latin american integration

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.

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Eye Witness to Correa’s Profit Mining and Environmental Destruction: No News There!

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This is yet another report about industrial activities in Ecuador, a country ruled by an authoritarian, economistic anti-environmentalist, who despises traditional ways of living when it stands in his way of mining and drilling for oil, building roads, riverways and airports, but who loves to present himself – in the media – as a friend of indigenous peoples, wearing traditional outfits and speaking (mountain) Kichwa. Welcome to Correa’s Ecuador:

Locals fight mining in Ecuador’s cloudforest
Christian Tym
Green Left Weekly, 2 May 2009

Many people still speak sincerely about the existence of “corporate responsibility”. While doing volunteer work in the Ecuadorian community of Junin, I got a different picture.

The story of the efforts of Copper Mesa Mining, one of Rio Tinto’s collaborators in gold and copper exploration in Ecuador, to overcome community resistance is an example of what modern “corporate responsibility” looks like.

The mining concession Copper Mesa bought from the Ecuadorian government is centered on the community of Junin and the Intag River.

The proposal was to evict four entire communities, 100 families in all. These people live off their land and depend on the outside world for only electricity and medical supplies.

Mining would destroy their entire way of life.

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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

UNASURrender to global capitalism

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Rafael Correa is the poster boy of neo-socialism – he wears Quechua shirts and bathes himself in the limelight of indigeous peoples’ struggle in the global media, makes promises to the poor and the illiterate (and also delivers on some of his promises) – but more than anything he is increasingly despised by the indigenous peoples and the campesinos “who mean nothing to him” and who he represses violently if they organise against the foreign companies that Correa contracts their land away to. Also known in international socialist and even environmental circles as the saviour of the Yasuni national park. But nothing could be further from the truth – as has been reported by the colonos blog since before Correa entered office.

I have just returned from a meeting where yachaks (shamans) from various regions of “el Oriente” (basically the Ecuadorian Amazon) have gathered all weekend to discuss, among other things, Correa’s rejection in the constituent assembly processes of collective rights and a range of specific demands made by the indigenous movements as part of the rewriting of the Ecuadorian constitution. Talks are of strikes and some suggest that another uprising is brewing – at any rate Rafael Correa is very unpopular with indigenous people and campesinos, because he arrogantly have stated that he cares not about their demands since “they only constitute a few percent of his voters“.

So what does Mr. Correa care about – well, like the Clintons he seems mostly fascinated by inscribing himself into the white man’s history of conquest of the world through an industrial economy that is essentially based on exploitation of labour and pachamama (mother earth).

Unasur to boost financial self-sufficiency in S America:

BRASILIA, May 23 (Xinhua) — Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said here Friday that the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) will boost programs to help realize financial self-sufficiency in the region.

After signing the bloc’s constitutive agreement in the Brazilian capital, Correa said it was “a historical day for South America, which brings great expectation and hope.”

“We can do like the European Union (EU). As the EU has to explain why they united, we will have to explain to our children and grandchildren why we took so long to do it,” he told a press conference.”

Correa’s vision and that of UNASUR is about entrance into an economy that many ever since its inception – with the conquest of new worlds and the industrial production apparatus that makes wars for more profit possible – have been fighting. And for quite some years it has been quite clear that it is a very unsustainable economy that the planet cannot sustain.

Of course it is the rich and the powerful who mostly have to change their wasteful ways, but to happily join that horrible economy that Correa is so blinded by and which accelerates climate change and destroys civilization is plain stupid. However, the middle classes who get better roads (this, the year where it seems like we have to take drastic measure and actions to counter climate change, is the year of asphalt in Ecuador), nicer cars to drive them on and bigger supermarkets to park them by and shop in, and of course the capitalists that exploit the natural resources that he so happily gives to foreign and private interests are laughing all the way to the bank while the earth cries.

The rest of the chinese article follows.

