From Haiti to Bolivia to Peru, foreign mining operations are encountering resistance from both people and governments throughout the region, explain Roger Annis and Kim Ives.
July 31, 2012
(extracts from http://socialistworker.org/2012/07/31/latin-americas-open-veins
PEOPLE AND governments across Latin America are rising up against foreign mining companies in a wave of revolt that is generating alarm among investors and their political operatives in the imperialist governments.
In Haiti, U.S. and Canadian gold-mining companies are rubbing their hands over the riches that they believe await them. A recent study by Haiti Grassroots Watch estimates up to $20 billion, at gold's current price of $1,600 an ounce, lies in the ground.
So it's no coincidence that Washington has used its proxy, the Organization of American States (OAS), to illegally install a compliant regime--that of President Michel Martelly--whose operative watchword is: "Haiti is open for business." Washington and Ottawa, which represent most of the international mining firms in the Americas, are adopting an increasingly interventionist response throughout the continent.
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The CBC host of the program sounded like a public relations spokesperson for the company. In an accompanying interview, he hectored Bolivia's ambassador to the U.S., asking if South American Silver would be compensated. He also expressed offense at Evo Morales' statements accusing foreign mining companies of "looting" Latin America's wealth for generations.
EVIDENTLY, THE radio host has not read The Open Veins of Latin America, Eduardo Galeano's classic history of the continent. Galeano describes how Latin America became "a huge mine." The book details the unbelievable human toll and suffering and the environmental destruction perpetrated over the centuries starting with Spanish conquistadors until today's European and North American mining companies.
"The metals taken from the new colonial dominions not only stimulated Europe's economic development; one may say that they made it possible," Galeano writes. The book is appropriately subtitled, "Five centuries of the pillage of a continent."
The Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada estimates there are 20 Canadian mining companies operating in Bolivia.
A recent series of articles translated from Spanish into French and published by the Belgium-based Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt (CADTM) examines the role of the British-Australian aluminum-mining giant Rio Tinto in the parliamentary coup d'etat against Paraguay's President Fernando Lugo on June 22.
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IN FEBRUARY 2004, Washington and Ottawa worked with Paris to carry out a coup d'etat against the elected and socially progressive government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. As Wikileaked diplomatic cables released last year by HaÃ¯ti LibertÃ© showed, those three governments worked hard to keep Aristide in exile in South Africa for seven long years.
During his triumphant return to Haiti on March 18, 2011, Aristide gave a speech to the nation at the airport.
"To honor [Haiti's founding father] Jean-Jacques Dessalines, we come to bring you our little bit of help," Aristide said in his metaphor-laden KreyÃ²l. "With the little ball of education centered in the court of dignity, we will kick exclusion off the field, and this way, the new generation will begin to benefit from the wealth that slumbers deep within Haiti: gold, copper, uranium, bauxite, silver...The calcium carbonate to be found in MiragoÃ¢ne is valued at more than U.S. $23 billion. The petroleum reserves are no doubt larger than estimated."
This thinly veiled nationalist message is precisely why U.S. and Canadian governments backed Aristide's ouster and maintain the ensuing UN military occupation of Haiti to this day. In his place, Washington and Ottawa have placed Martelly's "open for business" regime.
Newmont Mining is partnered with Canadian Eurasian Minerals in seeking to open gold mining operations in Haiti's three northern departments. The Haiti Grassroots Watch (HGW) study, "Gold rush in Haiti: Who will get rich?" published in May, examines how Haitian law has already been circumvented by the gold-mining companies as they forge ahead with exploration.
HGW co-director Jane Regan spoke to Democracy Now! on June 1 about the study. Among its findings are
--Haiti's former Minister of the Economy and Finances is now a paid consultant for Newmont.
--Two Haitian ministers recently signed a "memorandum of understanding" with Newmont and Eurasian that says--in violation of Haitian law--the companies can begin drilling at one of their exploration sites. Haitian legislation states no drilling can occur without a mining convention.
--Nobody appears to be telling the communities in Haiti's north what is going on and what deals have been made behind closed doors.
--Haiti has the lowest mining royalties (production taxes) in the hemisphere.
The UN military occupation of Haiti is what the imperialists hope will ensure that Haiti's mineral wealth can again be plundered like in the days of the conquistadors.
Eduardo Galeano spoke last September at an event at Uruguay's National Library discussing Haiti's current plight and its place in Latin America. "The military occupation of Haiti is costing the UN more than $800 million yearly,
" he said. "If the United Nations dedicated those funds to technical cooperation and social solidarity, Haiti could receive a good boost to its creative energy. Then they would be saved from their armed saviors who have a certain tendency to violate, kill and deliver fatal illnesses
"Haiti doesn't need anyone to come and multiply its misfortunes
," Galeano concluded. "But Haiti does need solidarity, doctors, schools, hospitals, and a true collaboration that makes possible the rebirth of its alimentary sovereignty, killed by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other philanthropic societies
If the transnational mining companies get their way in Haiti, that will surely "multiply its misfortunes."