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Protests Against Canadian Mining in Ecuador November 11, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Ecuador.
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Communities Opposed to Mining Demonstrate at Canadian Embassy

Media Release

 

Quito, November 10, 2008  

 This morning representatives of the Indigenous and campesino communities of the north, central and southern regions of Ecuador, along with directors of CONAIE (Ecuadorian Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities), made a peaceful approach to the Canadian Embassy in Quito in order to deliver a manifesto in which they expressed their opposition to Canadian mining industry plans to implement large scale mining operations on Indigenous and campesino lands in the country.

Among others, the manifesto expressed:

  • That Ecuador has for 35 years suffered major environmental social and economic damage from oil exploitation.
  • Their concerns about the Ecuadorian government’s desire to attract investment in mining, demonstrated by its unprecedented haste to pass new mining legislation that would give mining companies the “the right to contaminate” and to ignore fundamental principles and precepts contained in Ecuador’s new constitution and in international treaties.
  • An accusation against the representative of the Canadian government for misleading Canadian public opinion with respect to the violation of Human Rights by Canadian mining companies, such as the case of Ascendant Copper (now “Mesa Copper Corporation”) in Intag, Corriente Resourses (ECSA) in the Condor Cordillera, and IAM Gold in Azuay Province.
  • In light of this, the Indigenous and campesino towns and communities located in areas where mining concessions are granted will be organizing in defence of their lands.

The demonstration was festive and joyful given the financial crisis that the mining industry is suffering.  This will limit financial capacity to invest, and once again demonstrates that the extraction economic model is unsustainable environmentally, socially and economically.

Signed:

CONAIE, Coordinadora Zonal de Intag, CODECONO, FRESMIGE, Acción Ecológica, CECONDEM, Coordinadora del Jubones (Azuay), Juntas de Agua de Jerusalem (Bolivar), Frente de Defensa por La vida del Cañar

Translation: Roger Hollander

Ecuador Overwhelmingly Adopts Progressive Constitution September 29, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in About Ecuador, Ecuador, Latin America.
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Roger Hollander/September 29, 2008

 

In voting to approve a new progressive and nationalistic constitution, the vast majority of Ecuadorians have again scored a major victory against the traditional right and the capitalist “owners” of the country.

 

Last year an unprecedented 81% of Ecuadorians had voted to create a Constituent Assembly with a mandate to propose a new Magna Carta for the country, and then gave the supporters of President Rafael Correa a healthy majority in the Assembly.  Now, in a referendum held ysterday, September 28, by an overwhelming margin of nearly three to one, the people of Ecuador voted to adopt the new constitution.

 

The new constitution provides for the protection of the nation’s natural resources (including land and water), creates a pluri-national state in which the rights of women, racial minorities, and Indigenous communities are protected.  It places a major emphasis on human rights; allows for civil union for gays and Lesbians; free health care for seniors, women who are pregnant and nursing, and those with major illness such as cancer and AIDs; and free public education up to the university level.  It prohibits the establishment of foreign military bases within its borders (Correa has already made it clear that the large U.S. airbase in the major port of Manta will be dismantled when the treaty that created it expires in 2009).

 

Although the new constitution was put together in haste and is an unwieldy document of more than 200 pages (and it remains to be seen if the government can generate the financial resources or has the capacity to create the institutional infrastructure to comply with its objectives in a timely manner), its approval by the Ecuadorian masses represents another victory for Rafael Correa, a U.S. educated economist who refers to himself as a “Christian Socialist.”  It provides a base for continued reforms aimed at the various forms of capitalist imperialism that have plagued the country since its inception.  This includes a determination to re-distribute wealth through taxation and subsides, protective tariffs for local industry, and fair labor laws.  The government already has shown a determination to challenge unfair international debt and to expel industries that violate its laws and damage the environment.  Although the government is not without its internal critics, it is by and large supported by all the progressive social movements in the country, along with the Indigenous communities and organized labor.

 

What is perhaps most astonishingly refreshing is to see nearly seven out of every ten Ecuadorians say “Yes” to a constitutional initiative that resoundingly rejects the corrupt traditional political parties of the right, the financial and capitalist industrial sector, the traditional economic oligarchies, and the reactionary hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church.  This in spite of a Rovian type campaign against the constitution that was based upon distortion and fear; raised the spectre of dictatorship, rampant abortion, homosexuality and godlessness; and which had the support of the majority of the media, the Church, the banks, the industrial sector, the political pundits, and the far right Social Christian Party, which has ruled on the Coast of Ecuador for decades (I find it fascinating to ponder why Ecuadorians seem to be more “Rove-proof” than North Americans).

 

This, of course does not mean that the capitalist class and the right are acknowledging defeat.  As with the four separatist provinces in Bolivia, which have brought that country to the brink of civil war through U.S. supported sabotage and right-wing terrorism, Jaime Nebot, Mayor of Guayaquil and leader of the Social Christian Party has threatened to initiate a separatist movement (which is specifically prohibited by the new constitution) and has made it clear that continued resistance to progressive reform will continue with a vengeance.  However, his hand has been weakened significantly by the overwhelming “Yes” vote at the national level, and even a slim plurality over the “No” vote both in Guayaquil and the broader coastal Province of Guayas.

 

All this also does not mean that Correa necessarily understands the law of value and is prepared to lead a frontal attack against capital itself.  He is radically progressive in a nationalist sense, but not a socialist in the Marxist sense.  Nonetheless, he symbolically heads a movement that represents the masses of Ecuadorians who are passionate for fundamental change against the corruption and plundering of the nation’s wealth, which has left a legacy of poverty and hunger.  It is a movement that is not going to rest until a genuine humanistic society replaces that of inherent capitalist exploitation.

