IIRSA: A Project of Destruction

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The colonos blog has been following the plans and projects for commodity corridors – corredores – in South America unfolding under the IIRSA banner for several years now. IIRSA is a central element in the collaboration between Rafael Correa (Ecuador), Lula (Brasil), Chavez (Venezuela) and Evo Morales (Bolivia) and the rest of South American in the Great Plan to turn the entire continent into an industrial production site. Soon, as sad as it is, one of the key nodes in this network of destruction will be completed: the Interoceanic Highway, connecting the coast of Peru and the coast of Brasil:


Peru: Destructive Amazonian highway near completion
David T. Rowlands
2 May 2009

The nightmarish prospect of a scarred Amazonian jungle reeking of diesel fumes from end to end, as heavy-laden trucks thunder by in round-the-clock convoys, is fast becoming a reality.

Since 2000, teams of road builders have been cutting a vicious swathe of destruction through vast stretches of rainforest in the Peruvian province of Madre de Dios. This is done in the name of “free trade” and neoliberal “development”.

Scheduled for completion in 2010, the Interoceanic Highway will link up with Brazil’s existing Amazonian road network. This will create a coast-to-coast trucking route for Brazilian-based agribusiness exporting soy and other primary products to China via Peru’s Pacific ports.

Inevitably, it will also expose previously pristine areas of the Peruvian Amazon — one of the world’s most significant sanctuaries of biodiversity — to further pressure from agribusiness, hardwood logging and fossil fuel extraction.

In less than a decade, more than 80% of the Peruvian Amazon (an area accounting for nearly two-thirds of Peru’s total surface area) has been allotted in “concessions” to a bevy of international oil and gas companies.

These companies await the installation of additional transport infrastructure, such as the Interoceanic Highway, with keen interest.

Julio Cusurichi, a Goldman Environmental Prize winner and representative of the Native Federation of Madre de Dios (FNMD), said: “We know that the Interoceanic project and projects for so-called ‘development’ are going to benefit large interests and not local populations.

“Local populations are not prepared economically to benefit from the highway. There’s been no interest on the part of the national or regional government to give us at least a few incentives to prepare ourselves — economically and socially — to see how we could benefit somehow from the highway.

“If the government doesn’t promote a sustainable vision for our region … this is only a capitalist vision, not a vision that will help the poor populations of our country.”

The “Soy Highway”, as the FNMD and other indigenous resistance groups have dubbed it, is funded by various international financial institutions through front entities such as the Andean Development Corporation (CAF), the Brazilian National Development Bank (BNDES) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

This is yet another example of coercive top-down development for the benefit of multinational corporations — sold to the poor as an example of “progress” by a collaborative media and government.

The Peruvian government’s mania for all things “free trade” began in the early 1990s with disgraced former president Alberto Fujimori. Recently jailed for human rights abuses, Fujimori was once, fittingly, the poster boy of the international investment community.

Under Harvard-trained economist Alejandro Toledo (president from 2001-06), the pace of liberalisation was quickened.

Since assuming office in 2006, President Alan Garcia has proved a zealous convert to neoliberalism. He finalised an exploitative Free Trade Agreement with the US in late 2007.

Since then, Garcia has brokered similar deals with Brazil, Canada, South Korea and China. This has led to a surge in urban unemployment and rural dislocation.

In the headlong rush to “open up” the Amazon, under pressure from heavyweight trading partners, no consideration has been given to the devastating ecological and demographic consequences of the highway.

In 2005, a coalition of 175 prominent Peruvians (including academics, progressive economists, environmental activists and leaders of social movements) released a media petition calling on Toledo to hold off initiating construction of the highway’s controversial Inapari-Puerto Maritimo section.

With characteristic disregard for anything but neoliberal prescriptions, the Toledo administration brushed aside economic, ecological and humanitarian concerns with soothing cliches.

The bulldozers started o rolled in.

For the indigenous peoples of the Peruvian Amazon — whose organisations have consistently voiced opposition to the highway — this sort of response is nothing new. The same pattern of conquest and colonisation has already resulted in the annihilation of many tribes and entire linguistic groups.

The position of the Peruvian government has remained one of simply denying the existence of “uncontacted” tribes in the Amazon. No people, no problem.

