extractivism

Global war against indigenous peoples: grabbing the last resources on Earth!

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The Guardian’s John Vidal recently wrote a welcome piece – ‘We are fighting for our lives and our dignity’ –  that connect some of the dots in the current end game for the Earth’s natural resources most of which are on indigenous land inhabited for thousands of years by people who care for it, worship and respect it. Transnational corporations drilling for oil, mining for minerals or cutting down all the trees and polluting the rivers – and so on – are competing to grab hold of the Earth’s last resources – and there really is not much left! (See also: UN expert puts forward measures to regulate ‘land grabbing’).

“An aggressive drive is taking place to extract the last remaining resources from indigenous territories,” says Victoria Tauli-Corpus, an indigenous Filipino and chair of the UN permanent forum on indigenous issues. “There is a crisis of human rights. There are more and more arrests, killings and abuses.
“This is happening in Russia, Canada, the Philippines, Cambodia, Mongolia, Nigeria, the Amazon, all over Latin America, Papua New Guinea and Africa. It is global. We are seeing a human rights emergency. A battle is taking place for natural resources everywhere. Much of the world’s natural capital – oil, gas, timber, minerals – lies on or beneath lands occupied by indigenous people,” says Tauli-Corpus.

What until quite recently were isolated incidents of indigenous peoples in conflict with states and corporations are now becoming common as government-backed companies move deeper on to lands long ignored as unproductive or wild. As countries and the World Bank increase spending on major infrastructural projects to counter the economic crisis, the conflicts are expected to grow.

It is a pretty good article – constituting a very important step to bring together these issues in a coherent analytical manner and to the attention of mainstream readers – but one could really have wished for something more to the point with regard to the Ecuadorian context – it is widely known and well documented that the Chevron pits are still there, even mainstream U.S television have shown such images.

“In Ecuador, Chevron may be fined billions of dollars in the next few months if an epic court case goes against them. The company is accused of dumping, in the 1970s and 1980s, more than 19bn gallons of toxic waste and millions of gallons of crude oil into waste pits in the forests, leading to more than 1,400 cancer deaths and devastation of indigenous communities. The pits are said to be still there, mixing chemicals with groundwater and killing fish and wildlife.”

To use the expression “are said to be still there” is really not appropriate, when anyone having spend five seconds googling the issue will have seen horrible, terrifying images:

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Raw Power: Correa’s Totalitarian, Industrial, Extractivist Ecuador

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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.

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