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Corridors of destruction and other neo-socialist “progress”

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Six months before the colonos blog came into being the article below – here translated into English – was written in Castellano. It is about what we have been labelling corridors (or interoceanic corridors) or the Manta-Manaus commodity highway. In this article a much more comprehensive perspective is offered – and shows how big, concerted and damaging to the continent and the rest of the world that this global capitalist project is.

Get the whole article in .pdf format.

Re-mapping Latin America’s Future

IIRSA: Integration Custom-Made for International Markets (#1)

Raúl Zibechi | June 13, 2006

Translated from: IIRSA: la integración a la medida de los mercados
Translated by: Nick Henry

Americas Program, Center for International Policy (CIP)

The project for Integration of South American Regional Infrastructure (IIRSA, by its initials in Spanish), is swiftly but silently moving forward. IIRSA is the most ambitious and encompassing plan to integrate the region for international trade. If completed in full, the project would connect zones containing natural resources (natural gas, water, oil, biodiversity) with metropolitan areas, and both of these with the world’s largest markets.

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WORLD FACING HUGE NEW CHALLENGE ON FOOD FRONT: The 11th Hour in context

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We watched Leonardo DiCaprio’s “11th hour” last night (you might be able to watch it here or via quicksilversreen.com and read more about it here) and although it was by no stretch of the imagination a very good film on any terms (structure, presentation of material, cinematography or in terms of delivering a profound radical political message) it was still a positive surprise. But hey! what would you expect, come on, be honest?

In the critical (mainstream environmentalist?) words of Rikke Bruntse-Dahl, writing for smartplanet.com:

“The overall message was that we’ve forgotten that we’re part of nature and even though the Earth as such will survive, it will not be a pleasant — or indeed habitable — place to be if we don’t start looking after it and each other. While it’s undoubtedly a good message, which we’d like as many people as possible to hear, the film itself is just not up to scratch.

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More repression in Ecuador..

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When Rafael Correa came into government he soon announced that he was investing more powers in the police and the military to repress popular protests, which is one of the main means of political expression for many largely illterate indigenous and campesino communities; and those powers are “well” used, Upside Down World writes:

The peaceful demonstration began at 5am was met with state repression around noon, leading to the arrest of 17 protestors, which include the parish priest of Victoria del Portete, dairy farmers, and University of Cuenca students. Approximately 80 soldiers blasted tear gas into to the crowd of protestors— around 300 strong. Female students report that they were later taken to a casino for police and forced to undress.
“We are here to defend the right to pure and clean water,” declared Miriam Chuchuka, a 36-year-old dairy farmer from Victoria del Portete. Small farmers fear that cyanide and mercury related to gold mining and production will pollute local water sources.

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The struggle of the Achuar in Peru

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Dan Collyns for BBC News writes about the struggle of the Achuar in Peru that their “story is an emblematic case of resistance for indigenous Amazonians and is unprecedented in Peru“. The article provides a little bit of information, but it is not contexualised very well. There is a similar struggle fought by the Cofan in Ecuador which also only gets minimal time and attention in the mainstream media – and also generally only reported on in isolation. Between the territories of the Cofan and the Achuar lies the Yasuni National park, about which much has been written in this blog. While we keep compiling more comprehensive information and try to tie these obviously mutually relevant scenarios together, we seem to be waiting in vain for editors of the environmental sections of what is left of a critical voices in the corporately led world of media to bring stories that connect these struggles with the “leave the oil in the soil” proposal and the general discourse of climate change.

Climate Change, bio-cultural diversity and livelihoods: the stewardship role of indigenous peoples and new challenges

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These are the conclusions of a report on the “IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION MEASURES ON INDIGENOUS PEOPLES AND ON THEIR TERRITORIES AND LANDS”, by the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues’ Seventh session, New York, 21 April -2 May 2008 on the Special Theme: “Climate Change, bio-cultural diversity and livelihoods: the stewardship role of indigenous peoples and new challenges” with regard to the Implementation of the recommendations on the six mandated areas of the permanent Forum and on the Millennium Development Goals (Download the full E/C.19/2008/10 report here: unpfii-report-on-climate-change.pdf):

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Current political crisis in Latin America: Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela.

