The Mesoamerica Project (Spanish: Proyecto Mesoamérica, acronym PM also known as Mesoamerican Integration and Development Project, and formerly known as the Puebla-Panama Plan) is a multi-billion dollar development plan formally initiated in 2001, which is intended to "promote the regional integration and development"  of the nine southern states of Mexico (Puebla, Guerrero, Veracruz and points south) with all of Central America, Colombia and the Dominican Republic. The initiative was championed by the then president of Mexico, Vicente Fox, and agreed to by the governments of the respective participating nations.
Goals and financing
The Mesoamerica Project is purportedly intended to remedy a lack of investment and stimulate trade in the region by building or improving large infrastructure projects such as highways, air and sea ports, and electric and telecommunications grids. It consists of eight initiatives:
- Energy Sector Integration
- Transportation Integration
- Telecommunications Integration
- Trade Facilitation
- Sustainable Development
- Human Development
- Disaster Prevention and Mitigation
According to the Presidency of Mexico, the percentage of funding allocated for each of these projects is: Transportation, 85.2%; Electrical, 11.1%, Tourism, 1.3%, Human Development, 0.8%, Disasters, 0.7%, Trade, 0.6%, Sustainable Development, 0.4%; and Telecommunications, 0.03%.
These projects are to take place along five principal axes (or corridors) of development:
- The Pacific Axis, which bears the majority of trade in the region
- The Gulf of Honduras Axis, to develop trade between the Pacific and the cities in the Caribbean region
- The Petén Axis, which runs from Puerto Cortés, Honduras to Villahermosa, Mexico
- The Mexico Trans-systemic Axis, consisting of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.
- The Guatemala/Yucatán Axis
According to a study by the US-based nonprofit InterAction, $7.7 billion in funding for the Mesoamerica Project had been designated as of March 2005; the amount is eventually expected to rise as high as $50 billion. Of this funding, 35% comes from national governments in the region, 24% from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), 15% from the private sector, 7.5% from the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (BCIE), 5% from the World Bank, 6.3% from other sources (the remaining funding could not be determined).
In 2002, following protests that forced the cancellation of a planned airport in San Salvador Atenco, Mexico State, along with persistent troubles in securing financing for PPP projects, a moratorium was declared on official comments regarding the plan, and its website was taken down. During the year-and-a-half moratorium, the IDB hired the US-based advertising agency Fleishman-Hillard to revamp the PPP's image.
In March 2004, Fox officially announced the relaunch of the PPP. Among the changes made were the removal of all hydroelectric dams and the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor from the project, and a new emphasis on the aspects of the plan relating to social concerns. Many of the projects removed from the PPP are still proceeding under different auspices.
After Felipe Calderón was elected president, he continued the project. He had been a proponent of the Mesoamerican Integration and Development Project which was now merged with a similar funding and infrastructure project, the Puebla-Panama Plan (PPP),. Calderón expanded the MesoAmerican Integration and Development Project / PPP, now including Colombia, and an agreement of cooperation against organized crime. Jorge G. Castañeda, Secretary of Foreign Affairs during the first half of Fox's administration and proponent of the "Castañeda Doctrine", suggested that Calderón's leadership and the Mesoamerican Integration and Development Project / PPP should be used as a counterpart to Hugo Chávez's leadership of left-wing policies in Latin America. Calderón has stated that "the challenge (of the PPP) is to foster democratic practices with solid foundation in the region".
The Mesoamerica Project was formally created to replace the Puebla-Panama Plan (PPP) on July 29, 2009, through the “Minutes of Formalization of the Mesoamerica Project”, signed by the Heads of State of the Member Countries (Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, México, Nicaragua, Panamá and now joining the Dominican Republic) in Guanacaste, Costa Rica.
The governments and institutions involved in the PM have refrained from releasing specific information about which highways, electric lines, etc. are part of PM initiatives. In some cases, projects formerly considered a part of the PM have been removed from the plan, although the projects themselves have proceeded, often under the funding of the BCIE rather than the IDB. In other cases, PM projects have been cancelled entirely.
