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.
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:
“Coca-Codo Sinclair (1,500 MW): Construction began on this project in the mid-1980s, but the project was suspended in 1987 after Volcano El Reventador erupted and devastated the entire region. Although the volcano is still quite active, a new version of the project has been proposed which supposedly takes geologic issues into account and nearly doubles the installed capacity. The project would develop a road and transmission line corridor into a currently roadless, protected area that is part of the Sumaco Biosphere Reserve, and would threaten to de-water San Rafael Falls, which at 146m (480 feet) is the largest waterfall in Ecuador and an incredible scenic attraction.”
It was written in December 2007 and in April 2008 the Presidency proudly posted a photo series on Flickr when the first stone was laid under militant protection with the lorries standing by:
Now, more or less a year later, the deal is done, the last papers almost signed and the waterfall presumably soon history:
“The Ecuadorian government hopes to receive nearly $2 billion from China to finance the construction of the country’s largest hydroelectrical plant, Coca-Codo-Sinclaire, in the Amazon region.
President Rafael Correa said that on Friday he met in Quito with Chinese Vice Premier Hui Liangyu, who is on an official trip to Ecuador.
Beijing wants “to invest a lot in the country,” said Correa in his regular weekly report broadcast Saturday on radio and television, in which he emphasized the presence in Ecuador of several Chinese firms.
“They’re ready to give us $1.7 billion in financing for Coca-Codo-Sinclaire. This is extraordinary news, it’s almost assured,” although some details still remain to be worked out, Correa added.””
The project was mentioned in a press release in September 2008 with a rather appropriate slip of the tongue, note how Palacio says “Coca Cola” (another water enemy) instead of “Coca-Codo” (maybe the power produced is primarily for a Coke bottling plant?)
This is what some engineering vultures wrote back in September 2008, shortly after the announcement:
“Argentina and Ecuador signed an agreement aimed at promoting a joint venture company, Coca-Codo-Sinclair, for the construction of a hydroelectric plant. It will be the largest hydroelectric power plant to be built in Ecuador since the Paute hydroelectric project. With an investment of $2 billion, the 1600 MW plant will be located in the Amazonian region of the country and its construction will take five years. “
In a country where two of the most biodiverse reserves (in the world) – Sumaco and Yasuni – are heavily exploited and all resources extracted, in a country where mining is outsourced to foreign corporations and the locals who protest against it are violently repressed, and the president threatens his own people with charges of treason and what is worse, does it really make sense to celebrate the constitution as an environmental achievement? Can we celebrate something so abstract and so clearly subordinate to economistic, progressivist interests?
The fall of the San Rafael Falls and the rise of Diablo Rafael Correa go hand in hand.