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.

 

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Mexican Soldier Arrested for Checkpoint Shooting of Guatemalan Citizen

NEW IN LAND Coal mines have caused environmental devastation for communities in the Cesar department of Colombia. But now that the Swiss mining company Glencore announced that they will withdraw […] The post Mexican Soldier Arrested for Checkpoint Shooting of Guatemalan Citizen appeared first on Latin America News Dispatch.

Mexican Soldier Arrested for Checkpoint Shooting of Guatemalan Citizen

NEW IN LAND

Photo: Flower Arias.

Coal mines have caused environmental devastation for communities in the Cesar department of Colombia. But now that the Swiss mining company Glencore announced that they will withdraw from the department, where they operate two mines, residents fear that the company will skip out on its legal obligations to the affected communities.

 

THIS WEEK IN LATIN AMERICA

GUATEMALA/MEXICO: After being held captive in Guatemala for over 12 hours, a Mexican soldier after shooting dead a Guatemalan national at a checkpoint near the border in the state of Chiapas.

According to his family, the victim, identified as Elvin Mazariegos, to make purchases and was returning to his country when he was stopped at a checkpoint and asked for identification, which he could not produce. Mexican military authorities say that Mazariegos then attempted to flee the checkpoint by driving in reverse, when the soldier shot him twice through the windshield, in what was characterized as an “erroneous reaction.”

After the incident, a crowd of angry Mexican and Guatemalan nationals attacked the soldiers manning the checkpoint and were able to take several of them hostage, as well as vehicles and weapons. were taken across the border to Mazariego’s native town of La Esperanza, where they were held for several hours until Guatemalan police negotiated their release, under the condition that Mazariego’s body be returned and that the shooter be prosecuted in Mexico.

SOUTHERN CONE 

BRAZIL: In an attempt to diffuse tension with the military, President Jair Bolsonaro appointed the former top army health officer Paulo Sérgio Nogueira as the on Thursday. Earlier in the week, Bolsonaro had fired retired army General Fernando Azevedo e Silva from the position, a move that angered many in the military. In response, the top three generals of the army, navy, and air force planned to resign, but before they had submitted their resignations. This is the first time since Brazil’s military dictatorship ended that the heads of all three branches of the military have been fired, and coincided with a celebration by military supporters in Bolsonaro’s government of the anniversary of the . Bolsonaro, a former army captain himself, has always had close ties to the military, and appointed active and retired army members to various cabinet positions, but tension has grown between him and the military in recent weeks. The reshuffling of top defense posts is the latest in a made during the pandemic. 

CHILE: Chile and increased lockdown restrictions in response to a growing number of COVID-19 cases this week. Despite having vaccinated of the country, a recent increase in cases has overwhelmed the country’s healthcare system, with intensive care units at capacity. Experts say the recent wave is a result of new virus variants and a false sense of security generated by Chile’s vaccination success. The country has adopted intense quarantine measures, with 80% of the country under lockdown with restrictions on how often they can leave the house to purchase groceries or other essentials. President Sebastián Piñera also encouraged legislators to to select who will draft the country’s new constitution because of the pandemic. In a public referendum last year, Chileans voted in favor of rewriting the Chilean constitution, which was inherited from the former military dictator Augusto Pinochet, who ruled Chile from 1970 to 1990. The vote is currently scheduled to take place April 10.

ANDES

COLOMBIA/VENEZUELA: For the last few weeks, between the Venezuelan government and Colombian armed groups, forcing their homes. The area near the border of the two countries has become a warzone, with military helicopters and armored vehicles patrolling the area, and frequent explosions that have terrorized residents. Some displaced Venezuelans have denounced the Venezuelan army for stealing from houses. Others have claimed that family members were taken from their homes and later found dead, dressed in the uniforms of armed groups, although this has not yet been verified by independent groups. The thousands who have fled have converged on the town of Arauquita in Colombia. The groups involved are believed to be dissident members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) who did not lay down their weapons as part of the 2016 peace treaty between the FARC and the Colombian government. Colombia has long accused Venezuela of sheltering criminal groups, but Venezuela has called the presence of the groups by Colombia. 

