Governor says feds’ failure to deliver funding a factor in highway’s delay

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Oaxaca Governor Alejandro Murat Hinojosa conceded this week that the Puerto Escondido-Oaxaca highway will not be completed before his term ends Nov. 30, claiming that the federal government’s failure to deliver promised funds was a factor.

Murat, the state’s Institutional Revolutionary Party governor for the past six years, told the newspaper El Piñero that construction of the highway that will connect the Central Valleys and Coast regions of the state has been halted by the people of San Vicente Coatlán and Villa Sola de Vega. They have refused to allow work to continue due to a longstanding dispute between them.

The governor reported that all work on what has been described as “one of the most modern highways in the southeast” is completely halted, as the section within the municipality of San Vicente Coatlán, in the District of Ejutla de Crespo, has been blocked.

Murat added that despite repeated visits by President López Obrador to the conflict zone and an offer made in August of millions of pesos in compensation to 70 displaced people in the towns of San José Obrero, Paso Ancho, El Pescadito and Rancho Viejo, the promised funds have yet to reach them.

López Obrador and Murat tour the highway project in 2019.
López Obrador and Murat tour the highway project in 2019.

Murat said it appeared that the federal government has stopped the delivery of the pledged financial support, thus undermining a possible way out of the agrarian and social conflict.

The impasse has led residents of Coatlán to block a section of the highway. Community council members and residents in general, along with municipal authorities led by Mayor Dominguito Antonio Antonio, dumped tonnes of dirt and rocks at the entrances to the area under construction, and dug ditches to block the passage of vehicles and people into the area.

They also forced the construction company to remove some of the heavy machinery, vehicles, construction materials and tools from the site, thus paralyzing all work on a 17-kilometer-long stretch of highway.

A key factor behind the position of the municipality of San Vicente Coatlán is that it rejects a ruling of the Unitary Agrarian Court in which it lost 19,600 hectares. The decision went in favor of Sola de Vega. 

Now, its main demand is to recover at least 50% of the land conceded to the neighboring municipality.

Coatlán also has a list of public infrastructure projects it wishes to kick off with the funds  pledged by state and federal authorities three months ago, including the building of at least one council hall and the paving of some streets.

The 103-kilometer Barranca Larga-Ventanilla highway has been under construction — off and on but mostly off — for 15 years. It will reduce travel time between Puerto and Oaxaca city to an estimated 2 1/2 hours.

With reports from El Piñero

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