In May 2007, startling images of a “lost” Amazonian tribe photographed in a jungle clearing made their way into the international media, creating a brief sensation.

The unexplored story behind these images was one of violent dispossession, and a growing refugee crisis in the Peruvian selva and adjoining Brazilian territory. These traumatised people were fleeing from the remorseless road builders and the murderous loggers who follow in their wake.

As devastating as the Interoceanic Highway is, it is only one of hundreds of large-scale development projects implemented in the Amazonian region under the aegis of the internationally-funded Initiative for the Regional Integration of Infrastructure in South America (IIRSA).

Cusurichi said: “The Interoceanic is going to be a threat more than a benefit for indigenous people, because the Interoceanic cannot be separated from its larger context, which is IIRSA.

“And IIRSA isn’t just the Interoceanic, it contains projects for the entire Amazon basin.”

From: International News, Green Left Weekly issue #793 6 May 2009.

2 thoughts on “IIRSA: A Project of Destruction

    colono responded:
    Friday, May 8, 2009 at 10:59 (499)

    Which is why this is no surprise- more power to them!

    Peru: Amazonian indigenous people rise up
    http://www.greenleft.org.au/2009/793/40809

    2 May 2009

    “Since April 9, an uprising has been occurring in the Peruvian countryside involving the Amazonian indigenous peoples from 1350 communities and a diversity of ethnicities”, said legendary peasant leader, Hugo Blanco in an important message. A translation of Blanco’s appeal for solidarity with this so-far mostly unreported struggle is printed below.

    Blanco is no stranger to mass struggle in Peru. He was a central leader of the Quechua peasant uprisings in the 1960s. For this, he was sentenced to 25 years jail.

    In 1975, he was freed and expelled to Sweden. He returned in 1978 and was elected to the Senate. In the early 1990s, he was again forced into exile. He has since returned and heads the Peasant Confederation of Peru.

    The current struggle is led by the Interethnic Association of Development of the Peruvian Jungle (AIDESEP), which unites 1385 indigenous communities.

    Blanco said the uprising consisted “of taking over installations of depredator companies, blocking roads, taking over airports, interrupting water transport”.

    The struggle is against a range of neoliberal laws that allow the looting of natural resources (particular in the Amazon jungle) and remove what little rights the indigenous people had.

    At an April 20 meeting, the same day Blanco published his appeal, the government and various indigenous organisations agreed to talks to resolve the issues.

    However, following a wave of strikes and protests, similar negotiations were agreed to last October. The talks led nowhere.

    On April 24, the media reported new blockades in the Napo River against ships belonging to the Perenco oil company.

    On April 27, Servindi said the president of the National Agrarian Confederation of Peru stated that peasant unions would carry out a new wave of strikes in support of the Amazonian indigenous communities.

    * * *

    The current indigenous uprising covers areas in the northern, central and southern Peruvian Amazon jungle — an extensive region with a low population density.

    It is supported by the mestizo (mixed-race) population in the zone, both in rural and urban areas — and in some cases by local authorities.

    Highland indigenous populations from the centre and south are coming behind this struggle.

    Peru is comprised of three regions: the desert coastline with valleys irrigated by rivers descending from the Andes; the Andes mountain ranges; and the Amazon jungle.

    The Andean indigenous population inhibit the ranges — Quechua and Aymara heirs of Tawantinsuyo (the Incan empire).

    The majority of the population in the jungle area did not belong to Tawantinsuyo. It is inhabited by diverse nationalities less contaminated by consumerist society.

    In the front line of the current struggle are the Amazonian populations, who are more collectivist, better coordinated and more combative.

    Motive

    Their struggle is to defend the jungle against the criminal depredation of multinational companies, especially those involved in hydrocarbons. Other aggressors include logging and mining companies, plus those constructing hydroelectric dams.

    Extracting hydrocarbons poisons rivers, one of the fundamental pillars of Amazonian life. As well as water, rivers provide fish — one of the jungle population’s food staples.

    The government and parliament are unconditionally at the service of the multinational companies. They have passed various laws that legalise the destruction and looting.

    The police forces and the navy are also at the service of the corporations.

    Moreover, laws have been passed that target the collective organisation of indigenous peoples.