 

 

 

 

Ecuador: Unrest Order of the Day August 25, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Ecuador Politics, History, Government, Culture, Ecuador: Unrest Order of the Day.
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(Unfortunately, the letters I wrote during the coup d’etat that ousted Abdalá Bucaram in 1997 have disappeared from my computer.  If they exist, the do so in the computers of some of those to whom they were addressed.  So, my diary accounts of the political machinations I have witnessed over the years begin in early 1999 with protests against the Mahuad government.)

 

Thursday, 18 Mar 1999

 

Not likely that any of the following has made the news in the US or Canada, but what is happening in Ecuador at the moment is quite astonishing.

 

A new government was elected last July, usually described as “center-right” but certainly more right than center.  The president is Jamil Mahuad, former mayor of Quito, whose centrist right Popular Democracy party has aligned itself with the extreme right Social Democrats to control the Congress along with the Presidency.

 

The government has had a serious budget problem for a variety of reasons, including the crippling external debt, the devastations from El Niño, the drop in oil prices, and the inability to collect taxes and customs duties due to endemic corruption that exists up to the highest levels.

 

The government’s first actions were strong and unpopular.  It withdrew subsidies such that the cost of domestic gas, electricity, telephone service, and water doubled and tripled.  The cost of gasoline also rose sharply which caused inflation to rise above 40%, the highest in all Latin America.  In a bizarre move, it replaced income tax with a “capital circulation” tax of 1%, which means that whenever one makes a bank transaction, the bank collects 1% for the government.

 

All of the above caused popular dissent, and protests began.

 

Then about twp weeks ago, the government ordered the Central Bank to withdraw its support of the currency (the sucre) and let it “float” on the open money market.  This caused a rash of speculation and the value of the sucre dropped dramatically (it had been about 7500 to the US dollar, and went as much as 19,000 before it settled to around 12,000).  This amounts to a devaluation of about 60%.

 

Labour unions and popular organizations then called a two day general strike nationwide for March 10 and 11, which virtually shut the country down.  Two days before the strike (Monday, the 8th) the government ordered all banks closed, and they have been closed ever since.  They are expected to re-open on Monday the 15th (I am writing this on Sunday the 14th, but since we have no telephone service at the time in Playas, I have no idea when I will be able to send it).  On Thursday night (the 11th), the President went on television and dropped the following bombshell:

 

1) gasoline prices will immediately rise by nearly 300 %!!!!!!!!!!  A gallon cost about 2500 sucres when I arrived in Ecuador four years ago (a little more than one U.S. dollar).  When this government took power it was up to about 6000, and they jacked it up to about 8500.  When I put gas in my car yesterday, I paid more than 23,000 sucres a gallon.

 

2) bank accounts above 5 million sucres will be frozen for a year (with a formula to withdraw a percentage during the year).  People with term deposits will only be able to withdraw interest during this year.

 

3) already embarrassing levels of government services will be cut further, causing further disaster to an already pathetic system of education and health (at the moment teachers are on hunger strike because they haven’t been paid in three months).

 

This past week has been chaotic.  If you had money in the bank but no bank machine card, you were out of luck; there was no way to access your accounts.  Here in Playas, where I arrived yesterday (from Guayaquil), the weekend tourism flow, in this the height of the season, is down by about 75%.  People either have no money or cannot afford the gas to get here.

 

Imagine the inflationary spiral that will be set in motion with a nearly 300% increase in gasoline; fares for busses, taxis, inner-city transport; and then just about anything you buy has to be transported from somewhere.  When the currency got devalued, prices shot up by up to 50% overnight, people who have debts in US dollars have their debt increased by 60%, and the cost of importing products from the US will go up by that amount as well.  But the debt will be paid, the budget nearly balanced, and the IMF and World Bank will be happy.

 

The only problem is that the average family will have just about enough spending power to afford a breakfast of plantain fried in oil every morning and nothing more for the other two meals, housing, clothing, etc.

 

The nation is in a state of stunned silence.  Once this wears off, I have no idea what will happen next.

 

Just thought you all would be interested in the dramatic and nearly unbelievable happenings in this otherwise wonderful country.

 

Love,

Roger

 

Tuesday, March 16

 

Still no telephone service, so I have been unable to send the above.  Here is an up to the minute update:

 

There is a popular uprising across all of Ecuador.  Virtually every popular organization is participating in an effort to oust the government if it doesn’t rescind its draconian measures.  Taxis have immobilized traffic flow in every major city.  400,000 Indigenous Ecuadorians and campesinos are blocking inner-city transportation.  This in addition to hunger strikes, marches, demonstrations, and looting of food stores (here in Playas on Saturday the outdoor market and some of the food shops were sacked).  The

government claims it has the support of the military and the US, which, if true, may evaporate rapidly as things escalate.  It appears that there is developing in Congress the will to overturn the measures, with Mahuad’s Popular Democracy Party being totally isolated, even abandoned by its major ally, the rightist Social Democrats.  Another nationwide general strike has been called for today.

 

(The Mahuad government somehow managed to stumble along until the following January.  During this period some major banks whose highest officials had been making large uncollectible loans to phony entities they themselves had set up, collapsed; and thousands of Ecuadorians who had their savings in these banks had them wiped out.  Said bank officials have fled to the U.S. and Europe.  As we will see, Mahuad’s walls of Jericho came tumbling down early in 2000.)

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