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
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.
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!
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.
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.
“Being in favour of the Ecuadorian constitution, then, is to sentence the Amazon to death, notwithstanding any little points they have thrown in here and there to make environmentalists jump and cheer with laughter.”
It is circulating on many global civil society mailing lists, Ecuadorian politrix are once again on everyone’s lips. “A new law of nature“, writes The Guardian, “Ecuador [tomorrow, Sunday, Sep 28] votes on giving legal rights to rivers, forests and air. Is this the end of damaging development? The world is watching.”
What people marvel at is the inclusion of something in the order of “respect for Pachamama”, so to speak: “Ecuador’s tropical forests, islands, rivers and air similar legal rights to those normally granted to humans“.
“Una nueva Constitución y una nueva decepción“
Although it has some interesting aspects to it (that can give jobs to lawyers and environmental rights experts), including this new right for pachamama, the new Ecuadorian constitution that is put to the vote tomorrow [September 28, 2008], is principally speaking the most decisively industrialist, progressivist constitution ever written, because it defines a very specific and environmentally destructive trajectory for the Ecuadorian economy, including article 321, which affirms that the capitalist owners of the means of production can sleep tightly and secure forever after:
“Articulo 321: El Estado reconoce y garantiza el derecho a la propiedad en sus formas publica, privada, comunitaria, estatal, asociativa, cooperativa y mixta“.
This article collects many of the stories that colonos were first to bring in English – we’ve tracked Correa’s journey from populist and opportunistic origins in left wing rhetoric to his current position, firmly based based in the right wing of things – or at best in an authoritarian pseudo-socialist order of progressivist industrialism. Colonos have been travelling in Peru – at the ethnobiology conference in Cusco, then in the deep forest, and recently in Iquitos doing ayahuasca ceremonies with our friend Fidel Andy, which is why the blog has been mute for a longer while, but we’re back with this piece, which is “Painful – but necessary – to read”.
Here is a quote from the horse’s mouth – from the same man who said that environmentalists are infantile romantics:
“I hope that the Leftist radicals who do not believe in the oil companies, the mining companies, the market or the transnationals goaway,” said Correa.
Wayward Allies: President Rafael Correa and the Ecuadorian Left
Written by Daniel Denvir
Friday, 25 July 2008
Outside of Ecuador, most progressives consider President Rafael Correa to be a Leftist champion of social and economic justice. Inside the country, however, conflicts between Correa and the social movement Left—the indigenous movement, environmentalists and unions, among others—have become increasingly heated….