Special report on Fracking

Fracking-A-Look-Back_hero

What is fracking?

Fracking or hydraulic fracture is an unconventional method of extraction of natural gas, also known as “shale gas”. This gas, fundamentally composed by methane, is found stored in small pores or impermeable rock bubbles, normally of schist or slate, located thousands of metres below the surface. “Unconventional gases” are denominated to those that for their cost or difficulty of extraction are less profitable. However, with the advance of extractivist technologies, these gases can be catalogued as conventional in a short period of time.

The hydraulic fracture consists in “breaking” or “fracturing” the mother rock that contains the gas for its extraction. For this a perforation technique is used: firstly the surface is drilled for up to 5000 metres vertically and after that several horizontal kilometres are also perforated (from 1, 5 to 5 km). After this water with sand are injected with great pressure (98%). It should be noted that this water and sand also contain a series of chemical additives (2%). This provokes small explosions that fracture the rocks and liberate the gas, which ascends from the surface through a pit. The sand mixture is in charge of keeping the fracture open in order to constantly keep obtaining gas. Part of the injected mixture returns to the Surface (between 15 to 85%¹), whilst the rest ends up in uncertain places.

The usual step in these types of exploitations is to build platforms that contain between 6 and 12 pits of extraction, in order to allow the surface of the terrain that occupies the platform to be composed by tens of hectares. To this we must add that the pits have a very useful brief life, which allows the occupied surface by the platforms to occupy a huge area of a territory.

WHY FRACKING?

Currently, even though natural gas consumption is booming, electrical energy (primarily generated thanks to petroleum and the own consumption of fossil fuels) represents around 80% of the global energy consumption. On the other hand, the extraction of conventional natural gas possesses an energy return on investment (EROI) of between 1 to 6 and unconventional or “shale gas” between 0, 7 and 13, 3. These are ridiculous numbers compared to the current energy return on investment of petroleum, which can have rates of 100.

Then, why invest millions of euros in its extraction? This is easy to explain if we analyse the current energy crisis. There are many studies, books and publications that have invested their efforts into demonstrating and studying that we have achieved the peak oil process and that the new petroleum pits discovered possess less fuel of worse quality, bigger cost of extraction and, therefore, less EROI. This theory is easily predictable by simply analysing the spectacular increase of the price of fossil fuel.

We survive in a system completely dependent on fossil fuel and electrical energy generated by the these same ones, which also base their system of social domination on energy control. It would be stupid or ingenuous by our part to think that the big defenders of this social domination system, which include huge petroleum companies, were not going to reinvent theirselves so that the end of cheap petroleum doesn’t suppose a threat to their businesses, privileges and social control power. It is here where fracking serves as a tool to delay the discovery of new alternative energy sources. By improving extractivist technologies and conducting explorations in many places of the planet, the gas reserves will be able to be maintain their energy system for a short period of time and prevent the explosion of a true energy catastrophe, which doesn’t benefit in the slightest big petroleum multinationals.

WHY OPPOSE THE HYDRAULIC FRACTURE?

There are many varied motives to oppose the extraction of unconventional gas. It is obvious that such an aggressive extractivist method will provoke a series of environmental problems.

On the one hand it is of vital importance to highlight the contamination of aquifers and subterranean waters, created due to the filtration of the mixture that is injected in the pits for the extraction of gas. These 600 chemical substances injected into the surface, many of them carcinogenic, end up in subterranean waters and will consequently be consumed by all human beings and animals, thus generating a chemical contamination on all the affected ecosystems. These human beings will be affected by this consumption of contaminated water. This has already been demonstrated through the analysis in cow livestock in several areas of the United States, where many animals suddenly died after consuming water close to the gas platforms. The effects towards the human race will take longer to appear, but can go from stomach infections to cancer, along with provoking death after constant consumption.

Another type of contamination that fracking provokes that isn’t well known is the emission of radioactive substances to the atmosphere. Substances that are found naturally in the depths of the ground and contaminated water can also reach the atmosphere. One of these chemical substances is radon-222, which is the second declared cause of lung cancer.

The small explosions generated by the injection of pressured water are also capable of causing seismic movements into the ground, as demonstrated in places like England or the United States. This could explain, along with popular opposition and French colonialism in Mali and Niger, the prohibition of this method in France, where the huge quantity of nuclear plants combined with earthquake risks could cause huge catastrophes.

Extractive platforms generate a series of environmental and pollutive consequences that hard to list. It is not only about the visual impact of the platform, the waste in concrete, gas pipelines, etc. But also the creation of roads, transportation of materials, the canalisation of water into the platform, the large water waste, the deforestation of the terrain, the erosion, the creation of residual ponds and many more problems that would require a lot of paper to write down.

These ecological and health consequences should ideally be the main reason to face and stop these projects if we truly valued the health of our surroundings. However, these are not even the most important reasons to stop fracking: If companies were truly interested in investing into improved extractivist technologies in order to guarantee that no health dangers existed there would still be enough factors for us to oppose these projects. Fracking opposition, from our part, should include the fact that it is a new method of exploitation of natural resources that only contributes perpetuating an anti-ecological, exploiting, unfair and inhuman system. We don’t only express our opposition to fracking as an aggressive method to extract gas, but also to the opposition of any type of extraction of gas.

PERMISSIONS, LICENSES AND BUSSINESSES

Currently there are over 30 permits of exploitation conceded in the peninsula, concentrated around the north, primarily. These numbers are ever-changing due to the approval of new permissions, as there are already more than 50 solicitations; but also due to the opposition and resistance from some communities to allow these projects (albeit the latter is improbable and abstract).

These exploitations will be conducted, if we don’t stop them, by businesses like SHESA (Society of hydrocarbons of Euskadi); BNK Petroleum, with its Spanish counterpart Trofagas, Heyco, R2 Energy and San Leon Energy.

 

THE FALSE OPPOSITION TO FRACKING

From the arrival of the plans of exploration of shale gas in the State, there are many voices (from individuals and collectives) that have risen up to try and prevent these exploitations of gas. For this reason, it is important to analyse determined strategies and alternative methods of fighting presented by numerous ecologist groups which, in our opinion, aren’t effective or coherent and are even capable of benefiting the enemy that they intend to destroy.

