26 Aug 2008

Notes on Peru struggle from Ian Angus

this is an intro to the Hugo Blanco piece below from Ian Angus in Canada via Socialist Voice, joys of globalisation this is all cooperation from those of us in London, Weston-Super-Mare, Canada and Cusco!

Don't forget the joint Green Left/Bolivarian Embassy of Venezuela rally on the latin american green process next thursday 4th September at Bolivar Hall, Grafton Street.

Hugo Blanco on the
Indigenous Struggle in Amazonia

Introduction, by Ian Angus

On August 22, Indigenous people in the Amazon rain forest areas of Peru celebrated a victory in their struggle against laws that promote privatization of communally owned land.

Last October, the country's right-wing president, Alan García, outraged Indigenous communities by saying their refusal to permit exploitation of timber, oil and minerals on their lands was a result of "taboo, laziness, indolence or the law of the gardener's dog that says: `If I don't do it, no one can.'" Garcia continued:

"In addition to real peasant communities, there are artificial communities that have title to 200 thousand hectares but farm only 10 thousand hectares, leaving the rest idle, while the people, who live in extreme poverty, look to the state for help."

"The anti-capitalist communist of the 19th Century, who disguised himself as a protectionist in the 20th Century, has in the 21st Century adopted the cloak of environmentalism. But always anti-capitalist, anti-investment…"[1]

García's neoliberal goal is elimination of Indigenous communal property rights in the Amazon basin, releasing this environmentally sensitive area for development of timber, oil and minerals with an estimated value of 3.5 billion dollars.

Under Peru's 1979 Constitution, communally-owned land could not be sold. That clause was removed by the notorious Fujimori government in 1993; the only remaining legal protection was a law that requires a two-thirds vote of the community involved before land could be sold or leased. This year, García took a further step towards privatization, reducing the requirement to a simple majority vote. He made the change unilaterally, using powers granted to him by Congress to implement the recently-signed free trade agreement with the United States.

On August 9, the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, some 700 members of the Aguaruna Indigenous community occupied an oil pumping station in the Peruvian Amazon region, demanding repeal of the new laws and restoration of the provisions of the 1979 constitution. Similar occupations, road blockades, and strikes quickly spread across the forest regions of Peru, involving some 12,000 people in 63 communities.

There were clashes between police and protestors in a number of areas, including the city of Bagua Chica, where urban dwellers joined with Indigenous forces to expel the police from the town. On August 18, García declared a state of emergency, suspending civil liberties, banning public meetings in three provinces, and sending in 1,500 armed soldiers.

García refused to negotiate with the protestors, but growing popular outrage forced members of Congress to intervene. On Friday, August 22, the Congress voted 66 to 29 to disallow García's decrees. It remains to be seen whether the repeal will hold, since under the constitution García can send the law back to Congress with revisions, and he still has emergency powers. Nevertheless, news reports say that there has been widespread celebration in the forest areas.

The following statement was distributed in Peru by supporters of the newspaper Lucha Indígena (Indigenous Struggle) , shortly before the Congress vote. It was written by Hugo Blanco, the legendary peasant leader in the mountainous Cuzco region. For more information about Blanco and the Indigenous movement in South and Central America, see the links at the end of the article.

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Translation Note: In this article, Hugo Blanco uses the phrase "Buen Vivir," which translates literally as "Living Well" but implies much more. A central concept in the Andes Indigenous world vision, it has been defined by Bolivian president Evo Morales as "Thinking not only in terms of income per capita but of cultural identity, community, and harmony among ourselves and with our Mother Earth."

Rosalia Paiva, the Quechua liberation activist and author who suggested this quotation from Morales, adds the following information:

"Our brother Hugo, in writing of Buen Vivir, is referring to Sumak Kausay or Allin Kausay. This was a central element in the lives of our Inca ancestors. Allin Kausay means to live in harmony with yourself, with the natural world, and with society. Allin means `splendid,' Kausay means `life,' or, better, `existence.' Allin Kausay is composed of a diversity of factors including knowledge, ethical and spiritual codes of conduct, the relationship with the environment, human values, and the vision of the future. In this sense, it is a category that is in constant development in the life of Andean/Amazonian peoples. For more on this, go to http://mamapacha.org/allinkausay.html."

1 comment:

Greg said...

I stumbled on your article after reading about the Zimbabwe collapse and how the white farmers fled to Mozambique. I was surprised that they would chance it in a refugee camp instead of heading back to Europe.

Did you know instead the former Marxist state Mozambique rolled out the red carpet for these farmers? They were given 50 year leases (private "ownership" of land is still outlawed) of 2470 acre plots of land for 500 euros a year. So the white farmers made nice with the local tribal elders and within a few years were better off than they were back in Zimbabwe.

Meanwhile the poor native Zimbabwe farm workers that can't come along starve. One white farmer could not even get any money to his former workers The new settlers are not any better off. They loot the equipment, then split the farms up into 10 smaller chunks. To top it off the government does not give them proper deed/title to the land. Mugabe has no capital for them to get started. Outside financiers won't loan money - no reward is worth 100% risk.

Things are looking good for Mozambique "Our people used to go to Zimbabwe to buy food. Now, it's the Zimbabweans who come to buy food here."

But why? How could paying the whites to farm land work out better than paying the locals? How could a bunch of white farmers make such an impact so quickly? They must have cheated?

The clue to the answer lies in the article linked above. The white farmers are not smarter or stronger - they are just really good farmers. They have been perfecting the art for some time. They are also good managers - a little too good which gets them into hot water for working the locals too hard - they expect and are accustomed to taking time off when they please.

However, thousands of new jobs and some fresh milk gains their forgiveness: "These farmers don't know Mozambican laws very well, and our mission is to advise them, not to punish them," the union activist explained recently. "Skin color is not an issue for us. We certainly don't want them to close down and leave."

Mr. Macamba, the local tribal chief, says he is pleased with the changes brought by the newcomers. "Before, we were suffering," he says. "Now we can buy salt, food, clothes and everything. The crime is down, too. Our people come back from work so tired that they don't have the time to go steal and rob."

THEY COME BACK TOO TIRED, WHICH BRINGS ME TO MY POINT:

It took importing people with an entrepreneurial spirit who are motivated by the promise of a reward and a vastly better life for their families to muster the skills and willpower to turn things around. Surprise, surprise, it worked - it always works. That's because people with such spirit cannot help themselves. They never rest. No matter how much success, they keep advancing. Who knows why, I have my theories, it just is.

Now if you place these people in a system that no longer allows them to "get ahead", what happens? Well, two options: a. "White flight" and/or b. Economic inertia

In 50 years I can see how with the aid of improved computer AI, some sort of central planned economy will exceed the ability of the capitalist free market eliminate class struggle, make us all rich, and save the planet.

In the meantime, I believe you are helping to steer many people back down the totalitarian trail - because right now the clear socialist alternative to the USA's leadership is something like Venezuela - SADLY, A COUNTRY HEADED FOR ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL DISASTER

You advocate an alternative to free market capitalism, but the viability of the alternative (to me) is unclear - please help me understand how you solve the "incentive" problem.

Greg from USA