Samir Flores Soberanes – a leading activist against a controversial thermoelectric plant and gas duct that Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has proposed opening despite concerns that they will harm the surrounding environment – was shot dead by unknown assailants in front of his Amilcingo, Morelos, home in the early morning hours of Wednesday, Feb. 20.

Flores Soberanes, who in addition to being a member of the People’s Front in Defense of Land and Water in Morelos, Puebla and Tlaxcala (the three central Mexican states that would be affected by the opening of the plant), was also the owner of a local community radio station called Amillzintko.

According to Morelos police, the shooting took place at about 5 a.m., when an armed man shot him in a drive-by attack from a Nissan Sentra as Flores Soberanes was leaving his house for work.

Flores Soberanes had protested against the proposal to allow the operation of a state-owned thermoelectric power plant in Yecapixtla, Morelos.

Earlier this month, President López Obrador announced he would hold a public referendum in the three states on Saturday, Feb. 23, and Sunday, Feb. 24, to determine whether the plant, which is under the jurisdiction of the financially moribund government-run Federal Electricity Commission (CFE), should be opened.

The power plant was constructed during the administration of former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and includes transmission lines and a private gas duct, but was never put into operations, in large part as a consequence of protests by residents of the area who feared that it would disrupt their environment and daily activities.

Morelos is the only Mexican state that does not produce electricity, which means it must currently import energy from outside at a hefty cost to industries and consumers.

About half of all electricity in Mexico is produced by private-sector companies (many of which are foreign-owned), a situation which AMLO has said his administration hopes to change during his six-year term in office.

If the plant’s operation is approved, AMLO has promised that the 32 towns affected by its activities will receive federal discounts on their electric bills as compensation and that the same number of ejido communal farms that the duct and transmission lines transverse will be given 40,000 pesos per hectare.

During his daily press conference Wednesday, AMLO called the attack on Flores Soberanes “vial and cowardly.”

Notwithstanding, the president said the referendum will continue as scheduled.


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