In regards to the methods of fighting: The first thing that we must clarify is that fracking is a global problem originated by a global energy scheme. It is not only about a project in a specific area. Due to this it is important to conduct the fight against fracking on a global level and not only focus it on a specific platform, valley, etc… (No Fracking, not here or anywhere)

The town halls and autonomous communities belong to a state that encourage and support this global plan of energy development based on the hydraulic fracture. Due to this it lacks sense, from a logical perspective, to use or beg these institutions to stop fracking. On the one hand, it is obvious that if we intend to stop fracking, any type of dialogue with the state contributes towards an anticipated defeat. On a moral level it is a lost battle. It is true that in some cases the collection of signatures and pressure from political groups have managed to stop some local projects. However, these are underwhelming victories, as no global opposition is ever presented, only local. On the other hand, if the governments indeed stop specific projects it is only because these are not fundamental projects for their energy development. In the case of fracking in the state, several specific permissions can be obtained this way, because there are countries with enormous levels of poverty that exist, with bigger gas reserves and less popular pressure, allowing businesses to easily extract gas from those places. Therefore, the only way to oppose these mega-projects effectively and coherently is through a real fight, not collaborationist, that at the same time develops a global criticism towards capitalism.

In regards to alternatives: This is probably the most delicate and controversial point. The only proposal by “eco” friendly parties, NGO’s and ecologist collectives against fracking are renewable energies, accompanied by a light decrease in the levels of consumption.

Renewable energies can suppose, with a big economic investment in investigation and development, an alternative to the extraction of gas through hydraulic fracture, but they will never be an alternative to capitalism. The ideal world that these groups offer need more roads, industries, trucks, primary resources, big factories, video surveillance and electricity cables passing through the woods to fully function. Renewable energy is also completely dependent on fossil fuels (plastics, transportation through roads, vehicles, etc…) and continues forcing human beings to work to produce cars, wind turbines, solar panels, etc; which impedes the liberation of the individual, who are still tied up and trapped in a sick, unhappy and monotonous job and lifestyle.

On the other hand, these groups don’t tend to propose any political change accompanied by their “renewable revolution” in order to continue a capitalist system where the only things that matter are money and economy, thus ignoring values like friendship and nature. This approach not only represents a real alternative to the system of domination, but can also drastically benefit it. In a world where contamination reaches extreme levels, cancers increase enormously and the disasters provoked by petroleum and nuclear energy are part of our everyday lives, the best alternative to maintain the system of domination is through renewable energy. In fact, it’s what is slowly extending the system. Small steps are being taken to improve the profitability of renewable energies, creating electric vehicles, etc… This way the State and businesses clean their image towards the people that they have to exploit, whilst they also pretend to care about the planet’s health without changing the system of domination.

We don’t want a world where the same contradictions are continued to be applied, where people are completely domesticated, robotized and alienated life and where the relationship between human beings and nature is inexistent. We don’t want cities dressed in pretentious green “eco” or a scenery full of wind turbines of more than 100 metres in height. We fight for a free world where people can re-establish their relationship to nature that prevailed during centuries. We fight for a world where capitalism and domination disappear, which is only possible renouncing to the commodities that the energy and technological system provide for us. A world without fracking, or petroleum, or renewable barbarities: a free and wild world.

 

Notes:

¹ The numbers of return of contaminated water are proportioned by the own extractivist businesses, are not validated by any independent study. Therefore it is probable that the percentage of water that isn’t recovered is bigger than as indicated.

² One of the key concepts to understand the gravity of the energy crisis is the EROEI (Energy Return on Energy Investment. The TRE is the relationship between energy that provides us a fountain and the energy that we have to waste to obtain it. Hence, conventional petroleum has an EROI of 20, which means that for each unity of energy destined to the production of petroleum (in the elaboration of materials used in wells, its installation, perforation, operation, the maintenance, etc) 20 unities of energy are obtained. The critical value of the TRE is 1: when the TRE arrives as a unity, lots of energy is renewed as the one invested and the system stops having any sense as an energy source.

³Un amargo declinar: Energía y totalitarismo ecológico. Invierno Editorial, Zaragoza 2012.

http://archivomoai.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/especial-fractura-hidraulica.html

Translated by Pietro Casati (pietrokuyath@gmail.com)

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Remembering our young comrade Javier Recabarren

Santiago: The context of the march for “the closure of the metropolitan zoo”

Brief ideas surrounding the “International day of fight to close all zoos, 24th, 25th and 26th July .

The conflict against the culture of domination imposed by the State/Capital means that we have to bring our values and ideological reflections into the fight to strive for liberation.

Our detachment with values like empathy and solidarity are signs of a sick society, whose only aspiration is consumerism. This irrational lifestyle treats each human or animal as exchange goods for the process of production of the world trade.

Power has altered us into a society that views torture and assassinations as a natural aspect of life. This explains why other oppressive institutions like jails are also presented as normal elements, either as a form of punishment or as a way to correct the faults of the productive system. For animals this reality is presented through zoos: Their “social function” is to provide education and entertain humanity. Meanwhile, behind bars the suffering of thousands of animals is regularly maintained by distancing them from their natural conditions and instincts. These animals only gain stress, sickness and death.

This tragic reality remains in front of us, along with the isolation of thousands of animals that wait for their turn to die and continue to give their services to humans through food, clothing or decorations.

And here we are: we are the ones who have to act. Liberation is a path of constant confrontation to stop being apathetic bystanders and take action by abandoning our harmless “lifestyles” that don’t seek any resolution or conflict, whilst millions of lives suffer and end behind the bars of experimentation centres, breeding farms and zoos.

PROPAGANDA AND SABOTAGE FOR TOTAL LIBERATION

We remember the young anarchist fighter Javier Recabarren, who died on the 18th of March this year after being run over by a bus from the company Transantiago.

javier-recabarren

On the 18th of March our comrade Javier Recabarren died after being run over by a bus outside of his school. However, this 11 year old boy was no ordinary kid. Whoever crossed his path noticed his unshakeable desire for freedom.

He was a member of the “Animal collective: Raise your voice” and participated in extensive manifestations for animal liberation initiatives. He also regularly performed anarchist activities that involved practising revolutionary solidarity with our comrades in prison. Naturally, he was also involved in the Street Fights, fearlessly facing the police and burning flags of the United States. These actions led him to be detained by the bastards on several occasions.

The war that Javier started is a clear sign to keep fighting against all forms of power and authority, along with continuing the fight for animal liberation and practising revolutionary solidarity in order to ensure that Javier’s vision prevails and transcends… This young fighter inspires us to maintain our chosen path towards total liberation.

¡¡COMRADE JAVIER RECABARREN: PRESENT!!
¡¡Today we will give you a minute of silence… and a lifetime of fighting!!

CLR / 25 July, Santiago 2015.

