Conservative Lasso Wins Ecuador Election

THIS WEEK IN LATIN AMERICA ECUADOR: Conservative businessman Guillermo Lasso beat out leftist Andrés Araúz in presidential elections on Sunday and will be the next president of Ecuador. With over […] The post Conservative Lasso Wins Ecuador Election appeared first on Latin America News Dispatch.

Conservative Lasso Wins Ecuador Election

THIS WEEK IN LATIN AMERICA

ECUADOR: Conservative businessman Guillermo Lasso beat out leftist Andrés Araúz in presidential elections on Sunday and will be the next president of Ecuador. having been counted, Lasso leads by almost five points. 

 Around 9 p.m. Sunday night, Araúz spoke to his supporters, conceding the election and.

Lasso, a native of Ecuador’s largest city Guayaquil, ran a pro-business campaign, promising to maintain Ecuador’s relationships with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the United States, which Araúz had said he would renegotiate. In contrast, Araúz to the leftist policies of President Rafael Correa, who ruled the country between 2007 and 2017.

 Lasso had previously run for president in 2013 and 2017, losing first to Correa and then to unpopular current President Lenin Moreno. Moreno, like Araúz, was a protégé of Correa, but the two clashed as Moreno began to reverse his predecessor’s leftist policies.

Almost 83% of eligible voters participated in the election. Voting is compulsory in Ecuador, and those who fail to show up to the polls without a valid excuse face $40 fines.

SOUTHERN CONE 

ARGENTINA: Buenos Aires on Wednesday to demand more stable working conditions. The Buenos Aires Container Terminal Service employs hundreds of workers, but its license to work in the port’s Terminal 5 recently ended, putting its workers’ jobs at risk. The strikers are demanding that with the end of the concession, either they be provided new jobs or their salaries continue to be paid, citing the circumstances as unjust. Next year, other companies’ concessions for the rest of the port’s terminals are due to threatening to leave even more port workers without jobs. Government officials have begun efforts to bargain with the workers. 

CHILE: Chile’s Senate voted last Monday to for a constituent assembly that will write the country’s new constitution, in response to rising COVID-19 cases. Chile’s current constitution was written in 1980 under military dictator Augusto Pinochet. Pinochet implemented a free market economic system, privatizing many public institutions, including education, healthcare and pensions. Last October, an increase in Santiago metro fare sparked large-scale protests that finally pushed the government to call a vote on whether the constitution should be rewritten. The referendum passed with . The upcoming election, in which voters will choose 155 representatives to , had previously been scheduled for April 10. 

ANDES

PERU: Peruvians went to the polls Sunday in the first round of elections to choose the country’s next president. Leftist union leader Pedro Castillo came in first place, but on Monday morning it was still not clear who will be the runner-up to face Castillo in a June runoff. A put Castillo at 18.6%, followed by conservative Keiko Fujimori, daughter of jailed ex-President Alberto Fujimori, at 14.5%. But Peru’s election authority that said a count of 42.93% of ballots put conservative economist Hernando de Soto in second place, with Fujimori dropping to fourth place.

Late on Sunday, Fujimori released a statement offering to collaborate with de Soto to defeat Castillo in the runoff, no matter which one of the two conservatives makes it to the second round.

The election brought out 74% of Peruvians, for whom voting is compulsory. Of the almost 9 million ballots cast, 15% were either spoiled or blank.

CARIBBEAN 

HAITI: The Haitian government of around 756,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine for COVID-19 from the COVAX program of the World Health Organization (WHO). According to the Dominican news agency Efe, Haiti’s government rejected the vaccine about its safety. However, Haiti does not have the refrigeration capabilities necessary to receive the Pfizer vaccine, while it could receive the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson shots. So far, has arrived in Haiti. But the country’s population of around 11 million has not been seriously affected by COVID-19, with only 12,840 cases and 252 deaths.

CUBA: Former President Raúl Castro will step down from his role as first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba at. The 89-year-old Castro has led the party since taking over from his brother Fidel in 2011, and remained first secretary after stepping down as president in 2018 in favor of Miguel Díaz-Canel. The change comes months after Cuba passed a major monetary reform that unified the country’s two currencies, which will likely cause hardship for Cubans. It also follows by the San Isidro Movement (MSI) against the government.

CENTRAL AMERICA

EL SALVADOR: President Nayib Bukele with a U.S. envoy last week in apparent retaliation for perceived slights by Biden officials and Democratic politicians. U.S. special envoy for the Northern Triangle Ricardo Zúñiga on Thursday, his last stop on a Central America trip during which he met with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammettei. But in spite of requesting a meeting, Zúñiga was unable to speak with President Bukele during his visit. The special envoy did meet with Salvadoran Foreign Minister Alexandra Hill Tinoco and other government and private-sector officials. According to the Associated Press, is related to characterizing the Salvadoran president’s governing style as undemocratic.

