[WSF-Discuss] Fwd: Peru and Ecuador: declaring war on citizens who resist extractive industry expansion

Jai Sen jai.sen at cacim.net
Mon Aug 3 03:54:35 UCT 2009


Monday, August 3, 2009

One more for those of us involved in movement or working in support  
of movements; one more pause for reflection : How should one – how  
should movements, and how should independent progressives - address  
the convergence between right and left that so often shows itself at  
the governmental and party levels ?

Ane where, in particular, their common enemy becomes the ordinary  
people of their countries ?

As this essay suggests is today happening in Latin America ?

             JS

Begin forwarded message:

> From: "Brian K. Murphy" <brian at radicalroad.com>
> Date:  August 2 2009 7:51:14 PM GMT+05:30
> To: Recipient List Suppressed:;
> Subject: Peru and Ecuador: declaring war on citizens who resist  
> extractive industry expansion
>
> Excellent synthesis, worth reading:
> "...but today they've found a common enemy: the governments of Peru  
> and Ecuador have singled out their own citizens who resist  
> extractive industry expansion."
> ***************
> http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/2021/1/
> Peru and Ecuador: A Common Enemy
>  by Jennifer Moore
> Friday, 31 July 2009
>
> They had been at war twice in the last century, but today they've  
> found a common enemy: the governments of Peru and Ecuador have  
> singled out their own citizens who resist extractive industry  
> expansion.
>
> "Something terrible is taking place," says Father Marco Arana, a  
> member of the executive committee of the Latin American Observatory  
> of Mining Conflicts speaking at the Third Continental Meeting in  
> Quito, "such that the discourse of 21st Century Socialism coincides  
> with the logic and discourse of the most ultra-conservative  
> governments like that of Peru."
>
> Presidents Alan García and Rafael Correa have been polarizing the  
> internal clash over development vision in their respective  
> countries with that of indigenous peoples, mestizo farmers,  
> environmentalists and human rights activists, raising concern about  
> possible future confrontations.
> A leading metal producer with ambitions to exploit agricultural,  
> wood, mineral, and water resources in sensitive regions such as the  
> Amazon, Peru's most recent stand-off resulted in the deaths of at  
> least twenty three police officers, five indigenous people and five  
> residents from the town of Bagua when state forces cracked down on  
> a 58-day protest by Amazonian peoples on June 5th, according to  
> preliminary figures from the People's Ombudsman (Defensoría del  
> Pueblo). [1]
>
> Independent investigators, however, were prevented access to the  
> site by police for five days following the incident and local  
> witnesses have testified that cadavers of indigenous people were  
> dumped into the river indicating that the number killed was much  
> higher. [2]  At least two hundred more were wounded, the majority  
> civilian, and eighty four face legal investigations of which  
> eighteen are currently imprisoned. Police are subject to an  
> internal police probe and an investigation by the office of the  
> public prosecutor. [3]  Indigenous and human rights organizations  
> have asked for a truth commission to carry out further  
> investigations instead of the national police. The same month, the  
> People's Ombudsman registered 128 social-environmental disputes  
> across the country, almost doubled from the same time last year. [4]
>
> Despite strong economic growth in recent years, García is paying a  
> high political cost for favouring big capital investments and  
> aggressive free trade policies over the well-being of his own  
> people, resulting in recent cabinet changes and plummeting  
> popularity ratings. [5]
>
> In Ecuador, conflicts have not grown so violent, while Correa  
> remains highly popular having just won a historic re-election with  
> over 50 percent of the presidential vote after the first round in  
> late April. However, Correa also faces differences with the  
> country's social movements over resource extraction on the domestic  
> front that some worry could become more serious should they go  
> unattended.
>
> Correa has expressed intolerance for public protests, especially  
> those opposed to a new large scale metallic mining sector intended  
> to substitute for declining oil production. Protests against a new  
> mining law in early January 2009 faced a heavy-handed response. In  
> the south-central province of Azuay, locals reported that police  
> sprayed tear gas into their homes. In the southern Amazonian  
> region, one man was found shot and wounded, while others face  