Two well-known, ongoing PM projects are the Electric Integration System for Central America (SIEPAC) and the Mesoamerican Transport Integration Initiative, or International Network of Mesoamerican Highways (RICAM). SIEPAC involves the construction of 2,100 kilometers of energy line from Mexico to Panama, costing an estimated $390 million. One of the goals of the project is to be able to sell electricity generated in the region to the United States.
Initially, the PM included plans for an airport in San Salvador Atenco, Mexico. These plans were abandoned after a nine-month struggle by farmers protesting the expropriation of their land for the construction.
The Anillo Periférico highway in San Salvador, El Salvador, was part of the initial PM, but since 2003 the IDB has maintained that it is no longer included in the plan. The same phenomenon has occurred with La Parota Dam in the Mexican state of Guerrero. Both projects are still being promoted by their respective national governments.
The Mesoamerica Project has drawn criticism for its adherence to a neoliberal model of development, which critics say favors the interests of multinational corporations over those of local communities and the environment. According to critics, the true goals of the PM include the privatization of land (including farmland), water and public services, and the control of the region by foreign interests. In addition, they argue that the Mesoamerica Project is destroying fragile rain forests and displacing indigenous peoples who have little voice in the development effort.
Much criticism of the Mesoamerica Project is related to criticism of free trade agreements (FTAs), including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). Critics argue that the PM and related projects serve to lay the physical infrastructure that allows FTAs to operate:
"On the one hand, FTAs rewrite the region’s laws and policies for the benefit of transnational corporations and the region’s elites, while on the other, the PPP provides a network of physical infrastructure, easy access to natural resources and a new army of cheap labor for 'development' of the Isthmus of the Americas."
According to the US-based group Root Force, the PM and related infrastructure projects are essential for supplying the First World with access to cheap resources, thus maintaining a "colonialist" global economy.
- Central American Integration System
- Mesoamerican region, an economic territory defined by the OECD, with the same membership scope as the PM, except Colombia and the Dominican Republic.
- Plan Puebla Panamá
- Pickard, Miguel, "The Plan Puebla-Panama Revived: Looking Back to See What's Ahead," page 1. Interhemispheric Resource Center, June 2004.
- McElhinny, Vince and Nickinson, Seth, "Plan Puebla Panamá: Development or Disaster?", page 3. InterAction, 2005
- Pickard, Miguel, page 1
- McElhinny and Nickinson , page 7
- McElhinny and Nickinson
- Davis, Celia; Beas, Carlos Beas; and Call, Wendy, "Plan Puebla Panamá Exists and Mesoamerica Resists," page 2. Unión de Comunidades Indígenas de la Zona Norte del Istmo, 2006. Translated by Brendan O’Neill.
- Pickard, Miguel
- Pickard, Miguel, page 3.
- Mexican summit set to relaunch Puebla-Panama Plan
- Mexico’s Calderon gives life to Puebla-Panama Plan
- Se comprometen países del PPP a enfrentar juntos el crimen organizado by Milenio Diario
- Plan Puebla-Panama by Jorge G. Castañeda as published in El Norte.
- El gran reto para la región es cimentar las prácticas democráticas, dice Calderón by Milenio Diario
- McElhinny and Nickinson, page 3
- Proyectos - Plan Puebla Panamá
- "The Plan Puebla Panama: International Educational and Advocacy Handbook." The SHARE Foundation, 2006.
- Lenny, "Mexican Dam Ignites Resistance to Plan Puebla Panama," Earth First! 25:1, pp 16-17
- Pickard, Miguel, page 5
- Pickard, Miguel, page 3
- "Plan Puebla Panama: Battle Over the Future of Mesoamerica, 2nd Edition." Network Opposed to Plan Puebla Panama, 2004.
- "Plan Puebla Panama: Battle Over the Future of Mesoamerica, 2nd Edition," page 11. Network Opposed to Plan Puebla Panama, 2004.
- Official site of the Mesoamerica Project
- Official site of former PPP (archived)