(I am quoted in this article. Woo hoo!)
Natural Resource Extraction vs. Indigenous Rights and the Environment in Latin America
The Politics of Pachamama
...in 2012, the Argentine state obtained 51% control of the hydrocarbon company YPF, which was privatized in the 1990s. Last year, however, Argentina’s YPF signed a deal with Chevron to expand natural gas fracking in the country, operations set to proceed on Mapuche indigenous territory. In response, indigenous communities to be affected by the fracking took over four YPF oil rigs. “It’s not just the land they are taking,” Lautaro Nahuel, of the Mapuche Confederation of Neuquén, explained to Earth Island Journal. “All the natural life in this region is interconnected. Here, they’ll affect the Neuquén River, which is the river we drink out of.” Protests against YPF-Chevron fracking plans are ongoing in the country.
Uruguayan President José “Pepe” Mujica, who has garnered international attention recently for his government’s legalization of marijuana, abortion and same sex marriage, and his offer to host released Guantanamo detainees, is moving forward with a deal with Anglo-Swiss mining group Zamin Ferrous for a major open-pit mining operation that would involve the extraction of 18 million tons of iron ore from the country over the next 12-15 years. Aside from the mining operation itself, the plan includes the construction of pipelines to ship the ore inland to the country’s Atlantic coast. Critics have pointed out that the plan would wreak havoc on the region’s biodiversity and displace local farmers. In response to the plans, a national movement is currently underway to organize a referendum to ban open pit mining in Uruguay.
While Brazil’s President Luiz Lula da Silva and his successor Dilma Rousseff, both of the Workers’ Party, have helped expand the middle class in the country, and initiated successful social programs aimed at eliminating poverty and hunger, their administrations have also presided over vast economy of extractivism that leaves no place for small farmers or environmental concerns. Brazil is home the largest mining industry in the region: in 2011 it extracted more than twice the amount of minerals than all other South American nations combined, and is the world’s largest producer of soy, a GMO crop rapidly expanding across the continent with a mixture of deadly pesticides that are killing the soil, poisoning water sources, and pushing small farmers out of the countryside and into Latin America’s urban slums.
...while (Ecuador's president Rafael) Correa rightfully spoke of the obligations of wealthier nations to contribute to solving the dilemmas of the global climate crisis, at home he expanded the mining industry and criminalized indigenous movements who protested extractive industries in their territories. Under his administration, numerous indigenous leaders organizing against mining, water privatization measures, and hydrocarbon extraction have been jailed for their activism.
The (Bolivian) government has advocated for a plan to build a major highway through the TIPNIS indigenous territory and national park. Protests against the government plans galvanized a movement for indigenous rights and environmentalism. In response, the government led brutal repression against families marching in protest of the highway in 2011. Government violence left 70 wounded; victims and their families and allies are still searching for justice.