CODELCO OUT OF PARAISO; JUNIN NEXT?
THE CONSTITUTION AND THE CHINESE FACTOR
The latest news is that Codelco, on Thursday, met with the Paraiso community and said they were abandoning the exploration plans in the area. This is the official news. The unofficial, from a reliable source, but not official by any means, is that very soon, perhaps as early as this coming week, Codelco will start visiting the communities in the Junin project area. If this is true, the visits will probably be to gauge the level of opposition, identify key people to buy and or neutralize, and find out what the communities need so their offers can be more effective. Seeing that this is an election year, it would surprise me if Codelco and the government go into the Junin area aggressively. It is more likely they’ll take it easy, and try to win support by offering and delivering on basic promises. In other words, attempt to divide and conquer.
We suspected all along that Paraiso was not really of interest to Codelco, who only work on very large projects. We know that the government has its site set on Junin, a fact corroborated by the government’s own public information. The key is seeing what strategy they, and the government, use to try to achieve their objective: by militarizing the area, buy, spend and conquer, or outright flagrant human rights abuses (disappearing, presenting false criminal charges, and so forth). Either way, if either of the scenarios happen, we can look to large-scale social trauma in Intag again.
The Constitution and the Chinese Factor
There is absolutely no way that open-pit mining can take place in Ecuador without flagrantly violating the nation’s Constitution and a number of laws. The document grants nature rights, the people right to Sumak Kawsay, or a harmonious life, and the right to live in a environment free of contamination, to mention just three of several other fundamental rights that will be openly violated if the Correa regime pursues large-scale mining here or anywhere else in Ecuador. Why?
As I’ve mentioned before, Correa is heavily dependent on Chinese funding to cover budget deficits so his government can keep spending lavishly on the social programs that has bolstered his popularity, especially compared to other governments (the money also goes to fund populist programs, and also to finance the government’s very expensive publicity campaigns to promote his government’s policies and works).
Chinese funding comes without any safeguards to guarantee the projects it funds don’t violate human or labor rights, affect Indigenous People’s rights, or cause significant environmental impacts; safeguards that, with its imperfections and all, are part of the policies of some of the other international lending institutions (like the World Bank). The new funding comes, basically without any strings attached other than the expectation to freely access Ecuador’s natural resources, and specifically, copper and petroleum. The Chinese banks who lend money to Ecuador and the rest of the world’s countries rich in resources are mostly state-owned, and are some of the largest lending institutions on the planet. Some of these banks have the open mandate to, in effect, keep natural resources flowing uninterruptedly to China.
Need more be said? The Constitution will be trampled, human rights will be violated, and the environment despoiled in order to keep Ecuador’s natural resources flowing East, and funding to Ecuador secure. The question of the day is how the communities and local government will respond. More on this later.