Ecuador

Global war against indigenous peoples: grabbing the last resources on Earth!

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The Guardian’s John Vidal recently wrote a welcome piece – ‘We are fighting for our lives and our dignity’ –  that connect some of the dots in the current end game for the Earth’s natural resources most of which are on indigenous land inhabited for thousands of years by people who care for it, worship and respect it. Transnational corporations drilling for oil, mining for minerals or cutting down all the trees and polluting the rivers – and so on – are competing to grab hold of the Earth’s last resources – and there really is not much left! (See also: UN expert puts forward measures to regulate ‘land grabbing’).

“An aggressive drive is taking place to extract the last remaining resources from indigenous territories,” says Victoria Tauli-Corpus, an indigenous Filipino and chair of the UN permanent forum on indigenous issues. “There is a crisis of human rights. There are more and more arrests, killings and abuses.
“This is happening in Russia, Canada, the Philippines, Cambodia, Mongolia, Nigeria, the Amazon, all over Latin America, Papua New Guinea and Africa. It is global. We are seeing a human rights emergency. A battle is taking place for natural resources everywhere. Much of the world’s natural capital – oil, gas, timber, minerals – lies on or beneath lands occupied by indigenous people,” says Tauli-Corpus.

What until quite recently were isolated incidents of indigenous peoples in conflict with states and corporations are now becoming common as government-backed companies move deeper on to lands long ignored as unproductive or wild. As countries and the World Bank increase spending on major infrastructural projects to counter the economic crisis, the conflicts are expected to grow.

It is a pretty good article – constituting a very important step to bring together these issues in a coherent analytical manner and to the attention of mainstream readers – but one could really have wished for something more to the point with regard to the Ecuadorian context – it is widely known and well documented that the Chevron pits are still there, even mainstream U.S television have shown such images.

“In Ecuador, Chevron may be fined billions of dollars in the next few months if an epic court case goes against them. The company is accused of dumping, in the 1970s and 1980s, more than 19bn gallons of toxic waste and millions of gallons of crude oil into waste pits in the forests, leading to more than 1,400 cancer deaths and devastation of indigenous communities. The pits are said to be still there, mixing chemicals with groundwater and killing fish and wildlife.”

To use the expression “are said to be still there” is really not appropriate, when anyone having spend five seconds googling the issue will have seen horrible, terrifying images:

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Rafael Correa: A Flattering Mini-Bio

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This is a rather flattering, brief, misleading look at Rafael Correa’s public life and his rise to political power in Ecuador, which, once again, positions him as  “radical, single-minded” (sometimes called a “socialist”) and which, once again, ignores his dubious environmental politics. Readers of colonos will know better. It has been pasted from openDemocracy.

Rafael Correa: an Ecuadorian journey

The impressive political rise of Ecuador’s economist-turned-president is about to face its greatest test so far, says Guy Hedgecoe.

Rafael Correa’s landslide election victory on 27 April 2009 makes him the first candidate since Ecuador’s return to democracy in 1979 to win a presidential vote outright in the first round. With the opposition divided and the resounding vote confirming his already formidable control of the Andean country, this left-leaning nationalist is the most dominant figure Ecuadorian politics has seen for decades.

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Accion Ecologica under threat or is it a bureaucratic formality?

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Acción Ecológica is an environmental NGO in Ecuador, which includes a wide variety of actors in diverse groups. They do a lot of good work and offer an institutional setting, training and education as well as a platform for action and publication of research to protect the environment against the Ecuadorian state, which is more industrial and progressive than ever.

aeRecently rumours started circulating that there was a plot against Acción Ecológica – that the government, currently in serious stand-offs with the people in connection particularly with the aggressive expansion of the mining industry, wants to shut down Acción Ecológica.

It is unclear what exactly is happening, but the the story is – more or less – that they got a letter from the Health Department (through which the NGO was legalised as a juridical person) saying that their juridical status has expired. The official explanation is that that is the case for all organisations that became legal institutions over 20 years ago (before the Department of the Environment existed) and that it’s just a bureaucratic formality to now get registered as juridical entity via the Dept. of Environment.

