Atenco International Airport, Mexico


San Salvador Atenco is a rural community thirty kilometers from Mexico City. In 2001, then-President Vicente Fox planned the construction of an International airport in Atenco, and issued a decree to remove local residents. The local communities were not consulted and began occupying the streets to defend their lands. The project would entail the loss of 80% of their land and would also lead to the displacement of at least 56.000 people. A strong movement called the Peoples Front in Defense of the Land (FPDT) was launched after popular unrest, and eventually obtained a legal injunction blocking the displacement decree in 2002. The victory was not achieved without collateral effects. On May 2nd and 4th 2006 a police repression operation was launched with the purpose of breaking up the FPDT resistance. Several people were killed or injured by the police. More than 200 peoples were imprisoned, among them 27 women who were raped during their detention. Twelve activist leaders remained in jail until 2010 after the Supreme Court ordered their freeing. They were charged with alleged kidnapping of the State officials and police officers in San Salvador Atenco. The Court declared that the Federal State has not ensured the citizens right to a fair trial. The Court also defined as illegal the evidence brought to trial. However, the civil and human rights organizations declare that the sentence is still incomplete, because it gives no justice to the 27 women raped, and does not provide an actual punishment for those responsible for the events of May 3rd and 4th, 2006.

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Basic Data
NameAtenco International Airport, Mexico
ProvinceEstado de Mexico
SiteSan Salvador Atenco
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Urban development conflicts
Ports and airport projects
Specific CommoditiesLand
Tourism services
Transportation Services
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe huge airport facility would cover 54,000 hectares, affecting the three municipalities of Atenco, Texcoco and Chimalhuacan. The displacement decree provided compensation of Mex $ 7,20 (around US$ 0,57) per square meter for arable and residential land, and included no grants or allowances and no proposals for re-settling residents or finding them new jobs.
Project Area (in hectares)54000
Level of Investment (in USD)2800000000
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Potential Affected Populationresidents of Atenco, Texcoco and Chimalhuacan
Company Names or State EnterprisesAtacomulco Group - lobbying activity
Relevant government actorsFederal Government of Mexico, PFP - Messico, National Police of Mexico, CONAGUA - Mexico, Supreme Court, Superior Court of Justice of the State of Mexico
International and Financial InstitutionsInternational Civil Commission on Human Rights Observation (CCIODH)
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersAmnesty International, FPDT (Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra) - Mexico, Texcoco Florists - Mexico, La Otra Campaa Zapatista - Mexico
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Social movements
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Religious groups
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Threats to use arms
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution
Health ImpactsVisible: Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..) , Deaths
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in violence and crime, Militarization and increased police presence, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseDeaths

Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Negotiated alternative solution
Criminalization of activists
Application of existing regulations
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
New legislation
Violent targeting of activists
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.The Government suspended the displacement decree, thus cancelling the entire project. The proyect has been reactivated by the new Government and new strategies are being implemented trying to displace the local population.
Sources and Materials

Informe especial de la Comision Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, Mexico (in Spanish)
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H. Guillen Romo, Mexico frente a la mundializacion neoliberal, Era, 2005.

Marco global de referencia para la accion juridica en la defensa del medio ambiente. Los derechos humanos contra las represas y otros proyectos neoliberales, CIEPAC, 2005.

M. Durand, La construccion de la democracia en Mexico. Movimientos sociales y ciudadania, Siglo XXI, 1994.


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Conagua, Comision Nacional del Agua
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Pronunciamientos por los Presos y las Presas de Atenco, June 20th, 2007 (in Spanish)
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Testimonios de golpes, violaciones y detenciones arbitrarias en San Salvador Atenco, Gibler J.
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Articulo en la Jornada
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Reprimen marcha campesina de Atenco; hay 33 lesionados, La Jornada
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Atenco: Inicio de la campaña nacional e internacional "Justicia y Libertad para Atenco", Febrero 2009
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Blog of El Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra (in Spanish)
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Mexico: San Salvador Atenco Fights for Land, Resists Proposed Airport, by Davies J., September 2014
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Could History Repeat Itself with Mexico City’s Ambitious Airport Plan? Knoll, A., July 2015
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Airport protests in Atenco in Mexico brutally repressed, March 2015, AirportWatch Europe
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Other Documents

Atneco inhabitants defending their land durig the mobilizations in September 2014 Land yes, Planes no!
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Women of Atenco protesting against the airport proyect The peasants protest with their machetes as a symbol of defense of their lands, revoluciontrespuntocero
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Meta Information
ContributorLucie Greyl
Last update27/10/2015