HONDURAS: The Honduran government U.S. aid aimed at reducing migration to repair damage caused by two major hurricanes last year. A Honduran delegation with the administration of President Joe Biden, which has set aside $4 billion for aid to Central America, the origin of most of the tens of thousands of migrants being arrested at the U.S.-Mexico border over the last several months. Hurricanes Eta and Iota, Category 4 and 5 storms, respectively, killed almost a hundred Hondurans last November and of damage. According to the Honduran government, 95% of Hondurans that have been driving the recent increase in migration are from parts of the country hit by the storms. U.S. officials have not made any specific aid promises.

NORTH AMERICA

MEXICO: Mexico is preparing for a steady increase in the number of migrants traveling through the country in the coming years, according to a statement by on Thursday. Ebrard said that the United States will need to spend $2 billion a year on developing the Northern Triangle countries in order to significantly decrease the amount of out-migration.

The number of migrants running into U.S. Border Patrol near the southern border has continued to rise, with 168,195 encounters in March.

MEXICO: Mexico’s vaccine rollout has been, with states across the country reporting long wait times and unclear instructions for those older 60 who are looking to get vaccinated. In Jalisco, there were reports of people waiting as long as 60 hours, while in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas, the opening of a drive-through vaccination site led to a 5-kilometer line of cars.

 In Mexico City, police announced that were arrested after leaving a vaccination site in the borough of Coyoacán for disguising themselves as seniors to get the jab. One of the men was identified as a professional esports player, and the other as a brand manager for EA Sports Latin America.

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Movement Against Mining Gains Ground in Ecuador

In February elections, a referendum to protect water passed and left-wing candidates received strong support. Mining will be a key issue for the next president. This story is republished from NACLA. […] The post Movement Against Mining Gains Ground in Ecuador appeared first on Latin America News Dispatch.

Movement Against Mining Gains Ground in Ecuador

In February elections, a referendum to protect water passed and left-wing candidates received strong support. Mining will be a key issue for the next president. This story is republished from NACLA.

“Keep going, let’s continue this fight,” Eli tells her community in the middle of a minga, a collective work effort. She is busy building a communal house to guard against illegal mining in Ecuador’s Río Blanco community, where mining companies exploit gold. Although new mining concessions have been suspended, community members remain vigilant.

Eli is an Indigenous woman who was born in Yumate, a village approximately 40 miles from Cuenca, Ecuador’s third most important city. She has long been a part of the Río Blanco community and its anti-mining fight. In 2013, the Chinese-owned Ecuagol Mining took control of a Río Blanco site, prospected by mining companies since the 1990s, and received a license to extract gold in the moorlands (páramo) where the rivers are born. In 2018, after the company officially began to dig, Eli and fellow community members won a long dispute to have the mining concession canceled.

This fight was not the last. On February 7, 2021, as Ecuadorians cast their ballots for president, a referendum took place in Cuenca that asked citizens whether they were in favor of water or mining. The proposal was put forth after it had been rejected on three previous occasions, with the Cuenca Municipal Council, jurists, biologists, social organizations, and environmental activists supporting it.

The victory in favor of water was overwhelming: more than 80 percent voted for a ban on large-scale mining in watershed areas. This spells the end for future large-scale mining activities and ensures the absolute cancellation of new exploitation, which is the phase that causes the most pollution in a mining project.

In other words, projects that have not yet reached the exploitation phase will be directly affected, as their concessions will be suspended. However, projects that are already being actively exploited may continue.

The victory has set a precedent for the rights of nature and the defense of the environment in the country.This decision will not only protect the Tomebamba, Tarqui, Yanuncay, Machángara, and Norcay Rivers, and the most important moorlands in the area—safeguarding the water and the species that live there—but it will also have transcendent political effects on the rest of the country. It is the first time that a consultation of this type has been carried out with strong results. The victory has set a precedent for the rights of nature and the defense of the environment in the country.

For David Fajardo, an environmental activist and member of the Cabildo por el Agua organization, this resolution allows “more people around Ecuador to find out about the problems in their territories, to begin to question, to do more activism, and to organize new consultations at the national level.” He hopes it will help “more people [to] join the fight against mining, which not only negatively impacts the ecosystem, but also causes social division in communities.”

Eli of Río Blanco, Ecuador, who opposes mining there. Photo: Andres Salazar.

Communities Call for Economic Alternatives to Mining

Currently, in Ecuador, there are at least 30 mining megaprojects that threaten water sources, fragile ecosystems, and peasant and Indigenous territories. The province of Azuay, where Cuenca is located, is the site of 765 registered and requested mining concessions. For this reason, the result of the popular consultation supposes a radical change in the mining policy on a medium to large scale. Above all, it opens the way for the people to decide whether they agree with this ongoing activity in their jurisdiction.

Eli recalls that when she was 12, mining companies came to Río Blanco with promises to provide jobs and improve the community’s living conditions. However, they also brought with them social division and pollution. Eli worked in one of those companies, where she experienced discrimination, injustice, and sexual harassment. She says that after this resolution, “For the first time, we decide what we want for our territories, which are not only jobs, but decent jobs, which means living in a healthy ecosystem.”