On their website Acción Ecológica says that the Health Department said they’d withdraw the juridical status of Acción Ecológica because they have not fulfilled the objectives for which they were set up. Something might smell fishy and Acción Ecológica therefore calls for support.

Water Fall and Profit Rise: Ecuador, Correa and the Environment

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ECUADOR SIGNED DEAL TO DESTROY THE COUNTRY’S HIGHEST WATERFALL, THE SAN RAFAEL FALLS IN THE SUMACO BIOSPHERE RESERVE, SACRED TO THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLE WHO LIVE THERE.

See also these IIRSA related posts.

san-rafael-falls-quijos-river-amazon-ecuador

There has been a lot of cheering and celebration of Ecuador’s new constitution, which provides a bit of rhetoric about how nature has certain rights – like human rights – that, then, would save Pachamama from the Almighty Dollar. The Ecuadorian constitution is a milestone for the environmental movement – so they say, from The Misleading Guardian (commented here earlier) to more grass roots oriented, independent journalism.

However, some have been more careful, such as Upside Down World publishing Cyril Mychalejko’s Ecuador’s Constitution Gives Rights to Nature and Dan Denvir’s Whither Ecuador? An Interview with Indigenous Activist and Politician Monica Chuji, both of which contextualise the political process that by no means reflect or give just cause for any cheering and hope for the environment, let alone democratic principles (not that colonos really believe in those anyway, but still..). Ecuador’s revolutionary constitution is revolutionary for quite the opposite reasons: it entrenches IIRSA and private property in “all its forms”, essentially spelling the end of the Amazon as a rain forest and severely threatening the Andes mountain range.

All along, this blog has featured articles on Correa’s more than absent environmental sensitivity – indeed, the most read articles have concerned just that: Correa hates environmentalists (“infantile”, “romantic”, “indigenist” etc. etc. ) and wants to see the country turned into a Chinese-Brasilian investment project without trees and bees and primitive tribal attitudes.

In the beginning we were most often met with disbelief, anger even: How dare you criticise the Great Ecuadorian Revolution and cast doubt on the Latin American hope for 21st Century Socialism? Lately, however, we have had emails from people saying that they’re changing their minds in the face of the ever growing evidence that Ecuador’s constitution and Correa’s political programme serves global capitalism first and foremost (but then, of course, redistributes the loot from deforestation and displacement of peasants and indigenous peoples a little bit more fairly.  In order to save the country they have to destroy it?).

¿So what’s the news? Well, business as usual, Correa has revived yet another 1980s World Bank, Economic Hitman style project, this time to destroy the highest waterfall in Ecuador and nothing is much more sacred, powerful and constitutive of the spririt of nature (Pachamama, that is)  than a waterfall for the Kichwa people inhabiting the Sumaco Biospere Reserve – here is an excerpt from a piece called Ecuador’s Water Crisis: Damming the Water Capital of the World by Matt Terry, founder of the Ecuadorian Rivers Institute, which has an office in Tena, Napo:
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Correa’s Idiosyncracies, Ecuador’s Collectivities & Pachamama at Winter Solstice

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There has been a lot of talk around the world and colonos even get emails from students studying the “very interesting environmental aspect” of the new Ecuadorian Constitution, which gives (human rights-like) rights to Pachamama, which is an Andean (and in some part of the Amazon) term for Mother Earth. (It is derived from Aymara and Quechua.)

Inside Ecuador, however, there is a growing resistance to the project of Correa’s government, largely due to a lack of environmental sensitivity as perceived by the social movements – the environment is systematically subordinated to capital interest – and a lacking recognition of collective rights. Indeed, the new constitution stresses the sacred nature of private property, as has previously been quoted in a post in this blog about the ways in which the constitution was presented in a misleading (half arsed) manner by The Guardian (which should be an autogenerated links below if we’re lucky!?).

In other words, there is a large discrepancy between how foreigners, especially opportunist socialists and social-democracts, perceive and, importantly, choose to represent the politrix of Rafael Correa and his government and how social movements, from peasants through urban anarchists to the people of Amazonia, perceive and resist the programmes of Correa.