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There has been many news reports – often tied to the terms “terrorism” and “weapons of mass destruction” (dirty bomb, for instance), does that ring any bells? The issue is basically that:
Colombia’s commando raid into Ecuadorean territory Saturday killed rebel leader Raul Reyes and 22 other guerrilla fighters, who had crossed the border to hide from the Colombian military.

Correa and Chavez are gesturing and posing, moving troops to the border with Colombia, and condemning the attack in which several laptops belonging to FARC were seized from rebels shot dead in their sleep, on Ecuadorian soil, that contained details of relations to Ecuador and Venezuela. That makes it possible for the war on terror coalition of the willing to lump Ecuador and Venezuela together with Iran and FARC with Al-Qaeda; and, then, all that is needed is a paragraph circulating with the words “weapons of mass destruction” before the whole world knows that we are talking about “the evil ones”.

“Ahmadinejad and Chavez have called themselves the “Axis of Unity.” Some security experts call them something else: a potential threat to American security.”

But who is who and what’s the history?

Consider first the credentials of the Colombian president, Alvaro Uribe, who is accusing Ecuador and Venezuela of aiding terrorists and drug dealers:

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What does a Christian of the Left do when the people protest?

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The answer is easy: DECLARES A STATE OF EMERGENCY, SENDS IN THE ARMY, THROWS PEOPLE IN PRISON!

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa removed the head of the state-owned oil company, saying the government needed to re-establish order at PetroEcuador after protests shut $3 million of daily production in the country. PetroEcuador President Carlos Pareja was fired today and replaced by Fernando Zurita, a Navy admiral, the government said in a statement. Oil produces about a quarter of state revenue…. Correa declared a state of emergency for the company, saying it was so badly run he was left with no option other than bringing in the Navy. An emergency order may be applied to Orellana province, Ecuador’s main oil-producing area, if the protests over jobs and environmental concerns don’t end, he said….“It is necessary to urgently intervene in the whole of the PetroEcuador system to safeguard national interests,” Correa said today in the statement. Correa named Pareja to the post when he took power in January…. Protesters demanding jobs, better roads and environmental cleanup forced the company to shut 47 oil wells at the Auca and Cononaco fields this week, trimming 20 percent of production at PetroEcuador’s biggest unit. Ecuador is South America’s fifth- largest oil producer, with average daily output of 500,000 barrels….“A lot of money is being lost daily” because of the protests, said Zurita, speaking at the presidential palace in Quito. He said his first task will be to establish order in Orellana and arrest protesters, PetroEcuador employees or anyone else who hampered oil production.”

Reuters managed to report on Correa without mentioning that he was a “leftist” – perhaps in shock and awe, after all this is a proper job that only few right-wingers can match:

“Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa on Thursday declared an Amazonian province under a state of emergency to quell a protest that has slashed the state’s oil output by 20 percent, said a presidential spokeswoman….He also removed Interior Minister Gustavo Larrea, a close adviser, for not stamping out the protest of villagers in the oil-rich province of Orellana, the spokeswoman said. They are demanding more funding for infrastructure projects….The state of emergency bans public gatherings and marches and sets curfews.”

It was still in the early days of Correa’s presidency – back in April – that more powers were invested in the army and the police for these purposes – he obviously knew what the increased development with the Chinese partners in the Amazon would mean: environmental protest against the exploitation and labour protest against not getting any jobs as part of new developments (the jobs mostly go to crews from the outside). It was that same week that Correa first spoke of leaving the oil in the soil……. What oil is to be left in what soil?? one thinks as part of the Ecuadorian Amazon sinks into a state of emergency and the control over the oil is left in the hands of the army..

Esperanza Martinez on Yasuni and the ITT proposal.

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This article by CarbonWeb.org deserves to be reproduced in full:

Yasuni – Our Future in Their Hands?

