Water and Biodiversity Forum.
Elections and more…
The forum in Chontal this year was by far the most successful Water and Bidoviversity Forum we have ever had. 236 participants from 36 communities took their time (as far away as 3 hours on foot and truck) to spend the whole day talking about the importance of protecting Intag’s water sources and forests and wildlife. The talks were followed by popular poetry readings, music and a theater show for the kids. And kids! They came from 11 different schools to participate in the art contest on the importance of water. You can see the photos by going to this link https://plus.google.com/
Elections and more….
Ecuador is preparing to hold elections on February 2013. Correa is the favorite right now, but his main opponent, economist Alberto Acosta, who is completely against large-scale mining has a good chance, IF the gov plays clean. That is a very big IF. Especially considering, if one is able to believe an opposition Assembly member who spoke at the Water and Biodiversity forum, that this year the gov was planning on spending $295 million on what he considered to be propaganda. That’s much higher than last year’s expenditure to “inform” the people of the government’s activities, and promoting itself all over the different medias.
Something that is troubling is the ever-concentrating of powers and influence in the Executive branch. Just like Venezuela. The Ecuadorian government is also following in the goosesteps of Chavez in giving more and more subsidies to the people, while democratic values and institutions are being battered daily. The latest (just from a couple of days ago) was the president trying to curb the Legisltative right to investigate other branches of government. Also, not too long ago, Mr Correa asked his Minsiters not to give interviews to the press he considers to be in opposition (calls that press corrupt). The list of initiatives by the gov to curb or displace other powers of government is depressingly long; and getting longer.
Unfortunately, most members of his party in the Legislative blindly support his directives and policies; regardless of their undemocratic aspects. It’s sad to say, but the model of the “strong-man”, Caudillo-type of governance, led by charismatic individuals who consider themselves to be the father of all the citizens and who think they can say or do no wrong, and who also considers themselves to be above the law and the Constitution, is consolidating itself in Latin America. Chavez is the perfect example; and Correa is doing his best to implement it here in Ecuador. Both governments are sustained by high commodity prices (petroleum) which allow them to buy their way into the hearts of many of the people, who also- true enough- lack basic necessities. As pointed out in other posts, many of these subsidies are also sustained by Chinese loans (in Venezuela to the the of 40 billion $)
Petroleum is running out in Ecuador, and instead of using the nation’s exceptional biological and cultural wealth to achieve a higher standard of living (not just accumulating material crap and having nice roads) Correa is going full speed ahead with large-scale mining to fund the generous social programs in the future- including a recently announced 60% increase of the poor people’s subsidy (from $30 to $50). A measure that will undoubtedly help his reelection chances in February. But not only in the future, mining is supplying Ecuador with millions in the present, given that the government is insisting on upfront cash before mines even open (the Chinese Ecuacorriente company will give Correa’s government 100 million before their large scale copper mine opens in the south). Something that is worth pointing out is the connection between mining and petroleum economies and authoritarian regimes pointed out in countless studies. These are just two more cases where reality on the ground confirm these kinds of studies.
One of the ironies of Ecuador’s mining policies is that is is in the process of reducing the taxes on mining companies, and trying to “streamline” licensing procedures. Sounds like World Bank doublespeak. Ironies because the Correa government proudly and loudly (more loud than proud) went about telling the world how it had such a cool mining law that would tax the hell out of mining companies; much more so than any other country in the world. Two things they are specifically aiming for: delay the implementation of the windfall tax till teh companies recoup their investment (which can be more than a decade), reduce or fix the royalty to no more than 8%. This comes at a time when most mining economies are levying new taxes on export of minerals, raising royalties (royalty for gold in Venezuela is 13%), and so forth. According to mining companies working in Mongolia, 71% of revenues created by mining will stay in that country. Ecuador is happy with 51%; but with the new changes proposed that is all very relative.
In five more days, 2190 days will be the number of days and nights that have slipped by since 19 police raided my home with a search and arrest warrant based on completely made up charges filed by someone paid by Ascendant Copper to say that I robbed and physically assaulted her. 2190 days is how many days two governments have let gone by without any sort of investigation into the illegalities involved in my particular case, and which included a police planting a gun and drugs in my home, and several police intimidating my family. In order for all this to have happened, a district attorneys and a judge had to look the other way while they allowed unbelievable amount of illegal procedures to take place, permit my human rights to be grossly violated, and put my life at serious risk. 2145 days is the number of days those same two governments have let go by without investigating the paramilitary attack on Junin, and the possible connection between the false security firm and the military that made it all happen. No one has bothered to investigate all the illegal weapons used in the paramilitary attack, nor what was Honor and Laurel, an international security firm, doing in Ecuador orchestrating it all. 2130 days is also the time that has elapse since the attack on the communities of Barcelona and Cerro Pelado, by an outfit run by a ex-military official, and which farmers from Intag were trained on paramilitary skills, and where tear gas canisters were used against women and children. This is the same country where, if you dare oppose a mining project with on the ground measures such a blocking a road, you can be labelled a saboteur and a terrorist and put away for years.
A while ago I mentioned that we have been hearing disturbing rumors. Those rumors were about the possibility of someone in government taking actions against anti-mining activists here in Intag and other parts of the country. Unfortunately, since I wrote this on this blog a while back, we’ve heard this same story from other different sources- not connected to each other. In all, it’s four sources, all linked to officials, that say the same thing, and have the same individuals on this very dirty black list. DECOIN is on the list of organizations (the only one in Intag), and several of our members are part of that short list.
I am publishing this at this time in case something happens. I am not thinking of violent means used against us, but much more subtle measures to try to neutralize those that dare oppose mining development here and elsewhere in Ecuador. At the same time, I fervently hope the rumors turn out to be just that, and no more.