Ecuador’s 2008 Constitution enshrines the right of Indigenous communities to free, prior, and informed consultation for nonrenewable resource projects on their territories.For activists and community members, consent has never existed. Fajardo considers the current mining concessions in the area illegal because the communities were never consulted or educated about the impacts, which means that these projects do not have a social license, as constitutionally required. Ecuador’s 2008 Constitution enshrines the right of Indigenous communities to free, prior, and informed consultation for nonrenewable resource projects on their territories. The lawyer Mishelle Calle affirms that consent is necessary because it is related to the guarantee of fundamental rights, such as “the right to be consulted” and “the right to a healthy environment.”

The constitution also outlines the right of Indigenous communities to “participate in the profits earned from these projects.” Defenders of mining often highlight the supposed economic growth that mining companies bring to the community. However, Fajardo, argues that the economic benefits have only served to enrich the owners of the companies, while the areas of exploitation generally remain impoverished.

“Mining responds to international markets that are sustained by global elites,” he explains. This serves private interests and “not [the interests] of the workers, nor of the peoples or nationalities affected, nor of nature that is exterminated for the development of the activities,” he adds.

Galo Carrillo, professor at the University of Cuenca and an expert on the Andean moorlands, says that although mining activities can bring immediate economic benefits, in the long term, poorly managed and large-scale mining is harmful to the environment. However, he cautions that other sectors also impact the environment; agribusiness and livestock activity are responsible for almost 30 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. For Carrillo, not all mining outcomes are negative, and the situation must be balanced—an agreement between the industry, academia, and society must be reached to achieve responsible mining.

On the other hand, members of anti-mining communities have developed sustainable economic alternatives to demonstrate that there are ways beyond extractivism to achieve improvement.

Together with a group of women from the community in the affected mining areas, Eli founded the women’s collective Sinchi Warmi. They spearhead a project called “Warmi Muyu,” which means “Seed Woman,” where the women work to make artisan jewelry to sell in Ecuador and internationally. For Eli and the members of the collective, the project is a seed that signals sustainable and dignified economic alternatives for women, living in healthy territories free of mining.

Eli founded the women's collective Sinchi Warmi and calls for economic alternatives to mining. (Andres Salazar)

Eli founded the women’s collective Sinchi Warmi and calls for economic alternatives to mining. Photo: Andres Salazar.

Mining Debate will Carry into the Next Administration

How will Ecuador’s next government handle the mining issue? Ecuadorians head to the polls for a presidential runoff on Sunday, April 11, and both candidates, right-wing Guillermo Lasso and left-wing Andrés Arauz, see mining as a source of strengthening the country’s economy.

Arauz’s platform proposes a “post-extractivist or post-oil” model. Arauz represents a return to former President Rafael Correa’s so-called Citizen’s Revolution, which leveraged oil rents to fund social programs. Many Indigenous and environmental groups contested this “progressive extractivism” model. According to Fajardo, Arauz’s plan is “a purely mining model” that swaps oil for mining. “Both are disruptive activities to the ecosystem,” he says.

It cannot be a neocolonial model where someone from outside comes, exploits the land, takes the natural resource and leaves only environmental and community damageHowever, in an interview, candidate Andrés Arauz said he is not in favor of mining or extractivism. He proposed a citizen audit commission to analyze which concessions can be reversed, and which ones can be regulated. Furthermore, he affirms that mining can be done in a much more responsible and inclusive way. “It cannot be a neocolonial model where someone from outside comes, exploits the land, takes the natural resource and leaves only environmental and community damage,” he said. “It has to be a process that transfers knowledge, talent, responsibility.”

Arauz added that he will work so that children in the communities where mining projects operate have the same educational opportunities as children of the managers of the mining companies.

Lasso, for his part, has stated that “mining has to become one of the pillars of Ecuador’s economy.” The candidate is in alliance with the Social Christian Party. One of the party’s leaders, Jaime Nebot, some time ago, proposed a popular consultation sponsoring mining.

The third-place candidate who failed to enter the second round, environmentalist Yaku Pérez, was the only one who promoted an anti-mining agenda. Prior to entering electoral politics, he worked in movements in defense of water.

For Fajardo, the fact that both Arauz and Lasso consider mining a source of development “is an enormous danger for the ecology of Ecuador.” He insists that “economic progress at the cost of a nation’s environmental damage” is unacceptable.

For activists and members of anti-mining communities, regardless of which candidate wins, the fight will continue. They affirm that it is necessary to begin to build a process of transitioning to sustainable economic models that advocate a true transformation beginning with respect for the Pachamama. Effective grassroots organizing crossing rural and urban lines, like the example of Cuenca’s mining ban, has opened the horizon for environmental activism to defend water and ecosystems at the national level. Because the human species depends on nature.

 

The post Movement Against Mining Gains Ground in Ecuador appeared first on Latin America News Dispatch.

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