PERU: Polls reported a  going into the first round of Peru’s upcoming presidential election. There are 18 total candidates in the running for the first round of elections, which will take place on April 11. The top five include three right-wing candidates, one leftist former Congress member and one populist, each of whom received about 10% of the votes in the polls, with 28% of those surveyed still undecided. The polls predict a high voter turnout in the first round despite the pandemic risk factors. In Peru, voting is compulsory and punishable by fine without an accepted excuse. Health experts have proposed postponing the election because of the pandemic, but President Francisco Sagasti has

CARIBBEAN 

HAITI: A pastor, a pianist and at least two others Thursday in the commune of Carrefour near Port-au-Prince. Pastor Audalus Estimé of Kréyol Gospel Ministry, a Seventh-day Adventist church, was giving a service, which was being livestreamed on social media, when. The kidnappers forced Estimé, as well as the well-known and two others into two vehicles before fleeing. U.S. Representative Andy Levin, a Democrat from Michigan, condemned the kidnapping and the impunity that exists under the rule of President Jovenel Moïse on Twitter,, “There are no words for the level of impunity and complete lack of accountability in Haiti under Moïse. I will not be quiet.”

PUERTO RICO: As tourism to the commonwealth is recovering after the pandemic, police are of anti-COVID-19 measures. An executive order by Governor Pedro Pierluisi requires that masks be worn in public, and violators. The executive order also includes a curfew from midnight to 5 a.m. The commonwealth government has mobilized 1,100 National Guard soldiers to help enforce the measures. Puerto Rico is also requiring that arriving visitors show a negative COVID-19 test from the last 72 hours, or otherwise quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

CENTRAL AMERICA

HONDURAS/UNITED STATES: The brother of Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernández was sentenced to for drug trafficking in the United States last week. Tony Hernández of being involved in trafficking at least 185 metric tons of cocaine into the United States, and of corrupting the Honduran government to protect his trafficking operation. U.S. investigations have also implicated President Hernández in corruption and organized crime. Last month, U.S. federal prosecutors at the trial of Geovanny Fuentes Ramírez, in the United States, said that Fuentes Ramírez “owned” the president, who in exchange for bribes agreed to use state institutions like the armed forces to facilitate drug trafficking and protect traffickers from extradition.

NORTH AMERICA

MEXICO: Seven Mexican who had previously been accused of a 2014 massacre of 22 suspected criminals have been re-arrested. The soldiers were arrested in 2015 for the killings, but freed shortly thereafter when a judge ruled there was not enough evidence against them. 

The charges stem from a 2014 confrontation between an army convoy and a group of armed civilians in the town of Tlatlaya in Mexico State. that 22 suspected cartel gunmen were killed in the shootout, but investigators later found that at least eight of the victims had been killed after surrendering, and that the crime scene was manipulated. 

MEXICO: A by Mexican health authorities would make Mexico the country with the second-most deaths from COVID-19. While there have been only a little over 200,000 lab-confirmed COVID-19 deaths in the country, testing rates are low, and many people died without getting tested. 

The report, which took into account excess mortality, estimates that the real number of people who have died from the disease is about 60% higher, at 321,000. 

This new figure means that than in Brazil, which holds second-place after the United States for the most lab-confirmed COVID-19 deaths. But Mexico’s population of 126 million is significantly smaller than Brazil. The new number gives Mexico one of the highest per-capita COVID-19 death rates in the world. 

The new report also showed that during Mexico’s second wave at the beginning of 2021 killed 75,000 people in just six weeks.

The post Mexican Soldier Arrested for Checkpoint Shooting of Guatemalan Citizen appeared first on Latin America News Dispatch.

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