Santiago: En el contexto de la marcha por el “cierre del zoológico metropolitano”

28th July 2015 |Tags: Latin America, ChileColectivo Lucha RevolucionariaJavier RecabarrenAnimal Liberation, memorySantiago | Categories: Publicaciones – Panfletos

Translated by Pietro Casati (pietrokuyath@gmail.com)

CALL OUT: MONTH FOR THE EARTH AND AGAINST CAPITAL, JUNE 5 – JULY 5

Call Out  Month for the Earth and Against Capital  June 5 – July 5

Via Contra-Info
Translated by Scott Campbell

“The struggle occurs in a given territory, with very specific characteristics, with very specific enemies and their particularities, to know all these elements is our responsibility.”

It is time to deepen the struggle against the state, against capital, and against the forms they use to continue to perfect their means of dominion over us. Different materials for spreading information and reflection have been developed in recent times. Blogs, magazines, newspapers and countless other materials have been produced by compañeros with different contours but with the same intention: to contribute to the social war from an anti-authoritarian and offensive perspective.

In the same vein, four years ago the “Month for the Earth and Against Capital” began with the idea of promoting various struggles that were taking place locally, regionally and globally against the infrastructure of capital. Getting ahead of the advance of the state and capital involves thinking about what its path is and why, and also involves acting to simultaneously hold up both matters for reflection. The type of knowledge needed by those truly trying to transform reality arises from the struggles themselves and not from information conceived of by and for the imposed order. The domination we suffer is not organized or created in chaos but responds according to a certain logic. That does not mean that the processes and results of domination are entirely transparent but it does mean that it is possible to better prepare and confront their plans.

To strengthen the different struggles, to learn from different experiences and to contribute reflections become, then, a necessity and a real possibility for these times. Today our territories are passing through transformational models with cruel outcomes for freedom and survival. To go on the offensive ceases to be just a dream when transformative choice begins to direct our desires. That was and is the Month for the Earth, another contribution, a specific one, on the path of social revolution. The dynamic has been that of knowing the enemy: its strengths, its weaknesses, how it functions, how it functions in us, etc…

As well, the reflections, writings and other actions of the Month for the Earth have sought to make visible the importance of certain types of struggle, struggles within the same mold that attack the development and supports of capital. The majority of the dead in this social unrest, in the different struggles today against capital, belong to the struggles in defense of territory, struggles against the advance of extractive infrastructure and its world. In these kinds of struggles our stance has always been clear on one point: to revive, to strengthen and to learn from certain forms of existing relationships (such as the many values of community and solidarity) is useful, but our responsibility should be to do away with the very roots of the system of domination and all that supports it. Capitalism continues its restructuring, continues reproducing the values that sustain it, but it encounters resistance. Our responsibility is for that resistance to become the momentum which allows for a move to the offensive, to go forward, that will let us be protagonists of real transformations to new forms of living as the enemies and adversaries of domination and power.

The very development of capitalism, its restructuring, shows us how the powers in the world are leading us to new states of dominion where war is a constant that without interruption threatens large parts of the population. While some live an internal, “soft,” low-intensity war between militarization and impossible norms, others suffer old-fashioned bombings and lootings, though both worlds have more in common than we usually allow. The edges of each are ever more uncertain, people sprayed with pesticides, displaced by disasters cynically called “natural”, the policing of life, the urbanization of poverty, and the dependence on energy and technology mix with militarized neighborhoods, those displaced by fighting or bombing.

Depending on the place we were born, capital reserved a use for us, but we have other options. We can accept the dividing up of the world, their new chains called “crisis” and their predetermined fates, or we can accept that the will knows nothing of fate. The Month for the Earth and Against Capital is not so important. It doesn’t have meaning as a “singular effort,” it belongs to the thousands of synergistic efforts, its work has already been done, reproduced and perhaps surpassed. If it ends, its efforts have already served their purpose. However, again and again a new need arises and we must redouble our strength, must redouble the reflection, information and above all, must redouble the action based around the world we radically want to transform.

Therefore, between June 5 and July 5, the “Month for the Earth and Against Capital” returns, the call is for the development of all kinds of activities, for all kinds of actions. To send posters about events or any other type of information, contact porlatierraycontraelcapital@riseup.net and they will be published on https://porlatierraycontraelcapital.wordpress.com.

Month for the Earth and Against Capital, 2016

Geography becomes an obstacle for pillaging

https   elpilpilennegro.wordpress.com
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

THE SAN QUINTÍN REBELLION

From Regeneración Radio
IGD encourages you to view the Original Microsite
Translated by Scott Campbell

I. THEY SAID WE WERE CRAZY

The strawberry harvest was approaching and thousands of farmworkers were preparing to shut down the Transpeninsular Highway on March 17, 2015. There was no turning back. Two years earlier, a slogan had spread like a dust cloud throughout all of San Quintín Valley: fair wages. And between the rows, there where celery, squash, greens, chile, beet, cucumber, tomato, strawberry, blackberry and raspberry are planted to be sent to the other side of the border, there was already talk of a “crazy idea”: they had to rise up. On a clear morning, in a barren spot some fifty meters from his home in the San Juan Copala neighborhood, Bonifacio Martínez recalls the moment that started it all:

– “One afternoon I came home from work, tired. And I saw my mother. She told me she had worked all week and that they hadn’t paid her. So we went to the boss who told her to wait a week. That got me really angry. Imagine, you supposedly work to get paid, because you’re doing the work. And this is what I thought: What kind of bosses do we have? If as it is they are paying us so little, where are we going to end up? Where are our rights?”

Bonifacio is around 40. He is no taller than 1.6 meters (5′ 3”), wears a black jacket and a cap covers his hair, he’s Oaxacan Triqui through and through. Two kilometers from where he stands, the waves of the Pacific Ocean break on the brown beach, and opposite the hill he looks fromfields of strawberries spread as far as the eye can see. Nearby, a dozen bundled-up farmworkers with their faces covered work their shift. “In this field” – as he points to the carpet of green – “in previous years work started at 6am. You ate in less than 15 minutes, in the middle you grabbed lunch, some tacos, and went until 6pm without stopping. Be careful if you rest one day, because the next you won’t have a job. It’s Felipe Ruíz Conrado’s business. He paid 9.50 pesos a box.”

Before the uprising, Bonifacio had worked at almost all the ranches in the region. “Awful treatment from those bastards. They didn’t care what happened to you. They only cared about the quality of the fruit, that you don’t bruise it, that you don’t put in one or two bruised strawberries, because then they won’t pay you for that box. There were days when they didn’t pay you for up to ten boxes; at 10 or 12 pesos each.”

