VILLAHERMOSA, Mexico, Aug. 12 (UPI) -- Protests are rising in Mexico's southeastern state of Tabasco against pollution allegedly caused by the activities of local sugar mills and Petroleos Mexicanos.
Petroleos Mexicanos, more commonly known by the acronym Pemex, was created in 1938 and is Mexico's state-owned oil and natural gas company, as well as Latin America's largest oil producer.
Representatives of several communities of farmers and fishermen along the banks of the Rio Santana and representing more than 25,000 inhabitants have accordingly given an ultimatum to representatives of both institutions for the damages and are seeking compensation.
Pemex plans to drill at least 72 more wells in the region but protests are rising against the accompanying industrial pollution.
Protesters charge the ecological damage has wreaked havoc with local fishery production, livestock farming and agriculture, Tabasco Hoy newspaper reported Friday.
Germain Sanchez Cordova, Brigido Leyva de los Santos, Eduardo de la Cruz Sanchez and other community representatives said they have organized the National Agricultural Civil-Social Union for Appropriate Management -- USCANGA -- which has the legal backing of the National Union Integrating the Solidarity of Social Economy Organizations non-governmental organization.
Following a recent USCANGA meeting, fishermen toured the Rio Santana, where they said they found an underground toxic waste tank used by Pemex, which floods during rains and drains through a pipeline, discharging into the tributary.
The resultant pollution, in conjunction with discharges from the Santa Rosalia and Benito Juarez mills, has caused recent massive fish kills in the Rio Santana and left the water with a rotten smell. As a result, the fishermen are demanding compensation from both Pemex and the local sugar mills.
Rising anger against Pemex's poor environmental record in Tabasco has resulted in direct attacks on the company's facilities. Last month Pemex detected vandalism to two pipelines in the state.
Despite such resistance, Pemex is pressing ahead with its expansion plans in Tabasco.
Pemex has authorized 17 oil firms to bid for three mature fields in the state and is scheduled to announce the winners next week.
The Pemex Web site stated that Tabasco's Santuario field is expected to get 16 bids, Magallanes field received 11 requests and the Carrizo field three.
Among the final bidders are Schlumberger Ltd., the world's largest oilfield-services provider; Halliburton Co.; and Spain's Repsol YPF SA.
Other companies pre-qualified to bid on the fields by Pemex include Argentina's Bridas Corp., Sharjah's Petrofac Ltd., Denmark's Maersk Oil and Canada's Pacific Rubiales Energy Corp.