environmental destruction

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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Accion Ecologica under threat or is it a bureaucratic formality?

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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.

aeRecently 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 Health Department (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.

Water Fall and Profit Rise: Ecuador, Correa and the Environment

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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:
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Here we go again: Pines on the Páramo and the crimes of Profafor

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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.

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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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