THE SEED OF DISCONTENT

FARMWORKERS IN MEXICO:
3,355,264

2,366,428
WITHOUT HEALTHCARE

50%
EARN BETWEEN 60 AND 120 PESOS DAILY

81%
WITHOUT A CONTRACT

79%
AS INFORMAL LABOR

SOURCE: INEGI, NATIONAL OCCUPATION AND EMPLOYMENT SURVEY (ENOE), FIRST TRIMESTER OF 2015

Bonifacio began to organize with two other farmworkers, Juan and Cirilo. Their objective, contrary to what had happened before – focused work stoppages on small ranches – was to organize and get the entire valley to rise up, a strip of coastal desert that reaches from the municipality of Ensenada, Baja California, and extends to the towns of Vicente Guerrero, Camalú and San Quintín, and where in addition to clamming, the ranches of companies like Driscoll’s, BerryMex and Los Pinos are the only sources of employment. A neo-slavery that has crashed onto this land.

San-Quintin-Jornalero-Bonifacio

“They told us we were crazy,” says Bonifacio with his Oaxacan accent. And from memory he recounts for the tape recorder the talk that he started to share with his neighbors. “You love your children, so what are you doing to defend them? If you love them, now is the time for us to seek a solution so they don’t live like us. Wouldn’t you like for them to pay you more? If you want something better, let’s defend this together. I don’t come offering handouts or money or loans, I don’t have these things. What I can tell you is that I am a worker, just like you, and this hurts me the same as you. What I can tell you is that I wake up at 4 in the morning, and my wife does, too, to make lunch. And I’m sure that you and your wife do as well; I’m sure that there isn’t enough for cooking gas, for the electric bill, right? Well, the time has come.”

From those talks the Alliance of National, State and Municipal Organizations for Social Justice was born, meeting every Friday. And in the ranches, in the neighborhoods, the word spread. “The supervisors, the foremen, the producers already knew, they had heard. But they said: “What can they do to us? For years we’ve beaten down those fucking Indians.”

The date was set for March 17, when the strawberry season was drawing near. That day, at dawn, nothing and no one would pass on the Transpeninsular Highway that runs from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas in Baja California Sur. The farmworkers, thousands, would stand up as one to make themselves heard. A prophecy written centuries ago came to pass, when Jacinto Canek rebelled in the Yucatán: “The Indians have revolted!” – as the Indians from Oaxaca, Guerrero and Chiapas are the majority in San Quintín. On the night of March 16, no one in the valley slept, and at dawn the whole world knew about the farmworkers standing up in the middle of the desert in the cold and hidden north of Mexico.

II. THE UNION AND SHADY POLITICS

On the road south from Tijuana, the asphalt of the Transpeninsular opens out into long kilometers of muted landscape. Mountains, gloomy and indifferent cacti, shrubs and dangerous curves crowd together alongside the fierce and foaming sea. An architectural crucible, sometimes Arabic, other times modern, and other times humble, decorates the route and a faint silence seeps in from the outside. Inside, a station, XEQIN, the Voice of the Valley Radio, is on at low volume on the stereo. It is the only channel for kilometers. Little-used paths appear, heading towards “Wine Country.”

The road snakes forward and up ahead, on the icy sea, a group of cruise ships, white like the purest milk, sit in front of Ensenada, the last large city on the Peninsula before La Paz. Up ahead, in Vicente Guerrero, when the car stops, night spills over the valley and it will be time to sleep at 16 degrees centigrade (61°F). A deep cold.

The following day, January 13, in Ensenada, the cruise ships are still there. In the Zu Taza café, some 30 meters from the beach, the spokespeople for the farmworkers of San Quintín are seated around a large table. They outline for the local media an evaluation of the movement after almost a year of blockades, marches, caravans, boycotts and meetings. On May 13, 2015, after almost two months of rebellion, the Alliance and the federal government signed agreements establishing some ways of resolving the conflict. Government healthcare, punctual pay, certification that companies don’t use child labor – in the fields women, children and men work – respect for labor and human rights, and an increase in wages. “San Quintín decided to sneak away under the table…none of the issues have been resolved…we want to recoup the benefits that have been taken from us,” said Fidel Sánchez Gabriel.

THE DAILY LABOR OF AN AGRICULTURAL WORKER IN THE RED

The agreement reached in August 2015 with the owners of the more than 122 companies that grow in the San Quintín Valley was that they would pay a minimum wage of 150 pesos per day and that wages would be fixed in three different categories: 19 companies would pay 180 pesos per day, 39 would pay 165, and 64 would pay the minimum of 150. But in reality, few companies do and the state and federal governments have not been monitoring the implementation of the demands. In the fields, reality is different, said Lorenzo Rodríguez, an indigenous man in his twenties:

– “The categorization of salaries remains stuck on the table. And the companies that have increased wages have also increased the work. They require that you work more rows, not recognizing overtime.”

San-Quintin-Sindicato

Because of this, the entire movement in the valley has turned toward the creation of an independent union. Even though it was not an initial demand, the farmworkers’ own union is the long-term wager for the movement. The press conference in the Zu Taza café is actually the formal announcement of the union, whose registration was granted one day before by the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare (STPS). TheIndependent National Democratic Union of Agricultural Workers (SINDJA) has been recognized “for the purposes of advancing the legitimate representation of those farmworkers,” reads the official notice. Its general secretary is Lorenzo Rodríguez, who now takes the wheel of the car that returns to Vicente Guerrero after the press conference.

THE MOVEMENT’S DEMANDS

300 pesos
MINIMUM DAILY WAGE

30 pesos
BOX OF STRAWBERRIES

17 pesos
JAR OF BLACKBERRIES

8 pesos
BUCKET OF TOMATOES

They reached an agreement for a daily salary of 150 pesos; increased by 30 pesos, but the work doubled.

“I am from Oaxaca. I arrived in the valley in 2005 at 15 years old when I finished grade school and during the vacations I came and worked for two months. I thought then that there was money to be made and I decided to stay. I began at BerryMex. I explained to them that I went to high school in the afternoons, and they gave me a chance, but I did not do well in class and the work was very hard. So I left school. I didn’t care about anything, I didn’t see the exploitation or the humiliation or the harassment. To say nothing of the miserable wages. Before I was 17 I didn’t see a future for myself. I thought I was young and could do well in any job; that those who had to would struggle. Not me. But then I opened my eyes. What was going to happen when I was 50, 60 years old? I was not going to have the same energy. And my children?”