Ecuador proposes to claim compensation in exchange for leaving crude oil in the ground. Esperanza Martinez examines what this means for resource sovereignty.

Oil, for countries that possess it, is often centre stage when it comes to issues of sovereignty. Invasions have been launched to access it and military and political interventions pushed through to control it, leaving the door wide open for corruption.

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Leave the Oil in the Soil: Yasuni, ITT, the Huaorani people and the Amazon.

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There is a potentially radical process unfolding – keep the oil in the soil:

“In the heart of the Amazon basin lies the most biologically diverse forest on the planet, Yasuní. Yasuní National Park is home to the Waorani and some of the last indigenous peoples still living in isolation in the Amazon, whose ancestral lands sit atop Ecuador’s largest undeveloped oil reserves, the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) oil block … In 2007, the new government of President Correa has offered an unprecedented and historic proposal: Ecuador will not allow extraction of the ITT oil fields in Yasuní, if the world community can create a compensation trust to leave the oil permanently in the ground and fund Ecuador’s sustainable development into the future. The groups listed on this website portal, LiveYasuni.org, endorse this policy.

For a general overview visit http://www.sosyasuni.org/ – which is part of the Amazonia por la Vida Campaign (which is incidentally also the subtitle of the colonos blog) – and which is a social movement to expand the “keep the oil in the soil” proposal to include not only the ITT blocks, but the whole region, which is home to one of the world’s greatest diversity of species (some of which are from before last ice age) and home also to the Huaorani people and along the Napo river there are many Kichwa communities as well. Missing from the proposal, then, are at least:

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Invitation to Expedition in the Napo-Ucayali Corridor: June/July 2008

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It is still early days of planning, but a small group of people are planning to travel, for the second time, down the Napo river – doing workshops relevant for indigenous peoples’ struggles, such as shamanic civil rights, and healing sessions in communities along the 1000km long and very exciting route from the beginning of the River Napo in Tena, Ecuador to Iquitos (where it meets the Amazon and the Ucayali rivers). The journey goes through one of the most biodiverse regions in the world – right past the Yasuni National Park, before crossing the border into Peru. After visiting The 4th International Amazonian Shamanism Conference: Magic, Myths and Miracles, which will be held in Iquitos, Peru – July 19th – 26th, 2008, we might continue to Pucallpa….

Sunrise on the River Napo

Contemporary developments in the global economy are very significant for the Amazon rain forest. While this might be said to be true for anywhere at any point in time there are nevertheless good reasons for paying special attention to what maybe the last battle for the survival of the largest rain forest in the world, the loss of which it should need no further justification to lament – and that is the basis upon which this invitation is written….

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A summary of the Ecuadorian revolution: the rise of the Constituent Assembly

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Roger Burbach’s informative piece called “Ecuador’s Popular Revolt: Forging a New Nation“, although dated October 8 seems to be written before the landslide victory of Correa’s alliance became clear:

Final results won’t be known until late October, however preliminary results indicate that Correa’s party, Alianza Pais, won around 70% of the vote, giving it some 80 of the 130 assembly delegates. Correa can also expect support in the assembly from representatives of the Socialist Party of Ecuador — Broad Front, the Movement for Popular Democracy and indigenous party Pachakutik — Nuevo Pais.

The outcome was a huge blow to the right-wing opposition, whose traditional parties all scored pitiful votes. The Social Christian Party, the country’s largest party, scored less than 4%. The “anti-corruption” PRIAN of Alvaro Noboa — Correa’s opponent in the presidential election run-offs last year and Ecuador’s richest man — scored around 6%.

However, this does not make it any less valuable – it provides a summary of the Ecuadorian revolution that is well worth a read. Whether it quite warrants such a conclusion is another matter:

In Ecuador, as well as in much of Latin America, we are witnessing a revolution from below, a popular awakening that is challenging the traditional political parties and demanding a new system of governance that responds to the interests and needs of the popular classes. It is this rich mixture of forces at the grass roots that is opening up new vistas as the 21st century advances.

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