    Despite the fact that the Congress multi-party commission recommended the annulment of 12 legislative decrees on grounds that they were “harmful to the Andean and Amazonian peoples”, Congress has not done this.

    Roger Najar, president of the Congressional Commission on Andean and Amazonian Peoples, said “the political will does not exist either in Congress or the executive to resolve the question of the Amazonian strike”.

    The Amazonian indigenous peoples are completely clear on the attack on the people and environment that the Peru’s various free trade agreements represent. They are demanding the annulment of agreements signed with the United States, the European Union and Chile, describing them as “an attack against ecology and biodiversity”.

    Conscious that the current constitution was written by their oppressors, they are demanding a constituent assembly to create a new one.

    They are demanding respect for their communities that have inhabited these lands for millennia before European invasion.

    During the take-over of an airstrip, an indigenous person said: “What is indignant is that through laws, [President Alan] Garcia considers this a zone for looting. Because we are the rightful owners, we are going to continue defending it so that our children can enjoy it.”

    They are also demanding compliance with Convention 169 of the International Labor Organisation, which affirms that any measure that affects an indigenous population requires prior consultation with them.

    This convention is enshrined in Peruvian law. Approved by parliament, it has a constitutional character. This makes the large majority of neoliberal laws passed recently unconstitutional.

    The Amazonian indigenous peoples are proposing the creation of a Vice-Ministry of Intercultural Health and a Ministry of Intercultural Education.

    Although it is not in their written platform, the indigenous peoples are calling on Garcia to resign as president, as they know too well he is at the service of the destructive corporations.

    A local leader said: “We are tired of sending so many memos, declarations. So far, the indigenous people have not been listened to …

    “We are waiting to see if our national leaders can establish a dialogue with the government, because the indigenous people will not allow them to continue procrastinating.”

    Following the postponement by Prime Minister Yeude Simon (a supposed “leftist”) of a meeting with the indigenous peoples, the leader of the indigenous dialogue team said: “The PM has to understand that in Amazonian wisdom there does not exist the messiahism that exists in his government.

    “Instead, what exists is the consultation and consensus among peoples.”

    Today, April 20, a meeting is set to occur between the president of the Council of Ministers and the indigenous representatives. The indigenous commission said this would be the last meeting they would participate in.

    Organising the uprising

    One reason for the lack of international impact this important struggle has made is that there have been no deaths or injuries.

    This is due to the strategy of the indigenous peoples, which aims to avoid such occurrences.

    They have planned a long-term struggle that consists of taking over installations of the destructive corporations, blocking roads, taking over airports and interrupting water transport.

    They know that the ones who most use the roads, airports and water are the offending companies.

    When the well-armed police or navy arrive to counteract these actions, the indigenous peoples peacefully withdraw. They then argue that the government’s use of force is proof that it does not want peaceful negotiation, but to violently repress the protests. They demand that the ombudsman’s office intervene.

    Afterwards, they occupy another installation or blockade a different section of road.

    With regards to the blockades of rivers, it is difficult to stop. When repressive forces pass through the river, they are simply let through. There is not sufficient personnel for the repressive forces to escort the boats of the destructive companies.

    No one knows how long the uprising will last. However, the indigenous people are patient.

    Struggle expands, solidarity needed

    In the south, indigenous people from the Cusco department (state) mobilised to paralyse transport, including for tourists, leading to Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca.

    In the centre, Pasco and Junin, the indigenous Andean camelid breeders protested against the low price they are receiving for alpaca fibre. Eight were injured.

    Miners interrupted transport to protest against sackings. The company backed down.

    We are asking all those who fight for “another possible world” — ecologists, socialists, libertarians — not to wait until there are deaths to raise their voices in solidarity.

    Send messages of solidarity to this important struggle of our Amazonian indigenous brothers and sisters. They are not fighting for their own self-interest, but instead to defend humanity by defending the Amazon forest — the lungs of the world.

    Messages of solidarity can be sent to here.

    From: International News, Green Left Weekly issue #793 6 May 2009.

    sylvia rendon said:
    Friday, September 24, 2010 at 09:32 (439)

    hi i just can belive it got to be stop destruction of the rainforest please

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