El Pilpilén Negro N°03 – Octubre 2015
Many villages, communities and rural localities around Latin America are currently facing one of the most complex environmental and social problems. The consequences of the industrialization of the planet are quickly becoming visible on a daily basis for the lives of millions of human beings. Climate change, lack of water, the absence of oxygen in the seas, the melting glaciers, the expansion of deserts, deforestation, widespread contamination stemming from mining… These are all the result of more than 200 years of systematic irrational unlimited extraction of the “resources of the world”.
Every day, those who live in the fields, hills or seas of Latin America can see and witness how petroleum is being constantly dumped into the sea, how transnational companies are contaminating our water with cyanide, how the number of those suffering from cancer is increasing, how villages are left dry and devastated after the closing of a mine or how thousands of hectares in the native woods are being inundated to generate energy. We also listen and inform ourselves of the huge quantity of mega-projects that are currently being approved not only in Chile, but in all Latin America, or the other thousand ones that are currently pending approval. We ask ourselves: what is happening? If these transnational companies are fully aware of all the consequences, then it is clear that these initiatives intend to accelerate the extraction of resources at the expense of our lives.
The extraction of raw materials in huge volumes, as a “model of development and progress” in local territories, are imposed by justifying the devastation as a necessary and natural process beneficial “for our wellbeing”, thus replacing ancestral Latin-American lifestyles for a new lifestyle devoted to consumerism and productivism. This model is nothing new in the Latin American continent and other third world countries, especially given how since their “discovery” they have been sacked continuously for those who have “invested” in their natural resources. This is a nefarious economic model that through the years has been perfected and that now possesses it’s most terrifying dimension ever: All of Latin America currently faces one of the biggest project redesigns of infrastructure that has ever been imposed in the world, the IIRSA (Initiative of integration of the South-American infrastructure). This is a mega-project on a continental level whose goal is to change the geography of the continent to facilitate and intensify the extraction of resources.
To understand the full extent of what the IIRSA means and entails, it should be noted that it is an initiative motivated by the necessities of the global market. None of us are a part of this organization, as it’s a system of economic relations for transnational businesses and international economic organizations (BID, etc.). It’s a system entirely based on the international division of labour, a colonial economic model in which multinational businesses are responsible for 75% of the global production of raw materials. In this context, Latin America has become one of the main providers of desired raw materials like petroleum, minerals, timber, seafood, toxic waste and soybean, among many others, extracting from its ground and sea anything possible for profit. Currently, the advance of technology at the service of transnational businesses allows them to extract resources from any place in huge quantities at an extremely accelerated speed. The only obstacle for this pillaging is ironically the geography of the Lain American continent: The Andes, the jungles and seas… These are obstacles which the IIRSA intends to destroy through the implementation of massive construction schemes: roads, pipelines, airports, power lines…
The IIRSA initiative began in 2000 in Brasilia and it is a pact between 12 countries of South-America (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Surinam, Uruguay and Venezuela), and the Latin American Bank of Development (BID). In this agreement, the project of reconfiguration of Latin American geography was initiated, which is intended to take place through the Initiative for the Integration of the Regional Infrastructure of South America (IIRSA) all across the continent. These pacts have already been defined –according to the IIRSA- as “multinational territory borders in which natural spaces, human settlements, production areas and trade flows are concentrated”. Each one of these strips of land will be changed in order to interconnect extractivist territories and set up trade corridors with exit points towards the coasts of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Essentially, the IIRSA entails the construction of big infrastructure to connect production centres with consumption ones; thus cheapening and accelerating the transfer of raw materials, further facilitating even more the exploitation of minerals, energy resources and further reinforce their social control and domination over the population. Thus establishing new borders for the importation of raw materials and riches to demanding areas (mainly Asia).
To understand the magnitude of the pillaging extractivist problem it is enough to observe how transnationals described our Abya Yala as (name given to the American continent by the Kula village before the arrival of Europeans): “a great area full natural resources, of which there is no limit for their extraction”.
Despite the fact that many communities throughout the continent are facing the consequences of the IIRSA, this is a project that people are rarely discussing. In fact, the IIRSA has already started its construction and very few people in Chile know this. In Bolivia, the TIPNIS (National Park and Isiboro Indigenous territory) is facing the construction of a road that intends to halve their natural park, thus threatening the extinction of these indigenous communities and fauna. Meanwhile, in Peru, the inter-oceanic road currently being built in Madre de Dios has already led to an invasion of land and widespread contamination created by the mining of gold and petroleum extraction. Similarly, in Colombia, the region of Putumayo faces more construction projects by the IIRSA: the Amazonian river, in which roads and ports are intended to be built to render the river more navigable, condemning communities to disappear.
Many times we ask ourselves: is there anything else? How much more? Do we really have to produce so much to achieve progress or to achieve that promise of happiness and wellbeing for the future? Nowadays we possess knowledge thanks to the information flux that we have been forced to live in. The huge quantity of industrial and extractivist mega-projects that are being installed in the region don’t contribute to our development or quality of life, in fact it is quite the opposite: these projects impoverish, sicken and contaminate our land and health. We know this because it has been demonstrated throughout history. Ultimately, the IIRSA serves the interests of transnational corporations interested in extracting the highest quantity of profits by murdering our territory, natural resources and human beings.
Translated by Pietro Casati