As noted again and again – central to much of the criticism we’ve been on about all along – the new constitution also weds Ecuador to the IIRSA project, which is a World Bank project for the integration of infrastructures in Latin America to make it easier for global capitalism to move resources (out), goods (in), labour (around) and people (out if they complain) for the purposes of profit maximisation, asphaltation, bridge building hysteria and river way raping. The Ecuadorian part of IIRSA is first and foremost the Manta-Manaus/Manaos corridor or node in the IIRSA network of commodity trails that threaten to severely further disfigure the Andes and put an end to the world’s largest rain forest, the Amazon or Amazonia.

Anyway, there are a few current articles that make for interesting reading to keep up to date on the Ecuadorian developments, led by the idiosyncratic Correa:

According to several current and former officials, Correa often makes impulsive decisions in isolation and is reluctant to listen to dissenting views.

“This government is all about Correa and he has closed all space for debate, leading many of us no choice but to leave,” said a close ally who still supports Correa but quit a top post over policy disagreements. “He is ending up alone surrounded only by people who tells him what he wants to hear.“”

Another article deals with financial issues, such as dollarization and the price of oil and how it all hangs together from the perspective of (wanker) financial science:

“Ecuador needs an oil price of $95 to cover all the spending in its budget, according to Barclays. The government had a surplus of $508 million in the first half of the year, Correa said Sept. 20.

“Correa’s only choice for growing the economy is the public sector,” said Bernal at Bulltick. “The lower the price of oil goes, the more the need for Correa to deliver on the fiscal front. Ecuadoreans will only live with Correa as long as they have expectations of growth.”

Then a really useful overview of things provided by an uncommon bed fellow of colonos, Socialist Worker:

“A MORE serious conflict is developing over government environmental policies that benefit mining companies. To crack down on anti-mining protests, Correa has ordered the use of brutal military force, a move bitterly condemned by the social movements.

Even Correa own coalition, Alianza País, is having internal contradictions. Recently, he issued a warning by declaring that he will dissolve the party if more internal infighting continues. He also took the opportunity to define his political project as “an ideological project of the nationalist left.”

But Correa’s nationalism is in opposition to indigenous people’s conception of their own nation, one that stretches across national boundaries from the Amazon to the Andean region. To the extent that indigenous people assert their historic claims to their lands, they are seen as a political threat by both multinational corporations and Correa.

The stakes in this conflict were raised on October 12–Columbus Day, traditionally seen as day of resistance by the indigenous peoples of the Americas. In neighboring Colombia, indigenous groups staged a levantamiento (uprising) to protest government repression and demand more cultural and political rights. The uprising in Colombia inspired indigenous people and their allies throughout the region–including in Ecuador.”

There is also a short piece on Plan Colombia, which is part of the War on Drugs by the Evil Empire and therefore, one might hope, will face some sort of reforms under Obama bin Ltd., and, then, finally some sort of list by Reuter’s, who as usual has been pasting capitalistic-financial propaganda about all the horrible and out of order things anyone left of Henry Kissinger might dare to think or, God help it, act. Just read it in the inverse, as it were :)

Happy Winter Solstice!

winter_solstice

Letter of WAORANI women to the Government of Ecuador

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This is a letter from some of the people that Rafael Correa, Ecuador’s neo-capitalist, authoritarian president, calls “infantile” and “romantic”, probably because they didn’t go to the fancy white man’s schools that the fine president attended to learn that most anti-human of trades called economics, which is some sort of brain washing thing where you are taught that the human being is an entirely self-interested, rational agent who just wants to go shopping and doesn’t care for her community.

The letter is from the Waorani women who are getting systematically killed by the oil industry, which is enjoying strong protection from the Ecuadorian state, led by Correa:

“Manuela Omari Ima, who is the new chairperson of Waorani women’s organization, Amwae, has first hand experience in the devastating consequences of oil exploration. “The indigenous peoples of the Ecuadorian Amazon have been decimated in just a few decades,” she says. “The Waorani people alone numbered around 16,000 at the end of the 1960s, when the oil exploration began. Today, there are no more than about a thousand of us left… I don’t know how much longer we can survive under the current conditions. Perhaps the industry will out-live us – judging by how it has wiped out other tribal peoples in the Amazon. Maybe the earth will have nothing left to give when the companies leave.”

