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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Ecosystems Services and IIRSA: Roads and Price Tags all over the Amazon

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The WWF – the ones with the Panda logo – have published a report on the details about “saving” the Amazon rain forest by putting a price tag on every thing, – sorry, assets is probably a better term-, that the rain forest possesses.

The report – Pita Verweij, Marieke Schouten, Pieter van Beukering, Jorge Triana, Kim van der Leeuw and Sebastiaan Hess. Keeping the Amazon forests standing: a matter of values, WWF-Netherlands 2009 – is presented here by Mongobay.

This bizarre fashion of price tagging everything starts with the realisation that the market mechanisms have failed the environment, which is a pretty good observation, but then proceeds to suggest that the very same paradigm of thinking – the economistic, capitalistic reductionist line of thinking – should simply also be applied to “the environment”, since it provides humans with valuable “ecosystems services“. If it is not tagged with a price, why care for it?

While this whole business, as it were, sounds rather disturbing (Can two wrongs make a right? Can a problem be solved from within the paradigm it was created? Einstein famously answered the latter question, of course), the report has some very good bits – it is a very comprehensive report that deserves wider attention, but the price tagging horror really does not appeal very much – at all – to colonos or any of the people we have worked with in the forest. Essentially, it sounds like a lose-lose scenario: either lose the forest or sell it to the highest bidder? And bidding is low these days of financial collapse, so one could hardly imagine worse timing for the publication of this report.

Interestingly, it has a pretty good section on IIRSA, which has been covered again and again here, but the section does not include reference to the Manta-Manaus/Manaos corridor. This goes to show just how big the “biggest infrastructure project in history” is: an otherwise detailed and comprehensive report does not need to list the Manta-Manaus corridor in order to show just how much of a horror show that IIRSA is threatening to be:

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The Misleading Guardian and the end of the Amazon: A New Ecuadorian Constitution?

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“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“.

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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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