blow in what is actually a decades-old power struggle between the PAN and PRI? However, you consider this situation, it is hard for the public to ignore the incestuous relationship between Dragon Mart investors and former PAN functionaries under Fox. Meanwhile, environmentalists and local community leaders in Cancun are praising the federal government’s decision as a victory for the land and for the rights of the region’s inhabitants.

-Jake Sandler

Also in LADB on Jan. 28-30
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