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Mareña Renovables in San Dionisio del Mar, Oaxaca, Mexico


Over the last 15 years, Mexico has registered a fast development of large-scale wind farms in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, located in the south-western part of Oaxaca State. This region is considered to have 44,000 MW of wind power potential capacity with 33,200 MW suitable for commercial development. The territory comprises traditional lands of the Binnizá and Ikjoots groups (Zapotecos and Huaves in Spanish), most of them organized through communal land regimes and customary law. Indigenous communities in the area heavily depend on traditional livelihoods rooted to the territory, including fishing and farming activities. The Isthmus is also part of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor and one of the largest migratory bird routes, making it a sensitive and controversial area for windmill siting. As of the beginning of 2015, the Wind Corridor in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec comprises more than 15 private wind power projects reaching an accumulated installed capacity of 2,077 MW. Most of these projects are intended to supply electricity to private companies, while the rest is destined to sell electricity for public distribution in urbanized areas of the country. Opposition towards wind farms in the Isthmus started in 1994 and has gained force as private projects have spread out over the territory. In this context, local organizations expanded through several political instances with the contribution of different external actors. Such groups claim that government and private companies have not made formal consultation processes to indigenous communities affected by windmills. They have also sued over illegal land leasing contracts and environmental impacts on construction and operation phases. Additionally, indigenous communities have made strong complaints against the privatization and dispossession processes over their lands and local resources.

One of the most visible cases of opposition in the region is located in the community of San Dionisio del Mar. Here the Spanish Company Preneal planned to deploy 102 turbines through the Santa Teresa Coastal Bar and 30 additional turbines in Santa María del Mar. Together, they would comprise an ambitious project (latter known as Mareña Renovables) expected to reach an installed capacity of 396 MW. The project was granted in 2006 to provide electricity to large beverage companies (including Cuauhtémoc Montezuma brewery and Coca-Cola Femsa). Two Environmental Impact Assessment studies for both installations were completed in June 2009, indicating potential biodiversity loss and increasing social conflict in the area. However, the project received strong support of both the Mexican government and the Inter-American Development Bank, promoting it as a significant step to expand energy supply while reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. Opposition against the Mareña project was mainly lead by the San Dionisio community, where most of the windmills were to be deployed. San Dionisio‟s landowners filed a lawsuit to nullify land leasing contracts with Preneal, claiming several irregularities committed by the company during the process of contract signing. Lawyers claimed that such irregularities violated both the Mexican Constitution and the ILO Convention 169. These claims were highly supported by the Assembly in Defense of the Land and Territory of the Indigenous People in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec ("the Assembly"), a resistance network which was getting a stronger presence in the region. Mobilizations were also joined by other thirteen nearby communities that would be affected by the enclosure of the inner sea, disturbing fishing and local commerce.

The conflict expanded and became more complex when the land leasing contracts intensified previous agrarian conflicts in the region. This happened among the Santa María and San Mateo del Mar communities, where an old struggle to define their borders restarted with the agreement of building 30 windmills in a disputed area, including a zone traditionally used for indigenous and catholic celebrations. This led to further tensions between both communities, while San Mateo del Mar refused to accept the project. Except for Santa María del Mar (which accepted the contract with Preneal) local groups started a visible and organized opposition in 2011, when the Assembly demonstrated outside the Federal Electricity Commission office in Oaxaca. Further mobilizations included railway blockades, street protests and the occupation of the San Dionisio Municipality. All these actions created political pressure and hampered the entrance of machinery in the region, delaying the project’s construction. Given such conditions, Preneal decided to sell the project by 89,000,000 USD to a transnational consortium constituted by Fomento Económico Mexicano (FEMSA), the Macquarie Mexico Infrastructure Fund (MMIF) and the Macquarie Capital Society. However, this strategic shift came with an additional corruption scandal on the accusation that the new consortium gave 20,000,000 Mexican Pesos (1.33 Million USD) to the local Mayor in order get support for the project. Controversies and tensions lead to stronger local mobilizations and a wave of violence increased against the members of the Assembly who were struggling against this and other future wind power projects in the region. Cases of harassment and persecution, as well as illegal detentions were registered. An emblematic case happened in 2012 with the arrest of Bettina Cruz, a local female leader who is member of the Assembly as well as of the National Network of Women Human Rights Defenders in Mexico. According to the International Service for Human Rights, the process against her was based on unfounded and baseless accusations. Although she was eventually freed of charges, such accusations were seen as a clear message against social opposition. However, at the end of 2012, political pressure finally succeeded when a Federal Judge ordered the suspension of the project in San Dionisio, arguing the violation of communal property rights. Although the government and the consortium resisted this decision trying to re-locate the project, the Assembly recognized this process as a successful outcome for local communities. Key words: windmills, indigenous complaints, international capital

