When the Mexican government announced the deregulation of its energy sector, many in the industry anticipated a rush to exploit Mexico’s rich hydrocarbon and gas deposits. People living in the Mexican energy boomtown in the Juárez Valley southeast of Ciudad Juárez and El Paso, Texas, allege that land speculators preparing for the start of oil and gas production have spurred a land grab that has forced what some claim is an exodus of local residents.
Not many people live in the string of towns along the Rio Grande in an area slated for energy production and rapid infrastructure construction, according to FronterasDesk.org. However, residents are complaining that the government is trying to drive them out to make energy exploitation of the area easier.
People interviewed by the Fronteras Desk for their story claimed they or their neighbors have been burned out of their homes and that others have been murdered. They also insist that the government is driving the narrative that Mexican drug cartels are responsible for the violence. One of the towns experiencing these problems is Guadalupe, a few minutes from the U.S. border near Fabens, Texas.
“The government sends people here to pressure landowners to get out of here, to say, ‘go away, we don’t want you here,’ ” [a resident] said in Spanish. The charge is vehemently denied by Chihuahua’s government.
The big land rush in the state of Chihuahua is largely due to Mexico’s national oil company PEMEX and its exploration efforts in the area. The reserves below ground there can be likened to the Permian Basin in Texas and New Mexico, which is the highest oil-producing area in the U.S. Pipelines are planned for desert areas that were once worthless, but are quickly becoming valuable. Residents in these areas are leaving. Per Fronteras Desk, they sense, but can’t prove, that outside investors are working with organized crime to terrorize people into fleeing, leaving their land to be scooped up.
Those who do leave are afraid of coming back, partly out of a reluctance to deal with the government and out of fear that cartels are involved in the neighborhood violence. Art gallery administrator from Ciudad Juárez, Gabriela Carballo, said of the pipeline plans and land grab, “If we speak out against it, we run the risk of our really extremely corrupt government murdering us.”
Sylvia Longmire is a border security expert and Contributing Editor for Breitbart Texas. You can read more about cross-border issues in her latest book, Border Insecurity: Why Big Money, Fences, and Drones Aren’t Making Us Safer.