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.
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.
Recently 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 HealthDepartment (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.
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:
Read the rest of this entry »
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.
As a curious reader of the blog stats is has once again been brought to my attention that there is widespread interest for information about the Jatun Sacha Foundation’s involvement in what is sometimes wrongly called biopiracy. There was never anything privately owned in the first place, as was the case when pirates liberated goods from the capitalist (slave) ships, hence bioprivateering is more to the point.
Colonos have previously posted about Jatun Sacha twice (1/2) and when looking in the stats today I noticed that quite a few people were clicking on the external link to see some proofs of the allegations. So I thought I’d save people some clicking and reading and excavate with a bit of gimping some of the relevant paragraphs of the Rafi Communique, September-October 1995 for all to easily see:
Biopiracy Update: A Global Pandemic
Download PDF (2 MB) – about 348 seconds on a 56k modem
Cases from Thailand, Gabon, Ecuador, and Peru
RAFI is now called www.etcgroup.org
This a reposting of an interview with a comrade from the Grupo Anarco-Comunista “15 de Noviembre” (originally in Castellano)
The following interview was made in July and August 2008 with a member of the “15th November” Anarchist Communist Group, a recently-formed libertarian group in Ecuador, which among other things publishes the magazine “Chasqui Anarquista” with other anarchists, of which two issues have so far come out. In this interview, we tried to find out a little about the origins of the libertarian movement in Ecuador and understand how anarchist communists feel about the social reforms being carried out by Rafael Correa’s government.
To begin with, comrades, can you tell us about the 15th November Group and how it was formed?
Don Mamallacta Vicente is a yachak in his 80s. Yachak is the Kichwa word for shaman or natural healer. Another term often used in the region is curandero or ayahuasquero.
His healing powers and energies are from a different time and age and he here (Sat 14 Jun 2008) speaks about his extraordinary life as a shaman, – including paddling for a year, leaving behind a wife on the border only to find her married to another shaman, who was out to kill him, upon returning from collecting salt on the Marañon river, deep in the Peruvian jungle, far away; then finding a new wife and altogether fathering ten children and healing many peoples lives throughout his own.
There are three parts:
(Don Vicente – Speaking of his life: Part I)
“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“.
WordPress offers statistics about who visits your blog – and I just checked an incoming link which someone followed from that anti-social networking commerce site called Fakebook. The latest two postings in the Fakebook group featuring the link to the colonos blog suggest that our commentary on Jatun Sacha’s involvement with Big Pharma (which is no big secret, just google for a while and you will see for yourself) is “interesting read at any rate“, although, “I’m not saying you have to believe it but i recommend having a look” – good job that criticism is taken, sort of, seriously:
So should you find yourself in the lucky position that you can make it to Ecuador (or Peru) for the purpose of volunteering, then do yourself and the world a favour: do your research well: who is who – and what do they (really!) do?
Can you not find the right kind of thing – that fits your social, cultural and political principles, then get in touch.
Colonos has worked and continues to work with people in the Napo-Ucayali corridor on a grassroots level. For instance we have sown the seeds for a network of community based botanical gardens in the region – and idea that emerged in the Napo (Ecuador) and Pucallpa (Peru) regions independently (thousands of kilometers apart) and the practitioners of which we are merely bringing together and helping them do what they want to do.
The work includes working with Kichwa and Shipibo people and offers great opportunities to get soil under your nails, doing research and analytical work (ecological, political, cultural etc.), talking to plants and animals, drinking ayahuasca and work with shamans and other traditional healers, such as midwives. Whatever tickles your fancy! The work is coordinated from England and by the “Grupo Sabio”, which meets regularly in Tena, Napo, Ecuador.
One of the people we work with used to work for Jatun Sacha (who consistently “forgot” to pay him) until he realised what was going on and what the Peace Corps, whose army of volunteers occupy large parts of the socalled developing world, has become (that is: a Pentagon outfit; see below for more) and what it always was: a forefront of capitalism and Euro-American developmentalism, culturally imposing itself through the manual labour of unwitting volunteers in good faith that they are making a difference for the better, not worse.
Make up your own mind – but do your home work!
More on Pentagon Peace Corps (..talk about an oxymoron..):
This came a little while back in an email – and also deserves wide attention, describing business as usual and the destruction of yet another part of the planet by greedy bastards.. we should write something ourselves one day soon, but life has been hectic, homelessness and being up against the wall with looming deadlines seem to not permit faff-blogging attitudes…
Pines on the Páramo: The Disastrous Local Effects of the Carbon Market, by Thea Riofrancos – from http://nacla.org/node/483
In northern Ecuador, a pine tree plantation was planted to absorb enough carbon to “offset” the emissions of coal-fired power plants on the other side of the globe. Despite the questionable scientific
reasoning behind such “carbon offsetting” projects, the local indigenous community expected the plantation would help improve local economic conditions. Instead, everything went terribly wrong.
Manuel drives up the winding cobblestone road in the northern highlands of Ecuador, expertly steering the rickety truck while discussing local politics. Thirty minutes into the drive, the páramo suddenly unfolded before us. The páramo, an ecosystem unique to the Northern Andes at altitudes between 3,100 and 5,000 meters, is a burst of life where least expected.
Tough grasses called paja, moss, and arboles de papel (paper trees) dominate the landscape, which literally oozes with water. The frequent rains and snowmelt from surrounding peaks feed rushing streams and lakes of all sizes. About 15 minutes after Manuel, our guide, parked the car and we began hiking, it started storming.
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….