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Mareña Renovables in San Dionisio del Mar, Oaxaca, Mexico
State or province:Oaxaca
Location of conflict: San Dionisio del Mar, Juchitán District, Isthmus of Tehuantepec region
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Large-scale wind energy plants
Land acquisition conflicts
Aquaculture and fisheries
Specific commodities:Electricity

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Preneal planned to deploy 102 turbines through the Santa Teresa Coastal Bar and 30 additional turbines in Santa María del Mar. Together, they would comprise an ambitious project expected to reach an installed capacity of 396 MW

The project required to lease 1,643 ha of communal lands in San Dionisio del Mar and 2,000 ha in Santa María del Mar).

The initial contract for the territorial reserve offered 100 Mexican Pesos (around 6 USD) per hectare per year, indicating that total annual costs for land leasing would be of 364,300 Mexican Pesos (around 22,788 USD). In addition to land owners, communities also were offered with a collective payment of around 0.97-1.5% of profits to be invested in social development programs.

In 2011 Preneal decided to sell the project by 89,000,000 USD.

Project area:3,643
Level of Investment for the conflictive project89,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:5,000
Start of the conflict:01/01/2007
End of the conflict:01/02/2015
Company names or state enterprises:Preneal from Spain
Mareña Renovables
Relevant government actors:-Federal Government
(Secretaría de Energía)
(Comisión Federal de Electricidad)
(Federal Courts)
-State and Municipal Government
-Local courts
-San Dionisio Major
International and Finance InstitutionsInter-American Development Bank (IADB)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:-Asamblea de los Pueblos Indígenas del Istmo de Tehuantepec en Defensa de la Tierra y el Territorio.
-Unión de Comunidades Indígenas de la Zona Norte del Istmo (UCIZONI)
-Centro de Derechos Humanos Tepeyac del Istmo de Tehuantepec
-Red Nacional de Defensoras de Derechos Humanos en México (RNDDHM)

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Objections to the EIA
Public campaigns
Referendum other local consultations
Street protest/marches


Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Specific impacts on women
Potential: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Other socio-economic impacts
Other socio-economic impactsViolation of communal property rights


Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Project cancelled
Proposal and development of alternatives:See Ixtepec case
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:In 2013 media reported that the Mareña Renovables project was cancelled after a local court determined that the company should make the consultation process following the 169 ILO Convention standards.
Additionally, in February 2015, the District Court in the State of Oaxaca in Mexico ruled to acquit leader Bettina Cruz Velazquez of charges made against her, after four years of a flawed judicial process.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

ILO Convention 169

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Secretaría de Gobernación, Comisión de Diálogo con los Pueblos Indígenas de México. " La Energía Eólica en México. Una perspectiva social sobre el valor de la tierra", México.


International Service for Human Rights (2015), Mexico: Court dismisses baseless charges against Bettina Cruz Velazquez, Published: 02/16//2015, Consulted 07/15/2015.

Inter-American Development Bank, Eólica del Sur to build biggest wind farm in Mexico with IDB support, Published 11/24/11.,9708.html

Article in La Jornada (Mexico), 22 Febr. 2015 - will Mareña change its name and start the project again?

Rojas, Rosa, No instalará Mareña Renovables parque eólico en Dionisio del Mar. La Jornada, Published 02/18/2013, Consulted 07/15/2015.

Asamblea en Defensa de la Tierra y el Territorio y Unión de Comunidades Indígenas de la Zona Norte del Istmo; Las eólicas son un robo. Cómic realista sobre los parques eólicos, Oaxaca

Pueblos en Resistencia Contra el Megaproyecto Eólico en San

Dionisio del Mar, Fuera Mareña Renovables, no más imposición y despojo en el Istmo de Tehuantepec ¡Ni un parque eólico más!, Published 11/28/2012. Consulted 08/10/2015.

Preneal cierra la venta de dos proyectos eólicos en Oaxaca (México), Consulted 07/15/2015.

Asamblea de los Pueblos Indígenas del Istmo de Tehuantepec en Defensa de la Tierra y el Territorio, Resolución sobre la situación legal de la defensora Lucila Bettina Cruz Velázquez, Published 11/5/2014, Consulted 07/15/2015.

Meta information

Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:2039



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