> terrorism charges arising from these events.
> In areas such as the Southern Amazon, where the biggest projects  
> belonging to Vancouver-based Corriente Resources and Toronto's  
> Kinross Gold are situated, recent election results at the local and  
> regional level reflect a certain disillusionment with the  
> government with the success of competing parties critical of  
> Correa's economic development policies. This situation is further  
> complicated for the government by key indigenous federations that  
> maintain a firm stance against extractive projects on their  
> territories.
>
> The indigenous Pachakutik party won the presidency of eleven  
> municipalities, as well as the prefecture and one national assembly  
> member in each of the two south-eastern Amazonian provinces in  
> April. [6]  As well, President Pepe Acacho of the Interprovincial  
> Shuar Federation whose organization represents 500 Shuar indigenous  
> centres and 50 such associations in the Amazonian provinces of  
> Morona Santiago, Zamora Chinchipe and Pastaza states, "We have an  
> irreversible position...no to any type of extractive industry on  
> our territory which includes mining, oil, logging and hydroelectric  
> generation."
>
> Sounding a lot like his conservative counterpart García, Correa  
> insists that he cannot let a few people stand in the way of  
> national development. Instead, he prefers to downplay the  
> significance of these tensions while frequently insulting opponents  
> and emphasizing promises to redistribute mining revenues and  
> implement stronger state controls over the nascent sector.
> Speaking to Amy Goodman at the end of June on the widely respected  
> program Democracy Now!, he misrepresented election results saying,  
> "We won, overwhelmingly so, in all the mining regions...So, clearly  
> the population trusts us." He denied calling protesters "nobodies"  
> and concluded, "But three or four people are enough to make a lot  
> of noise, to appear in the media, and so on. But, quite sincerely,  
> they don't have the popular backing or the representation." [7]
> It is true that extractive industry critics have been marginalized  
> given the current balance of power in Ecuador. However, Peru's  
> experience suggests that economic growth does not automatically  
> resolve conflicts and that they are likely to persist with costly  
> outcomes unless a more democratic approach can be found.
>
> On June 28 shortly after the tragedy in Bagua, President Alan  
> García published a lengthy treatise called "With the Faith of the  
> Vast Majority" in which he disregarded protesters concluding that  
> they represent a small minority of the population. "They threaten  
> and block roads," he wrote, "because they know that they are few in  
> number and that they have lost the game." [8] He calculated that  
> about 50,000 Peruvians are involved, and purported that foreign  
> governments, understood to include Presidents Hugo Chávez and Evo  
> Morales, [9] have helped spark the unrest.
>
> But Father Marco Arana, a native of Cajamarca, Peru where the  
> largest gold mine in Latin America has been radically transforming  
> local life since the early 1990s, suggests that there is another  
> reason why indigenous people, as well as peasant and mid-scale  
> mestizo farmers, block roads. It is that they lack real political  
> representation in Peru and that channels that should work for their  
> complaints do not.
>
> "The result is a very complicated and polarized scenario," comments  
> Arana, "which is exactly what should be avoided in order to stem  
> further violence and such that democratic and respectful solutions  
> can be brought about." He believes that current signals from the  
> government favouring dialogue with indigenous groups are merely an  
> attempt to "buy time" and that there is little indication that such  
> efforts "will be beneficial or address the demands of indigenous  
> peoples."
> Indigenous peoples participating in the recent mobilization at  
> Bagua protested numerous presidential decrees enacted last year by  
> President García in order to implement the free trade agreement  
> with the United States that would, amongst other things, enable  
> sale of their lands. The decrees are also consistent with Alan  
> García's thesis outlined in a 2007 editorial called "The Dog in the  
> Manger," [10] in which he describes indigenous peoples and peasant  
> communities as poor, uneducated, and lazy. He suggests that they  
> are the main obstacle preventing Peru from benefiting from natural  
> resources found on their territories.
>
> But strong economic growth has not been benefiting Peru's poor.  
> "Companies and the government have confused economic growth with  
> development," says Nicanor Alvarado from the Vicar's Office in  