Lorenzo is dark skinned. His hair is gelled and today he’s dressed “formal” for the press conference. But later he must return to the fields. He is perhaps the youngest union general secretary in the country, barely 25 years old, and also the only one who, along with his union role, is a farmworker. On the road, he points out to the places that were blockaded on March 17, and where days later the caravan traveled to Mexicali, the seat of the state government headed by Francisco Vega de Lamadrid, a pure PANista [a member of the right-wing National Action Party (PAN)], who farmworkers say is the benefactor of Rancho Los Pinos, one of the biggest in the valley. The inner workings of power.

THE BEGINNING OF THE REBELLION

Rancho Los Pinos holds the National Export Award. The recognition was granted in 2013 by President Enrique Peña Nieto. The award, said the government, “is the highest honor…for companies, institutions and organizations that operate in Mexico in the realm of international trade, and thanks to factors such as effort, perseverance, creativity, quality and innovation have managed to compete, increase and diversify their sale of goods and services abroad.” Antonio Rodríguez Hernández, the current owner of the ranch founded in 1952, was a PAN state representative from 2004 to 2007. Later, until 2013 he served as Secretary of Agricultural and Livestock Development in Baja California in Governor José Guadalupe Osuna Millán’s cabinet, the PANista predecessor of Francisco Vega. A meteoric career, with mutual benefits.

The position that Rodríguez Hernández formerly held now belongs to Manuel Valladolid Seamanduras, a relative of Antonio Valladolid Rodríguez, the current Secretary of Planning and Finance. Manuel Valladolid has been identified by the farmworkers, and by local PAN representative Rosalba López Regalado, as the owner of Rancho Valladolid, according to information gathered by the weekly publication Zeta, from Tijuana, on Saturday, March 21, 2015. The political network linked to the ranches on which the farmworkers give up their lives for 100 pesos a day or less extends even further in the case of Antonio Valladolid. In a report published by Newsweek in Spanish, on May 16, 2015, he is mentioned by journalist Javier Cruz, who has investigated the agricultural industry in San Quintín since 1981. Witness to the exploitative conditions that predominate in the region, Javier says that, “The Valladolid and Rodríguez families, the main producers in the region, have been beneficiaries thanks to their closeness to political power (…) Manuel Valladolid Seamanduras has no properties listed in the public property registry, nor does he appear as a partner in the businesses; however, there are parties that report of his position within AgroIndustrias Vigor, S.A. de C.V. as sole administrator, general manager, and legal representative.” And an indexed directory of exporters on the state government’s website proves this.

Lorenzo Rodríguez, the young union secretary general who now drives through curves and hills behind an employee transport bus, makes a calculation: “Imagine, Driscoll’s – the most powerful transnational in the region – sends some five or six trailers along this road. Each trailer, depending on its length, carries twenty or thirty pallets of strawberries and each pallet yields some 150,000 pesos. We are talking millions daily. There is no money? The employers can’t pay the farmworkers more?”

Lorenzo speaks with clarity: “Of everything we did, out of the whole struggle, the union is one of the best results. The plan now is for mass membership, first in the small ranches, where if 50% of the farmworkers plus one join, you can legally call a strike. To fight for collective contracts and beat the sellout unions, the CROM, the CROC, who haven’t defended the farmworkers. In truth, there is discouragement with the massive layoffs that some companies made, but there are also hopes. With the union, the power is still in our hands. When the union was registered in Mexico City, some journalists questioned my age and experience. That may be true, I said, but don’t worry, that’s why we’re here, to learn.” A new evening emerges in the valley and Lorenzo remains at the wheel.

San-Quintin-Jornalera-2

III. THE WOMEN AND HARASSMENT

In the fields, in addition to the economic exploitation, another problem was given refuge, waiting to float to the top. And it surfaced. The uprising on March 17 made clear that the harassment of women in the fields, by the foremen, employers and farmworkers, is also an unresolved matter. One that is harsh, difficult and rooted in the rampant machismo that those in power use to grate at and undermine dignity.

Sitting in a small restaurant serving carne asada burritos, Gloria Gracida Martínez tells her story: one that begins with a 10-year-old girl arriving in the valley, who they paid 50 cents per bucket of tomatoes (currently they pay between 2 and 3.5 pesos) and who 20 years later is now a teacher with a Master’s degree from the Universidad Iberoamericana, but above all an active participant in the strike who has turned to denouncing the exploitation of children and women in the fields and the homes.

– “It impacted me, the sexual harassment. Above all from the supervisors, from the drivers of the trucks that transport the farmworkers. We’re talking about girls, minors. Including rapes that are not reported. Out of fear, out of women’s culture. There is a self-imposed silence. And if you report it, the care one gets isn’t the right kind. So a woman, out of necessity, has to remain in the field. And if you go to another one, the same thing can happen.”

A choir of voices is created out of the testimonies. A day before, Lorenzo Rodríguez, the young union secretary general, had said: “There is a lot of harassment directed at women. The supervisors, the foremen, take advantage of their positions. Sometimes it’s the sons of the bosses. They like ‘to play,’ ‘to have a little fun,’ when they look at a girl they think is pretty. During the strike, this was condemned a lot. And things changed a little. Some supervisors now behave more respectfully, but there are fields where it remains the same. And this, from what I know, also happens in the maquiladoras [sweatshops] in Tijuana, Mexicali and Ensenada.”

For Gloria, the movement has changed her life. Before March 17, she wasn’t aware that a strike was being planned for the entire valley. But that day she arrived at the school where she works as a teacher and the classes had been suspended. “I went back to bed. Later they told me: ‘there’s a movement and the highways, the banks are closed.’ I left and there was no one in town. I walked until I reached a group a people and approached a lady who was at the front. She told me that they were denouncing, as farmworkers, the injustices and the violations of their rights. She said to me: ‘Don’t stay silent, child, you have to speak, wherever you are, you have to speak.’” A mountain of memories came over her and she joined in the fury.

San-Quintin-Jornalera-Grupo

In her article, The crisis of agricultural workers in Mexico, published in August 2015 by the Autonomous University of Chapingo’s Tzapincomagazine, Rocío Guzmán Benítez includes the testimony of Mónica Rendón Toleda, a farmworker and mother: “Life starts at three in the morning and goes until ten at night. You suffer harassment from the supervisor and your own compañeros. You go home to your work (wash, make dinner, check your children’s homework). The next day it’s the same.” An exploitation that spreads and positions itself over everything: gender and labor.

Bonifacio Martínez had said: “The general supervisors or foremen see a good-looking lady and tell her that if she wants to work she has to go out with them. Those are the terms. And there are compañeras who prefer not to work, not to eat, in order to avoid those bastards.”

Gloria Gracida, unhurried by the tears covering her brown face, doesn’t want to end the interview without saying: “We know that the struggle has just begun. Now comes direct confrontation with the owners. We’re here, we’re strong, we are many, we’re united and that is the message that we have to share; it’s not easy work, but we can do it.”

