By Paulina Villegas and Frances Robles / New York Times
Armando García has filed lawsuits, joined protests and gotten arrested trying to stop a highway from slicing through his hilly backyard in a nature reserve at San Franciso Xochicuautla.
But even with a court order on his side, bright green pines have been stripped away and tree stumps dot the hillside. Parts of protected forest have been slashed, exposing the path of a 20-mile highway to the new airport in Mexico City that is demolishing swaths of García’s indigenous community in its wake.
García and his neighbors say they never really stood a chance. After all, they are not battling ordinary construction crews. They are taking on a businessman so well connected that Mexicans have long called him the president’s “favorite contractor.”
After years of demonstrations and court battles, President Enrique Peña Nieto signed an executive order this month expropriating 91 acres of what many here consider sacred land. And is it any wonder he did, residents argue. The same contractor carving through their land has held the title to the president’s family mansion, provided a house to the finance minister for zero profit and does billions of dollars in deals with the government.
“We knew the president’s political grip in this state goes back for years and years,” García said. “We just didn’t know it would end up affecting us directly, so badly.”