Altogether, an estimated 90% of the indigenous peoples in the Amazon region of Ecuador have been wiped out over the past few decades, according to the FDA. Contamination from the oil industry, forced relocations, militarized violence and civilization-borne diseases are the critical factors behind the process of extinction.”

Letter of WAORANI women to the Government of Ecuador

Lago Agrio, 6th of November 2008

We, as women, made this document in paper and in your language. We cannot speak to you because we live far away and because you don’t understand our language.

Look at this paper Mr. President, it contains our words, the words of the Waorani women.

We want to live in a large territory, our culture is based on a large territory, it is ours, not because the State decided so, but because God gave it to us, therefore we talk of our land, our children, our language. As our ancestors told us: without land, we cannot live.

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Raw Power: Correa’s Totalitarian, Industrial, Extractivist Ecuador

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Over the last few years Ecuador has been undergoing a series of transformations that misleadingly have been labelled as (neo-)socialism with an environmental sensibility. The main architect behind the project, which is really nothing other than industrialist, progressivist routines of old, is called Rafael Correa.

Slick, charismatic and essentially an authoritarian opportunist, yet European and U.S. journalists have either hailed him as a poster boy for 21st Century Socialism or warned against him for that very reason.

Nothing could be further from the truth (if it really is out there).

At best he is a social-democrat whore to heavy industry who calls environmentalists and indigenous peoples things like “extremists”, “romantic”, and “infantile” and strikes down upon their popular protests with military might in the best of capitalist manners:

“The people mobilized in Dayuma and were repressed. There was a mobilization in Cuenca against mining projects and the president got on the radio and said, ‘If twenty of these crazy ecologists are protesting, I’ll call 20,000, or 200,000, residents to confront them.’ What is this? What sort of regime is this? This is socialism of the 21st century?”

I shall not dwell much further on this issue of misleading labels – it is an obvious opportunism in itself and should serve as a warning against the writings of people like Greg Palast, who obviously forgot to investigate during his journalistic, jet set, in-out visit to Ecuador last Christmas (and who has seemingly also removed critical comments from the original article!).

The nature of Correa’s political project goes against the nature of the environment: one of his key projects, the Latin American integration project, IIRSA, will essentially destroy what is left of the Amazon. This has been addressed again and again by colonos with reference to the Manta-Manaus corridor and can easily be found by clicking around in this blog a bit or simply by googling IIRSA.

Correa’s political, rhetorical moves, however, are so smart that many people (unfamiliar with radical, grass-roots analyses) believe him and thus embrace his government and projects, but it is time to wake up for people outside of Ecuador to the realities that anyone working on grass-roots levels have known all along: there is nothing environmentally friendly about Ecuador’s new constitution, neither about its current government! Rather, Ecuador’s president – in himself – constitutes a severe threat to the Amazon!

Another clear example is ITT. The Taegheri and Taromenane peoples [in voluntary isolation] live in the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini area. This is the Huaorani people’s territory. Ecuador’s indigenous people, in accord with international agreements and the 1998 constitution, asked for this area to be protected. The President, who is very intelligent, said, “Great. Let’s leave the oil underground and see how many countries will supplement the $500 million a year we would lose.” He knew that this would be very difficult to accomplish.”

Essentially we’ve here been summing up on what we have been reporting on for more than two years now, and in the same breath also been introducing an interview with Monica Chuji – a Kichwa activist and politician – that is best read in its entirety with no further ado:


Whither Ecuador? An Interview with Indigenous Activist and Politician Monica Chuji
Written by Daniel Denvir for UpsideDownWorld
Thursday, 06 November 2008


Monica Chuji is an indigenous Kichwa activist from the Ecuadorian Amazon. She served as an Assembly Member from President Rafael Correa’s Alianza País party in the National Constituent Assembly, drafting Ecuador’s new constitution. Prior to Chuji’s election to the Assembly, she was Correa’s Secretary of Communication and spokeswoman. In September, she broke with Correa and left Alianza País, the culmination of months of increasing conflict between the President and Ecuador’s social and indigenous movements.

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