[News] Capitalism’s Bullets in Latin America

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jun 13 10:49:03 EDT 2014


Weekend Edition June 13-15, 2014
http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/06/13/capitalisms-bullets-in-latin-america/


*Invisible Empires, State Power and 21st Century Colonialism*


  Capitalism’s Bullets in Latin America

by BENJAMIN DANGL

The notorious US private militia group Academi – previously known as 
Blackwater – trained Brazilian security forces in North Carolina in 
preparation for the current World Cup in Brazil, as reported 
<http://www.thenation.com/blog/179541/why-blackwater-helping-train-brazils-world-cup-security> by 
sportswriter Dave Zirin. Zirin pointed to the 2009 diplomatic cable 
<http://wikileaks.ch/cable/2009/12/09BRASILIA1383.html> released by 
Wikileaks, which revealed that Washington viewed the expected World 
Cup-related crises as opportunities for US involvement. Zirin wrote that 
for Washington, “Brazil’s misery created room for opportunism.”

Capitalism’s bullets follow the World Cup just as they do Free Trade 
Agreements (FTAs) signed with the US. Five years ago this month, 
protests were raging in northern Peru where thousands of indigenous 
Awajun and Wambis men, women and children were blockading roads against 
oil, logging and gas exploitation on Amazonian land. The Peruvian 
government, having just signed an FTA with the US, was unsure how to 
deal with the protests – partly because the controversial concessions in 
the Amazon were granted to meet the FTA requirements 
<http://amazonwatch.org/news/2014/0609-state-department-cables-published-on-wikileaks-reveal-us-role-in-bagua-massacre>. 
According to a diplomatic cable 
<https://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/06/09LIMA777.html> released by 
Wikileaks, on June 1st, 2009 the US State Department sent a message to 
the US Embassy in Lima: “Should Congress and [Peruvian] President Garcia 
give in to the [protesters’] pressure, there would be implications for 
the recently implemented Peru-US Free Trade Agreement.” Four days later, 
the Peruvian government responded to the protest with deadly violence, 
leading to a conflict which left 32 dead.

The US is infamous for its imperial history in the region. But 
Washington isn’t the only empire in its backyard. Global and local 
forces of capitalism, imperialism and modern-day colonialism are at work 
across Latin America, from soccer stadiums to copper mines.

China has outpaced the US 
<http://fpif.org/china-trades-latin-america/> as the primary trading 
partner with the region’s richest countries; most of its business is in 
the area of natural resource extraction. And for many nations in the 
southern cone, Brazil – now a world superpower outpacing Britain as the 
6th largest economy – is an imperial force, utilizing much of the 
region’s natural wealth, land and hydroelectric power to fuel its 
booming industries and population.

Capitalism has many faces and allies, and they’re not just based in the 
global north or within these economic giants. As sociologist William 
Robinson writes 
<https://nacla.org/article/latin-america-new-global-capitalism>, “The 
new face of global capitalism in Latin America is driven as much by 
local capitalist classes that have sought integration into the ranks of 
the transnational capitalist class as by transnational corporate and 
financial capital.” From Mexico to Argentina, this local capitalist 
class has created some 70 globally-competitive transnational conglomerates.

Friends of empire and capital are found at the heights of power among 
Latin America’s political leaders. While the US has spied on Latin 
America 
<http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/07/19/us-spying-and-resistance-in-latin-america/> for 
years, as recently made clear by Edward Snowden’s leaks, Chile’s 
Michelle Bachelet administration asked for the US government’s help 
<http://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2010/12/13/actualidad/1292194821_850215.html> in 
spying on Mapuche indigenous leaders defending land rights during her 
first term in office. While the US supported the coup against Fernando 
Lugo 
<http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/07/2012724104721484209.html> of 
Paraguay in 2012, before he was pushed out of office, Lugo himself 
called for a state of emergency 
<http://fpif.org/a_state_of_emergency_in_paraguay/>in the countryside to 
expand repression of /campesino/ activists fighting soy company 
incursions on their land.

For many indigenous communities in Latin America, the state, often in 
alliance with transnational corporations, maintains a colonialist 
worldview into the 21st century, particularly in the area of natural 
resource extraction in mining, oil and gas industries. As Professor 
Manuela Picq of the Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador writes 
<http://www.e-ir.info/2014/05/21/self-determination-as-anti-extractivism-how-indigenous-resistance-challenges-ir/>, 
“The unilateral expropriation of land for mining today is a continuation 
of the Doctrine of Discovery. It conceptualized the New World as terra 
nullis, authorizing colonial powers to conquer and exploit land in the 
Americas. […] Today, the idea of ‘empty’ lands survives in extractivist 
practices.”

Indeed, mining concessions have been granted on 80% of Colombia’s 
legally-recognized indigenous territories, and 407,000 square kilometers 
of Amazon-based mining areas are on indigenous land 
<http://www.theguardian.com/environment/andes-to-the-amazon/2014/may/06/more-400-dams-amazon-headwaters>. 
As a part of this region-wide extractivist land grab, Picq explains 
<http://www.e-ir.info/2014/05/21/self-determination-as-anti-extractivism-how-indigenous-resistance-challenges-ir/> that 
200 activists were killed in Peru between 2006 and 2011, 200 people were 
criminalized in Ecuador for protesting the privatization of natural 
resources, and 11 anti-extractivist activists have been murdered in 
Argentina since 2010.

The mining industry is also typically devastating for the environment, 
whether it’s run by the state or the private sector. Picq points out 
that Guatemala’s Marlin mine, owned by the Canadian company Goldcorp, 
utilizes in just one hour the same amount of water a local family uses 
over the span of 22 years, and the mining industry in Chile – where the 
state owns the largest copper producing company in the world – utilizes 
37% of the nation’s electricity.

Capitalism, empire and 21st century colonialism come from afar and 
descend on their victims in Latin America. But these forces are also in 
the tear gas canisters that Brazil’s security forces use at the World 
Cup, in the state that extracts natural resources on indigenous 
territory, and in the free trade deals signed in blood.

/*Benjamin Dangl’s* latest book Dancing with Dynamite: Social Movements 
and States in Latin America 
<http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1849350159/counterpunchmaga> (AK 
Press) is on contemporary Latin American social movements and their 
relationships with the region’s new leftist governments. He is editor of 
TowardFreedom.com, a progressive perspective on world events, and 
UpsideDownWorld.org, a website on activism and politics in Latin 
America. Email BenDangl(at)gmail(dot)com./

-- 
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