IV. OFFICIAL NOTES; UNFINISHED BUSINESS

On March 12, 2016, the Senate’s Belisario Domínguez Institute (IBD) published the report Agricultural workers. One year after the San Quintín Rebellion. The official document situates farmworkers as a priority during the defining of the country’s Constitution a century ago. The Magna Carta, in article 123, established labor rights:

“a work day of eight hours, the banning of labor of children under 12 years (and limited hours for those under 16), one day of rest for every six of work, adequate wages, equal pay for equal work, limitation of overtime to three hours a day at pay that is twice that of normal hours; responsibility of the employers for work accidents and illnesses, the right to unionization and training, obligation of employers to provide decent housing with rent that does not to exceed .5% of its assessed value, as well as the obligation to provide infirmaries, schools and other necessary services.”

The demands of the farmworkers in the San Quintín Valley – says the document – is, in short, the fulfillment of their rights enshrined in the 1917 Constitution. The report says that, “The farmworkers have precarious working conditions compared to other employed persons in the country in regards to access to healthcare, wages and type of employment. These conditions place the agricultural workers and their families among the poorest and most exploited in the country; they lack the most basic labor rights as established by the law.”

And it concludes: “A social policy focused on rights instead of pure welfare policy should concentrate its actions on the development of institutional capacities to achieve the rule of law, not only in the case of agricultural workers but in the entire agricultural sector; in particular it should strengthen labor oversight, guaranteeing adequate conditions for the effort (among them a sufficient number of supervisors), their specialization by sector and the legal power to review contracts, work hours, wages and other rights, as well as the ability to impose fines and sanctions for noncompliance, as promoted by the International Labor Organization (ILO) since 1969.”

San-Quintin-Jornalera-Mano-Fresa-Trabajo

V. A VALLEY ON EDGE

Seen from the sky, the San Quintín Valley extends to the western edge of a turbulent country. A brown and barren plain bathed by the ocean breeze, more than three thousand kilometers from Mexico City. Flying over it, capricious and green geometric shapes like soccer fields will appear here and there in the valley. Fields on which the life and future of more than eighty thousand farmworkers from the deep south is debated.

Today San Quintín is the spearhead of unbridled rage, but one that seeks organization and direction in the form of an independent union. The memory of entire generations of indigenous whose rights have been forgotten speaks in San Quintín.

The strawberry harvest was approaching and thousands of farmworkers were preparing to shut down the Transpeninsular Highway on March 17, 2015. There was no turning back. Two years earlier, a slogan had spread like a dust cloud throughout all of San Quintín Valley: fair wages. And between the rows, there where celery, squash, greens, chile, beet, cucumber, tomato, strawberry, blackberry and raspberry are planted to be sent to the other side of the border, there was already talk of a “crazy idea.”

AN EVALUATION OF THE MOVEMENT

BOYCOTT DRISCOLL’S

According to Lorenzo Rodríguez, the union general secretary: Driscoll’s Berries is the most powerful transnational in the region.

In the U.S., there is a growing movement calling for a boycott of Driscoll’s Berries, with 41 committees active in several cities. This is a joint effort between Familias Unidas por la Justicia (FUJ) in Washington State and the Independent National Democratic Union of Agricultural Workers in San Quintín.

boycott-driscolls_8_1-2-16-1200x900

santacruzautumnsun3

 

In March and April 2016, FUJ organized a West Coast tour of the U.S. to spread the word about the boycott. The exploitation of workers by Driscoll’s Berries and its associated companies extends beyond the San Quintín Valley.

For more information about the Driscoll’s boycott, visit: boycottsakumaberries.com.

San-Quintin-Jornalera

Ecuador – Interview with Manuela Picq: “The Left Stopped Being Right”

Ecuador   Entrevista a Manuela Picq   La izquierda termino siendo derecha

By Semana 56
Translated by Joseph Keady (jbkeady@gmail.com)

Manuela Picq has not stopped supporting social movement struggles. Last week she was in Guatemala during the hearings on the criminalization of indigenous Mayan people. Her partner, Ecuarunari leader Carlos Pérez Guartambel, was also there. It has been very difficult for her to see him since August 21, 2015, when the Ecuadoran government accused her of unauthorized political activities due to her migrant status, forcing her to leave the country.

“The government revoked my visa in August 2015 and then rejected my Mercosur visa without any justification. Now they say they won’t recognize by family relationship with Carlos so they can suspend our application for a family refuge visa. The Foreign Ministry refuses to recognize our union under the indigenous justice system, claiming that we have to register it with the state Registry Office. Denying a union established under indigenous law is a way of denying the plurinationality of the state.” Under the circumstances, she has not ruled out turning to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the next few months.

Ms. Picq, a journalist, professor, and social activist, agreed to answer a few questions that semana56.com sent her via email concerning the criminalization of social protest.

Why has social protest become a problem in the countries identified with socialism of the twenty-first century?

The problem is that the left stopped being right: we expect violence and censorship from military governments, we expect neoliberal policies from right-wing governments, but we don’t expect that from left-wing governments that were democratically elected through social movements’ struggles. We expected structural changes, a new kind of state, but what we got was an intensification of the extractivist model.

Left-wing governments in Latin America do not support the social movements’ critical outlook and protests. Some of them ignore the social movements’ demands, as in Brazil, while others criminalize them, like in the Bolivarian states. But none of the “New Left” governments were able to maintain a reflective, self-critical perspective or listen to their bases.

Part of the problem is a matter of form: socialism of the twenty-first century wanted to maintain the appearance of legitimacy at all costs and in the process it silenced dissent, particularly from the left. It could not accept being the object of popular protests and accused the popular movements of being “right wing”. As far as their content, the left-wing governments in Latin America continued financing their states by exporting raw materials and today they are more dependent than they were ten years ago. In other words, they intensified the capitalist model of exploitation (of the land) and defended it to finance their social redistribution policies.

But the people know that extractive exploitation of their land will not bring social justice. The left doesn’t want to hear that critique. In fact, it has tried to silence anti-extractivism throughout the region. The question now is where are we going and what are the political alternatives. Some people are talking about reinventing the left, others about dropping the left-right paradigm because it is no longer sufficient. In short, the question is how to think about other forms of political authority, like reclaiming democracy.

How have fear, persecution, trials, and even assassinations in organized communities and groups factored into all this? Are they also paralyzing the rest of civil society?

