From Socialist Voice, December 2010


Latin American news

Salvadoran anti-mining activists kidnapped

Anti-mining activists in El Salvador were kidnapped and robbed last month while on their way to a meeting with the Guatemalan government to discuss the threat to shared water supplies. The activists were members of the Centre for Investigations into Investment and Commerce (CEICOM). They were en route to Guatemala City to discuss the threat to water supplies shared by both countries as a result of a proposed gold mine by the Canadian corporation Goldcorp Inc. The activists had all their computers and documents taken and were left at an abandoned farm.
     This is only the the latest in a long campaign of intimidation carried out by Goldcorp and its allies against anti-mining activists. On 30 July this year CEICOM activists were also kidnapped in the same area while on their way to Guatemala. CEICOM has demanded a government investigation into the continuing intimidation.
     The proposed mine is the Cerro Blanco mine in the south-eastern Guatemalan department of Jutiapa, near the municipality of Asunción Mita and close to the border with El Salvador. This mine was approved by the hated former right-wing president of Guatemala, Oscar Berger, who always knelt down in front of transnationals and their interests.
     Goldcorp’s mining activities in Guatemala and elsewhere in Latin America have been the subject of numerous protests by environmental and civil society organisations. Activists in both countries are extremely concerned about the massive risk posed to the shared Lake Guija, as well as to a number of rivers.
     CEICOM and local residents are demanding that the mine be shut down, because of the irreparable damage it will cause to water supplies, soil, animals, plants and human settlements in the surrounding areas. The main threat posed by the mine is to the Lempa River. This river is of huge importance to many people in El Salvador. It supplies more than 3 million people, supporting their activities in agriculture and livestock.
     David Pereira, an activist with CEICOM described the problems: “Toxic waste water from the mine will be discharged into the Ostua river in Guatemala, and will flow into the 45 square kilometres of Lake Guija, and on into the Lempa river, the main river basin in El Salvador.”
     The Salvadoran Catholic Church has also expressed its concern about the mine, and asked El Salvador’s left-wing president, Mauricio Funes, to intervene.
     The assault on the members of CEICOM is likely to increase Salvadoran concerns about this proposed mine in neighbouring Guatemala and any potential threats to El Salvador’s most important watershed. Anti-mining groups in El Salvador are already planning their next round of actions.

Continuation of murder of peasants in Honduras

The hated Honduran capitalist and all-round parasite, thief and low-life Miguel Facusse has stepped up his campaign of murder and intimidation against peasants and workers. Socialist Voice has previously reported the actions of this particularly disgusting thug, who holds massive influence in the corridors of power in Tegucigalpa among the rich and powerful of Honduras.
     On Monday 15 November, in the area of Tunbador in Trujillo on Honduras’s Caribbean coast, five members of the Campesino Movement of Aguan (MCA) were brutally murdered in the early hours of the morning. The murders were connected to a continuing dispute regarding the ownership of land in the area. These lands belong to the MCA, as it legally bought them and holds the deeds. However, as always, Facusse is attempting to usurp the lands, without any legal basis for doing so. He has been attempting to drive the peasants from the land and to take control of it.
     Facusse is receiving support for his actions from the usual suspects in the police and the military. In a statement, the Campesino Movement of Aguan stated: “We condemn the brutal and savage attack which made victims of our compañeros from MCA, located in the municipality of Trujillo, where five innocent people were killed by assassins and hired killers working for Miguel Facusse in collaboration with members of the police and military, who were trained in anticipation of such bloody acts.”
     The MCA has long accused the police and military of supporting Facusse, and it stressed this point again in its statement. “We condemn the attitude of the police and military, because though they already have information about the armed groups of the businessmen Miguel Facusse, René Morales and Reynaldo Canales, don’t act but instead protect them and provide them with their vehicles, fatigues, and heavy-calibre weapons (M-16, M-60) to carry out their massacres. This confirms to us that the army doesn’t defend the interests of the people but instead defends the powerful groups in the country.”
     The MCA finished its statement with the words “We assert that due to this massacre they won’t stop the struggle and that our people will not continue to be subjugated to slavery.”

Bolivia’s state-run lithium industry

One of Bolivia’s most important natural resources is lithium. Bolivia has lithium reserves estimated to be close to 100,000 million tonnes, or 70 per cent of the world total. It is believed that the value of the reserves could be more than $1.8 trillion and that Bolivia could supply the world’s lithium needs for the next five thousand years.
     Lithium is the world’s lightest metal and is widely used in ceramics, glass, lubricants, pharmaceuticals, and batteries for portable devices. It is believed that world demand for lithium could triple within the next ten years, as a result of the emerging market for battery-powered cars.
     President Evo Morales is breaking with the Latin American norm regarding its natural resources. Usually, North American and European transnationals exploit these resources and move the profits out of the country, ensuring that the people gain nothing from their own country’s wealth. However, Morales is ensuring that there is sate control over the lithium industry and that the profits will stay within Bolivia. The Bolivian government has committed $900 million to developing a state-run lithium industry, according to the Strategic Plan for Lithium Industrialisation, which was unveiled by Morales on 21 October. According to the plan, Bolivia will extract and process lithium for commercial use on its own, and will be able to finance the entire chain of production by 2014.
     At the unveiling of the plan Morales said: “With these reserves Bolivia can guarantee a worldwide shift towards cleaner, more ecological and non-contaminating forms of energy at fair, non-speculative non-monopoly price.”
     President Morales has already begun the process. Bolivian scientists recently developed complex technology for processing lithium carbonate and potassium chloride for export in limited quantities. The state mining company, Bolivian Mining Corporation, has patented this technology, again to ensure that the Bolivian people reap the rewards of their scientists’ work and not the powerful and wealthy in Canada or the United States. The Bolivian government invested $17 million in this phase; $485 million is to be invested in 2013 for the development of large industrial and chemical plants. An additional $400 million will then be invested the following year for the commencement of full-scale of production.
     While the future for lithium production looks very promising, the short-term prospects for the sale of processed primary materials are immediate. Both Brazil and Venezuela want Bolivia’s potassium chloride for fertiliser. A Paraguayan company that makes batteries for electric buses is interested in Bolivia’s lithium carbonate. The prospects for marketing lithium carbonate to Japan, South Korea and China have improved with Bolivia’s recent gaining of access to the Peruvian port of Ilo, which cuts the distance to Asian export markets by some 40 per cent.
     While some critics have opposed Morales’s plans, accusing him of potentially causing an environmental wasteland, they have ignored the fact that the Bolivian government has put aside significant funds for developing industrial waste management systems and other measures to reduce the environmental impact. They are determined not to repeat the horrific actions of foreign mining companies that have destroyed communities as a result of lack of care and respect for the local environment.
     When we look at the investment of the Bolivian government in its natural resources and its people it makes one realise just how inept, weak, useless and incompetent is the Government that we have here in Ireland. The Leinster House Government has given away vast oil and gas resources that lie off the coast of Co. Mayo to transnationals, meaning that the Irish people will gain nothing from this wealth that belongs to the people of Ireland.
     With a small bit of planning, President Evo Morales is perhaps securing the economic future of his nation and his people. The lack of forward thinking by the Irish Government has ensured that we, and our children and grandchildren, will be destined to generations of economic slavery. Bolivia shows the potential that exists when a strong government takes ownership of its nation’s wealth and refuses to sell it to the bidder with the biggest bribes.

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