> Jaen, not far from the Devil's Curve where protests took place in  
> early June. "It's meant growth for the transnationals and industry,  
> but not for local peoples."
> Between 2004 and 2008, Peru sustained an economic growth rate  
> averaging 7.5%, largely driven by mining. [11]  However, as a  
> recent report from OXFAM Americaunderlines, poverty rates in the  
> Andean highlands of Peru continue to soar above 70% and despite  
> greater redistribution of mining revenues to certain regions of the  
> country, institutional weaknesses often prevent them from being  
> channelled into local development. [12]
> Instead of addressing such issues, President García has not only  
> polarized the country, he has also been criminalizing dissent.  
> Father Arana, also founder of the Training and Information Group  
> for Sustainable Development (GRUFIDES), which helps communities  
> monitor environmental impacts of mining on their lands and take  
> peaceful action, describes various changes García has made to the  
> criminal code including an extended definition of extortion. The  
> new definition includes any act that could be interpreted as  
> extracting economic benefits under pressure, such as impeding flow  
> of traffic, public services or the construction of legally- 
> authorized public works. Sentences have been boosted to up to 25  
> years in jail. Also, authorities who "support their people by  
> participating in protests can now be disqualified from their  
> posts," adds Arana.
>
> The overall conclusion is that "the protests will continue," says  
> Nicanor Alvarado who accompanied the indigenous uprising in Bagua  
> and who has also been accused of terrorism as a result of  
> participating in a popular referendum concerning mining activities  
> in the northwestern department of Piura in 2007. He forewarns, "The  
> communities who I have been accompanying have a culture of  
> defending their territory, their language and way of life. They  
> live from the land and they will fight to the end, I swear to you."
> The steady rise in social-environmental conflicts in recent years  
> as tracked by the People's Ombudsman suggests that conflicts are  
> likely to persist in many parts of the country. For Alan García,  
> his popularity is seeing a reverse trend indicating that protesters  
> are perhaps not as politically illegitimate as he would like to  
> believe.
>
> Although a forty year veteran of oil production, Ecuador is at a  
> much earlier stage in the development of a new large scale mining  
> sector that will affect parts of the country as of yet untouched by  
> extractive industry. Similar to García, Correa has polarized  
> conflicts by defining activists as self-interested political  
> opponents instead of human and environmental rights defenders.  
> Without the same history of large scale mining, however, he has  
> gained support from certain sectors by promising to reinvest mining  
> profits in social programs and local development. But observers see  
> warning signs that Correa's current trajectory could aggravate  
> disputes.
>
> At the conclusion of a visit to Ecuador in July, investigator  
> Anthony Bebbington from the University of Manchester, who is  
> leading a major research project into extractive industry expansion  
> and social conflict in the Andes, says that even those "that don't  
> have a particular axe to grind [with Correa]," are concerned that  
> "things could spill over and conflicts be serious" particularly in  
> the southeast Amazonian region. Reflecting on the President's  
> reluctance to admit this publicly, he says, "One presumes that  
> [Correa] knows what's at play....So in not recognizing it, if  
> something spills over he can cultivate it and say - like Alan  
> García did - that this was something cultivated by darker or  
> foreign interests as a way to ignore the political implications and  
> to use repressive measures to try and diffuse the conflicts."  
> Allusions have already been made to foreign conspirators supposedly  
> manipulating rural peoples in government propaganda. [13]
>
> Considering Correa's arguments around greater state control and  
> redistribution of mining revenues, Bebbington says these might buy  
> the President time, but they will not resolve existing tensions.
>
> Drawing on years of research in Peru, he comments, "Unless you have  
> all of your organizational, institutional and bureaucratic ducks  
> lined up in order to be able to translate that money into local  
> development, there's no reason that that will happen and there's no  
> reason to believe that that approach is going to free you from  
> local conflict dynamics." He concurs with Nicanor Alvarado and says  
