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Residents in Puebla and Morelos burned ballots for the referendum on two major thermoelectric plants, protesting both the project and the killing of activist Samir Flores.
People in Mexico are burning ballot boxes in protest of the Comprehensive Morelos Project (PIM) that includes two thermoelectric plants to be built in the state of Morelos. They say the government is trying to push through this mega-project that infringes on their sovereign land and will contaminate their water.
Residents of Mexico’s southwest states of Morelos, Puebla, and Tlaxcala are burning ballot boxes placed there to for a poll on whether they want the thermoelectric plants, a gas pipeline and an aqueduct to be built in central Morelos.
Of the 36 anticipated polling stations in Morelos, at least 12 boxes along with the chairs and tables to facilitate voting were burned on Feb. 23 as ballot casting was set to begin. In some instances government officials were blocked from setting up polls.
Members from the People's Front in Defense of Land and Water (FPDTA), which actively opposes the infrastructure, say that in the potentially less affected southern areas of the state, the government gave gifts to people to gain their vote, according to Animal Politico.
Samir Flores Soberanes, a 30-year old Indigenous Nahuatl and prominent activist with FPDTA was gunned down last Wednesday morning in his home in Temoac, Morelos where voting boxes were also burned.
The murder took place the day after Samir, who had vocally opposed the plant since it was first proposed in 2012, along with other anti-PIM, questioned the project at a government-sponsored public forum on the energy project.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) previously criticized anti-electric plant protesters who turned out at a speech he was giving in Morelos on Feb. 11 calling those opposed to it "radical leftists."
Major marches against the killing of Samir and the plant took place in Mexico City Friday.
After hearing of the burning ballots Lopez Obrador asked the people of Morelos to not participate in this type of action.
"The best thing is that there is democracy, a vote that lets the people decide. Do not fall into any provocation," he from Campeche Saturday. There the president announced the government had signed an agreement with the United Nations for technical and scientific analysis regarding potential effects on the quantity and quality of water due to the thermoelectric plant.
In towns along the border between Morelos and Puebla residents and FPDTA burned poll boxes and yelled: "Samir lives, the struggle continues" and "Samir did not die, the government killed him." Others shouted: "Obrador said everything would change, lie, lie, the same crap."
Residents of the municipality of Amilcingo in Morelos state complained that the government failed to provide ballots so they voted in a neighboring town.
"From Puebla: No to the thermoelectric, not to the gas pipeline" was written on ballots in towns throughout the state and "illegitimate consultation.” Others added on the unused voting slips: "In memory of you, Brother Samir Flores from Puebla. No to the thermoelectric plants, no to the gas pipeline."
In Tlaxcala, the farthest state away from the construction there are no reports of conflicts, according to local media.
Polls are set to be open from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.