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Mexican ambassador promises 'increased scrutiny' of Canadian mining in Mexico

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Photo by Peace Brigades International.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has appointed Juan Jose Gomez Camacho as the new Mexican ambassador to Canada.

Gomez Camacho's first comments, even before he arrives in Ottawa, were reported by The Globe and Mail's Latin America Bureau Chief Stephanie Nolen.

"Canadian mining companies operating in Mexico should be on notice that the sector is going to face increased scrutiny on its environmental practices and treatment of Indigenous people, according to the country's new ambassador to Ottawa," writes Nolen.

Nolen's article also quotes Gomez Camacho stating, "We really want a strong, profitable mining sector -- and Canadian mining companies are large investors in Mexico -- but we expect them to operate in this country with exactly the same standards as they do in Canada."

That sounds less than promising given the "standards" for industrial projects in Canada do not respect the Indigenous right to free, prior and informed consent -- witness the Trans Mountain pipeline on Secwepemc territory and the Coastal GasLink pipeline on Wet'suwet'en territory.

The Mexican government is also facing its own controversies over its support for two mega-projects that lack the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous people, namely the Proyecto Integral Morelos gas pipeline and thermoelectric plant and the Tren Maya tourist and commerical freight railroad that would result in deforestation and water contamination.

As Peace Brigades International-Mexico Project has commented, "The organizations that we accompany continue to be concerned for AMLO's position on the rights of Indigenous populations, given that his public discourse seems to respect their autonomy, but he continues to propose initiatives of megaprojects such as the Mayan Train or new mining investments."

Canadian capital is massively invested in mining in Mexico.

"Of the 293 mining companies operating in Mexico, 205 are backed by Canadian capital," reports NOW Magazine.

And that capital has resulted in damage done and lives lost.

Vancouver-based Fortuna Silver operates the mine in the community of San José del Progreso where two of its outspoken opponents -- local resident Bernardo Méndez Vásquez and Indigenous Zapotec land defender Bernardo Vasquez Sánchez -- have been killed.

One can also look at how the water supply of the community of Cerro San Pedro has been impacted by the cyanide used by the Vancouver-based mining company New Gold.

It may sound promising that the new Mexican ambassador to Canada talks about "increasing the role of the state in making sure that the standards of operation in Mexico from foreign companies in this or any other sector are sustainable."

But he also alludes to the concept of corporate social responsibility when he adds, "It's also a self-discipline, it's a question of companies' values on how they operate."

The Globe and Mail's Report on Business editor Duncan Hood has written, "Most of us don't associate Canadian businesses with assault and murder. But between 2000 and 2015, 44 people died as a result of violence surrounding Canadian-owned mines in Latin America."

This fact does not suggest that there's a lot of the needed "values" or "self-discipline" in how the Canadian extractavist sector mines for profit.

Important first steps from the new Mexican government could include a definitive cancellation of La Parota dam and a reversal of the granting of large parts of territory in Oaxaca to Fortuna Silver that was done without the consent of local Indigenous and farming communities.

Likewise, after sitting on the appointment of a Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise, we'll see how much longer the Trudeau government waits to move forward on this and whether that position will have the power to compel documents and testimony.

Indigenous peoples in both Canada and Mexico are experiencing more rhetoric, rather than genuine recognition and reconciliation. It's well past time for that to change.

Brent Patterson is a political activist and writer.

Photo by Peace Brigades International.

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