> that despite enormous fiscal transfers to certain areas of Peru  
> results "have been immensely disappointing both in terms of real  
> investments and also in the ways that local politics get distorted  
> and new leadership and movements emerge to try to get access to  
> those resources." He is not convinced that outcomes in Ecuador will  
> be much different.
>
> But Correa seems to be avoiding other issues as well; issues closer  
> to the heart of current disputes with indigenous peoples and  
> mestizo farmers.
>
> "For example, how do you align a commitment to extractive industry  
> with a commitment to indigenous people's territorial rights and  
> other collective rights to exercise control over the life paths  
> that they want to build? How do you align this commitment to  
> constitutional rights and to the environment having rights? Those  
> seem to me to be important discussions that lay at the heart of  
> making Ecuador a healthier democracy," says Bebbington, recalling  
> new gains in Ecuador's political constitution approved last  
> September which recognizes rights for nature and declares the  
> country a plurinational state.
> "It seems to me that that conversation is not happening. And it's  
> being blocked through this argument that we're going to have a  
> state industry, and we're going to increase revenues that accrue  
> from extraction, and therefore this must be a good thing." It is  
> also being blocked by a strong industry lobby backed by the  
> Canadian Embassy in Ecuador that is wary of any measure that might  
> exclude mining from certain areas.
> Risky business
> Affected communities bear the greatest risks of avoiding such  
> debate, whether through the environmental and social impacts of  
> extractive industry or when they are subject to severe repression  
> for defending their rights like in Bagua or as is feared might  
> happen in the Southern Amazon. But singling out one's own citizens  
> also has political ramifications.
>
> It has yet to be seen what will happen as various indigenous,  
> farmer, environmental and human rights groups become distanced from  
> Correa. In the case of Peru, Father Arana believes that they have  
> reached the point at which a new political option is essential in  
> order to avoid greater "chaos, violence and authoritarianism."
> Now in the process of seeking the thousands of signatures necessary  
> to run for president in 2011, Arana is leading a new movement  
> called Land and Liberty. They will aim to advance an economic model  
> based upon ecological sustainability and plurinationality in which  
> extractive industry expansion should be subject to land use  
> planning and ecological zoning. They also propose to legislate the  
> right to free, prior and informed consent for indigenous and  
> peasant communities as outlined by the International Labour  
> Organization's Convention 169. While many details of their program  
> remain unclear and achieving such goals will entail serious  
> challenges, they are central issues to making peace once again  
> within these Andean nations.
>
> Notes:
>
> 1. All figures based upon research carried out by the Defensoría  
> del Pueblo between June 5th and June 30th 2009: http:// 
> www.defensoria.gob.pe/modules/Downloads/informes/varios/2009/ 
> informe-adjuntia-006-2009-DP-DHPD.pdf
>
> 2. http://www.politicaspublicas.net/panel/noticias/america-latina/ 
> 318-peru-comunicado-mision-fidh.html
>
> 3. http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=47454
>
> 4. The 64th Report on Social Conflicts from the Defensoría del  
> Pueblo of Peru: http://www.defensoria.gob.pe/conflictos-sociales/ 
> objetos/paginas/6/44conflictos_-_reporte_64_-_junio_2009.pdf
>
> 5. http://www.coha.org/2009/07/garcia's-decline-in-peru/
>
> 6. "Hacia la segunda fase de la revolucion ciudana" Mario Unda,  
> http://alainet.org/active/30562
>
> 7. http://www.democracynow.org/2009/6/29/ 
> ecuadoran_president_rafael_correa_on_global
>
> 8. http://www.ediciones.expreso.com.pe/2009/jun/28/index8fa6.html? 
> option=com_content&task=view&id=57434&Itemid=1
>
> 9. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8106248.stm
>
> 10. http://www.elcomercio.com.pe/edicionimpresa/html/2007-10-28/ 
> el_sindrome_del_perro_del_hort.html
>
> 11. http://www.economist.com/countries/PERU/profile.cfm? 
> folder=Profile-Economic%20Data
>
> 12. "Mining Conflicts in Peru: Condition Critical" March 2009,  
> OXFAM America
> 13. For example, see "La Mineria en el Ecuador: Una Fuente de  
> Esperanza" from the collection "La Patria es de Todos" available  
> here: http://secretariadepueblos.gov.ec/Web/Joomla/MATERIAL%20SPPC/ 
> COMICS/COMIC8.pdf
>

______________________________
Jai Sen
jai.sen at cacim.net
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