(Español ya mismo!!, hasta mientras, favor usen una de las traductoras en la web como http://translate.google.com/
Surreal lawsuit in a surreal place
And, the hypocrisy behind the Yasuni Initiative
Monday, 23 January
Luckily, I don’t have much to report at this time. CODELCO has not brought in new equipment to the mining area, and all is pretty quiet, except that, according to recent reports, their first drill is ready to drill. Perhaps, someone in government discovered all the irregularities connected with the company’s environmental impact study. Perhaps the company discovered that there really was a lot of opposition to their presence. Or perhaps they are waiting for the rains to stop ( a very loooong wait)…
We live in a weird world, or to put it in other words, Alice’s Wonderland didn’t have anything on reality these days.
To start off, DECOIN received a call the other day from the equivalent of the Attorney General’s Office*, asking us for information on a company called “Copper Mesa”. That rang a bell alright, so I glued my ear to the cell, damned the possibilities of the cancer connection, and listened.
It transpired that, believe it or not- Copper Mesa is suing the Ecuadorian government for not letting them ripp off more investors by lying to them about the exagerated copper deposit known as the JUNIN project, thereby lining the pockest of a few company officials. I THINK the more official version (the company’s) is that the government prevented the company from going forward with the mining project, and therefore, prevented it from making a LOT of money. What are they suing for? A cool 100 million dollars.
(*The Procuraduría is part national attorney, part fiscal watchdog)
Who was it that said that reality is a lot stranger than fiction? This qualifies!!
The Ecuadorian government is not the only nation being sued by transnational mining companies for obstructing their God-given right to rape and pillage if possible, but if not, sue for not being able to. Another Canadian mining company is suing impoverished El Salvador for $ 77 million in “lost earnings”, for similar reasons as Copper Mesa’s. These are, by far, not the only governments being sued by petroleum and mining companies. What makes these lawsuits possible are bi-lateral trade agreements, but especially free trade agreements, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement. Though Ecuador is not part of NAFTA, in 1996 it did sign a Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investment Agreement with Canada to insure each other’s business investments were “protected”. Protected can mean a lot of things, but in these contracts, it means that no matter what, the companies investments are shielded from any national legislation- even if it means that their operations are violating human rights and environmental regulations protecting the environment*. As it turns out, mainly because the region’s rich stock of natural resources, the overwhelming mayority of these kinds of lawsuits involve Latin American countries (For more information on how this mechanism works, see see http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/26/world/americas/26mine.html?pagewanted=all
I’m not sure how many Ecuadorian businesses have opened shop in Canuckland, but I bet you can count them on the fingers of one hand. Maybe.
This lawsuit definitely raises the bars on incredulity and ridiculousness. After all, Copper Mesa did a number of things you would think any sane company would not want to revisit and which, undoubtedly, will be thrown at their face in the course of a lawsuit like this.
So, with this in mind (insane company), let’s pay a quick visit to that dark past…….
In 2004, the company now called Copper Mesa, took over a well-trafficked mining concession known as JUNIN. In no time at all, they realized that the going would not be as smooth and easy as they expected, given the level of rejection of the mining project by Intag’s people and local governments. So, they started using some…unusual things to win over local support. In order to make this section short, I’ll limit myself to some of the more outrageous events connected to the presence of Copper Mesa in Intag.
Hiring of “security firms”. CM hired not less than five security firms to “secure” their concession. This includes Honor and Laurel, an international outfit (out of Bogota) that was illegally working in Ecuador at the time. One of these firms trained local Intag campesinos in paramilitary maneuvers in a place outside Quito. On November, the campesino paramilitaries, together with ex military personnel who helped train them- about sixty in all- tried to force their way into Copper Mesa’s mining concessions through the communities of Barcelona and Cerro Pelado. The paras were led by Falericorp, another of the “security firms” hired by CM. Falericorp has deep connections with Ecuador’s military (a very typical situation).
The paramilitaries were stopped on their tracks by the local folks and had to turn back.
About a month later, these same paramilitaries- minus the campesinos, but joined by dozens of new “retired” army recruits, tried the same maneuver in JUNIN, with the disastrous consequences (for the company), that most of you know about: 57 of the paramilitaries arrested by a rag-tag group of Intag residents. The paras were filmed and photographed as they tried to shoot their way into the concessions, using ilegal weapons, in images that have travelled the world, and played an important role in the company’s downfall.
Both of these events ocurred a few weeks after 19 police raided my home at 6AM with an arrest and search warrants based on made up charges by someone we have evidence worked for the mining company. That October dawn, a single police, acting “on his own”, planted a gun in my house to implicate me in another criminal activitiy, ilegal possesion of firearms, and which led to another arrest warrant (I was enventually absolved of all charges, and the lawsuit declared malicious).
The connections between all these illegal events, individuals and organizations and the company should not be that hard to make if the Ecuadorian government is really interested in flushing out the truth.
Lastly, I wonder how the lawyers representing Ecuador will react when they discover that one of the phony organizations Copper Mesa created (Codegam), was led by someone who is connected to a known drug-trafficker, and also to the murder of 4 or 5 “individuals” at their man’s farm in Intag. That man, Ronald Andrade, has been on the run for years, and is currently on Interpol’s wanted list.
BUT WAIT, this is the same company that wants to sue the Ecuadorian government????
Stay tuned- more later on the Yasuni Initiative…