That’s what I call “lawfare” or legal warfare. Governments use the full weight of the state judicial apparatus against activists through endless trials without due process in which the justice system is used against citizens to limit their civil and political rights. Instead of torturing them, now they criminalize them. It’s a soft form of state violence and it has the effect of deterring social protest. The murder of Berta Cáceres was a message to everyone who participates in protests: we have impunity to kill anyone who talks too tough, so shut your mouth. We are not going to tolerate criticism. That’s the message.

Is the rest of society complicit by not making enough noise or demands as social protest is criminalized?

I see the silence in the rest of society as a combination of various factors: disinformation, disinterest, and fear. Disinformation is inevitable given the censorship and the state’s media monopoly. The disinterest is a consequence of the lack of information. And fear is understandable when the government puts the police and the military in the streets to suppress—sometimes brutally—peaceful social protest.

I’ll give you an example: I don’t believe that Ecuadoran society is any more in favor of oil extraction in the Yasuní rainforests than the social movements are. What I do think is that part of our society is uninformed about the real implications and the cost (with no benefit) of that extraction, the extent of the corruption around the use of petro-resources, or the scale of Ecuador’s debt to China. I also think a lot of people are concerned about this for five minutes when they hear about it on the news, but they don’t have the time, interest, or courage to go into the streets regularly for the Yasuní.

Under these circumstances, are social movements being undermined? How is its protection and development ensured and where does that come from?

Social movements are weak given the censorship, criminalization, and repression. Decreto 16[1] and the Ley de Communicación[2] badly undermined them. And at the same time, social protest is stronger because there is a common enemy, because every sector of society is affected by the loss of democracy. 2015 will go down in the history books as a year of strong social protest from indigenous peoples, doctors, students, ecologists, women, teachers… The government brutally repressed the protests in August 2015 precisely because they were unprecedented in the recent political history of the country.

For example, look at the failed meeting between representatives of the right wing and the indigenous movement in February 2016. To me it’s a historical fact that the banking interests are looking for an alliance with the indigenous people and campesinos in the Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas del Ecuador (CONAIE).[3] The indigenous grass roots said no to the discussion in part because it was a government assembly to set internal agendas and they were not consulted. Probably also because the indigenous movement and the banks have historically pursued opposing economic agendas and they don’t want to be co-opted just for an electoral process.

Maybe there will be other forums for discussion and maybe not. The point is that the movements were weakened on one hand and gained ground on the other.

What combination of interests would it take for social protest to put an end to assassinations like that of Berta Cáceres in Honduras or of other people in other countries? How do we fight against that?

It isn’t just states that want to silence people like Berta Cáceres. It’s also Chinese and North American multinationals. In fact, a lot of governments are just agents for the interests of the multinational mining and petroleum companies.

Is freedom of movement a real problem in the region or is it a matter of isolated cases, like yours, which prevents you from returning to Ecuador?

My case is unusual in that my arrest and deportation were clearly acts of political vengeance and persecution because of my work and my relationship with Carlos. At the same time, my case is a common one. In the first place, that’s because other foreigners were deported from Ecuador before me, also as a form of political retaliation, when the government arbitrarily closed the offices of the Fundación Pachamama. In the second place, it’s because all the people deprived of their freedom in the Hotel Carrión[4] were also victims of political persecution. Maybe not for the same reasons, not for a political stance allied with the indigenous movement, but dozens of people from countries like Argentina and Haiti had been arrested without due process, silenced, and criminalized for being foreigners.

How are you able to continue supporting CONAIE and social movements from Brazil?

Social movements are a way of telling the state that it does not have impunity or absolute authority. They are a way of demanding accountability, of telling the government that we are watching. As a political position, this implies a certain conception of politics. It’s a way of relating to the state with accountability—what indigenous people call “leading by obeying”. Leaders sometimes forget that they act as representatives of the people. Social movements exist to make them remember and they do so transnationally.

I support the Ecuadoran indigenous movements because they are an essential democratic force despite their contradictions, despite the fact that they still have a long way to go in terms of gender, and despite the fact that I don’t always agree with their positions.

Being far away from Ecuador, I can’t join in the marches anymore, but I can use this as an opportunity to draw attention to what is happening in Ecuador in other contexts. In February I testified before the European Parliament on the criminalization of human rights defenders. I spoke with a lot of people on that trip. I talked to indigenous people from Guatemala and Chiapas and told them about the criminalization in Ecuador as a way to break down the myth of a left wing savior. In June I’m going to the UN in Geneva to present a report on the violation of civil and political rights in Ecuador. That will be the outcome of a collaboration among women from social movements like Ecuarunari, CONAIE, and the Frente Popular.

Will you stay in Brazil until you can return to Ecuador?

Brazil is my home base, but right now I’m working as something of a nomad between conferences and field research. I had hoped to return to the Universidad San Francisco de Quito in August, but given that the government is still denying my visa, I’ve decided to take a permanent position again as an associate professor of political science at Amherst College in Massachusetts starting in September.

What are you working on now?

I’m doing a little of everything, from acting in movies on Kilimanjaro to gardening with friends. My main activity is still writing academic papers and doing research. I’m writing journalistic articles for Intercontinental Cry, which is dedicated exclusively to indigenous news from around the world. I mainly deal with rights and territories of the Mayan peoples in Guatemala. I am also collaborating on various research projects about self-determination, sexualities, and academic activism. While I was in jail, I got a lot of support from the international academic community, including from the organization Scholars at Risk and now I’m reciprocating by helping to expand support networks for academics who are at risk due to their ideas and their research.

Source: http://www.semana56.com/manuela-picq-la-izquierda-termino-derecha, via http://periodicoellibertario.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/ecuador-entrevista-manuela-picq-la.html

 

[1] “Executive Decree No. 16 … created the National Secretary of Politics Management, which is now the authority responsible for regulating the fulfillment of the objectives and activities of social and civic organizations. The Decree was used to hamper [civil society organization] activities on December 4, 2013, when the government dissolved Foundation Pachamama on the grounds that it was not ‘fulfilling its objectives’ and that it was ‘acting like a political party that affects the internal security of the state as well as public peace.’” (Source: International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, NGO Law Monitor: Ecuador. Retrieved June 10, 2016.)

[2] While Ecuador’s 2013 Communications Law has broken up corporate media monopolies in the country, it has also been used to “muzzle journalists critical of the administration.” (Sources: Committee to Protect Journalists, “Cartoonist sanctioned under Ecuador’s communications law,” February 3, 2014. Retrieved June 10, 2016; IFEX, “Ecuador’s Communications Law: 1 year later, 4 reasons why there’s little to celebrate,” June 25, 2014. Retrieved June 10, 2016.)

[3] The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador is the largest indigenous organization in the country. (Source: CONAIE website. Retrieved June 10, 2016.)

[4] Hotel Carrión is a detention center in Quito, Ecuador, where immigrants are held pending deportation. (Source: Front Line Defenders, “Case History: Manuela Picq”. August 26, 2015. Retrieved: June 11, 2016.

The thirst for the sea: lack of water and new extractivist markets

Shuaibah IWPP Saudi Arabia

El Pilpilén Negro N°04 – Mayo 2016

Several decades ago the idea came along through state institutions that we would soon be submerged into a water crisis, arguing that the growing population and climate change were solely responsible for the lack of water. Through this official diagnosis by the State and means of communication, certain fundamental questions arise in which it is necessary to stop and understand the reality of the situation, starting from the ingrained notion: is there a lack of water? Unfortunately, we manifest that we are on a crucial stage of humanity that is facing severe difficulties to obtain this vital element- access to water is already impossible for some people. Farmers, indigenous communities and citizens of all over the world have already witnessed the lack of water in wells, rivers or sources of pure water, and have been forced to leave their crops, homes and  lifestyles. In many cities of the planet restrictions have already been imposed by the authorities that entail the decrease of domestic consumption of water, in many cases even punishing those who disobey these regulations, arguing that “we”, the masses, are responsible for this “lack” of water and we will also be the ones that will suffer the consequences.

It is also true that no type of strict water restrictions have been imposed on large productive transnational industries, which consume a huge quantity of water for their constant production, particularly those in livestock and mining industries (among many others). Despite this hypocrisy these industries haven’t had to reduce a single drop of water during this drought context, as a matter of fact it is quite the opposite: Everyday they demand and waste more water. According to the statistics from the own General Water Association, “For the year 2012, it was estimated that the consumption of water was 142 Mm3. In the short term this consumption would increase to 154 Mm3 in 2017 and at an even larger stage in the long term”.

Therefore, it is contradictory to assume that we find ourselves in a water crisis when industrial activity intends to continue functioning at the same pace by increasing its millions of Mm3 annual water consumption. Didn’t the means of communication constantly blame us for this problem and force us to reduce our own water consumption? Wasn’t it recently in 2015 when the government launched their campaign “Take care of water”? This was a campaign which restricted our domestic water consumption (60 litres for showering, 12litres to wash our hands…). These contradictions can only be exposed by understanding the context of economic extractivism in which were are submerged: the processes of extraction of raw materials demand a constant supply of water determined by the necessities and demand of the global market– where the only goal is to achieve infinite growth without considering the consequences that it entails on the planet or local territories where these “resources” are currently being extracted. This is highlighted by University professor Luís Enrique Granados, who stated that “In our capitalistic world there is not enough water for infinite growth”

This growing demand for water by the global industry, despite the consequences that it entails for the common population, has led to a new political and transnational class to promote “new markets for water”, along with the privatisation of water infrastructure, inciting major financial institutions to invest in “these initiatives”.  In this context many countries have installed seawater desalination plants, arguing that they are “a strategic solution for the lack of water”. Currently 17.000 desalination plants exist in the world, mainly in Saudi Arabia, USA and Spain, where it has been promoted as an efficient technique, including “ecological”, creating the dangerous idea that “the sea is an endless source of material, capable of limitless supply, regardless of it rains or not”.

The desalination of seawater consists in the extraction of “sweet water”. Through tubes placed on the beaches and rivers, seawater is pumped into the plants. Once there, the water is then submitted to a treatment where all solid remains are separated and chemicals are added to “clean it”. In the particular case of Chile, which nowadays hosts the largest mega-projects of mining extraction, they are contemplating the installation of desalination plants, which would supposedly help construction and operation processes, along with “giving water to the population”. A particular example of this can be observed in La Higuera and the mining project of Dominga that they intend to install here. Through the information released by their promotional videos (youtube.com Conoce Dominga: Agua de Mar) the desalination plant “will allow the mines to operate 100% with seawater in all its processes and gives a part of the water to the people living in La Higuera”. He then continues: “this way Dominga pretends to double the availability of water for human consumption”.

The attached video mentions protection measures for the safeguarding of the sea, “the temperature of the sea won’t change thanks to our technology”, what technology are they referring to? This is not explained. Several pieces of evidence point out the devastating impact registered in the coasts provoked by desalination plants. The residual water from the desalinization process have a much higher quantity of salt than any original seawater, different temperatures and contain toxic chemical elements used in the process of purification.

Through these studies it has been established that the fauna, especially sessiles like oysters, corals and several types of seaweed suffer the biggest impact from this industrial process because as opposed to fish, these creatures can’t swim or move. Similarly, many other species are forced to “adapt” to these changes and salt increases. However these processes of adaption require major efforts of their energy to stay alive, as they suffer from a reduction of metabolic processes like photosynthesis, reproduction, etc. Other than the factors mentioned beforehand, desalination plants can also damage their tissues, causing their death. Therefore, there are overwhelming consequences for the fauna of all the coasts of the planet.

Similarly, the discharges of brine from the desalination plants produce and contribute to the modification and structure of the community and a decrease in fauna diversity. They also weaken and decrease the quantity of molluscs and crustaceans, which are replaced by certain species of annelids (worms).

It is also important to expose the impact and consequences of the use of desalinated water in human consumption, especially in crop irrigations. According to the studies, the ground and crops are eventually damaged after a few years due to the high sodium content in the water. Vegetables and many types of fruits are especially sensitive to sodium, thus decreasing the quantity and quality of food products for human consumption.

The impact of desalination plants can’t be reduced to the effects that they have only upon the living creatures of the sea. An installation of this type has already created a wide array of problems that many people have decided to turn a blind eye on. In certain countries like Israel, where desalination plants were installed a decade ago, the effects have been particularly noticeable: one of the most horrifying ones being the necessity to start decontaminating seawater other than just desalinating it, as the brine discharge has contaminated the same coasts were the water is collected in the first place. Essentially, they are removing the salt and consuming the same dirty water that they have leaked.

It should be noted that in this global economy, the production of water during the desalinization process transforms a natural resource which we consider a public good into a commercial product that requires investment and profits from investors…other than producing water for private companies these transnational groups are formed by actionists or bosses that do not belong to the locality and who are capable of bribing and corrupting local governments if their profits aren’t satisfactory.

One of the most alarming effects is that these desalinating plants are connected to other industrial initiatives –in the Chilean case mining projects-, thus motivating transnationals to finance even more projects. It this sense, it is fundamental to understand that desalination plants are merely another tool inside the large extractivist machinery.

Translated by Pietro Casati