Hello Mitchell, and SftP comrades,
I agree with many points in this article, but they
illustrate why it is very wrong to see the political direction of
governments in Latin America as anything really worth being called
"socialist", especially the "Bolviarian" regime in Venezuela.
They are all entirely capitalist, totally within the framework of
capitalist economics, although sometimes they follow
state-capitalist practices, but these are in no way socialist at
all. We have to be very careful with our terminology here,
otherwise tremendous confusion is promoted and the last thing that
the revolutionary movements today need is confusion.
On 11/26/2012 11:01 AM, Mitchel Cohen
[log in to unmask]"
Latin America’s Left Turn Collides with Indigenous Movements
Written by Nyki Salinas-Duda
Monday, 19 November 2012 14:57
[log in to unmask]" alt="TIPNIS
marchers in Bolivia. Photo: La Razon" height="226" width="338">
TIPNIS marchers in Bolivia. Photo: La Razon
For a viable model of "21st century socialism," many
progressives look to Latin America's Leftward surge. But swept up
continent's "pink tide" are questions of indigenous land and
resource rights, which often clash with state development
From Venezuela to Bolivia to Chile, indigenous communities are
that they have been betrayed by the populist presidents they
Ben Dangl, author of Dancing with Dynamite: Social Movements
States in Latin America, notes that the tension between
social movements and pink tide politicians stems from these
reliance on resource extraction to generate income. He told In
Times via e-mail:
For many of Latin America's new leftist governments, the logic of
state-run extractive industry consistently runs against the
rights of respecting the environment and indigenous autonomy. This
contradiction has played itself out in many cases across the
mining in Venezuela [under President Hugo Chavez], to oil
Ecuador [under left-of-center President Rafael Correa].
The grandiose rhetoric of Latin American populism often fails
communities who don't see themselves as part of a national
as movements ratchet up struggles against environmental and
destruction, they must confront a narrative of economic
progress and, often, face
The Isiboro S?ure National Park and Indigenous Territory (TIPNIS)
protected reserve over 10,000 indigenous people call home. Its
waters and breathtaking green vistas reign over a swath of
Bolivia, home to Latin America's first indigenous
But after sweeping into office and taking the extraordinary
bestowing rights on "Mother Earth," Evo Morales has made a
surprising about-face by contracting the Brazilian firm OAS to
182-mile highway straight through the heart of TIPNIS. Heavily
by indigenous movements, the road was approved last month. But
its future remains indefinite.
Carwil Bjork-James, a PhD candidate studying Bolivian social
City University of New York, says that the indigenous movements
Morales into office are increasingly disillusioned by the
contradiction that Morales has come to embody. Though he has
repeatedly for greater consultation with indigenous movements,
has also deployed the power of the state to repress them.
consultation process, officials have pushed an either/or solution
indigenous residents: either the highway project will be
the zone will be declared what Bjork-James calls an intangible
zone. If TIPNIS is declared as such, other activities that
revenue for residents - like sustainable logging and ecotourism -
disallowed, leaving inhabitants with even more limited options for
In 2011, when indigenous protestors took to the streets in
the highway, organizing slow pilgrimage-like marches through the
they relied on their "moral credibility as the original
of the country," Bjork-James says, to garner support.
But the Morales administration soon took to the offensive.
Bjork-James, high-ranking members of the government accused
activists of acting at the behest of USAID. "The government and
movement separated," he says. "It has reached a crisis point
around the TIPNIS controversy and the events that led to that
By 2011, a TIPNIS march was met
outright repression when police tried to "arrest an entire
march. [They] arrested hundreds of people. High-ranking indigenous
leaders were severely beaten, some hospitalized. Some of the
were in there were indigenous members of Parliament, and they were
arrested," Bjork-James added.
The Morales government went one step further when the President
on television during the TIPNIS march to repeat the USAID
claimed the activists were secretly rightwing. "The indigenous who
oppose the road are being confused," Morales
adding that they cannot truly be his indigenous brothers.
That moment permanently fractured the movement's ties to the
But shortly after the outburst, Morales put the planned road on
in October 2011 and
in April of this year due to construction delays.
Then in early October, Morales signed a contract
the first stretch of the trans-TIPNIS highway. The
government-community consultations are now in their finals days.
though the feasibility of the project relies heavily on the
dialogues, Morales has said the highway is only "in pause"
mode, leaving little doubt that the government expects the
process to end in its favor.
Bjork-James says indigenous movements have vowed to fight the
"to the death."
In Chile, indigenous Mapuche can claim a lengthy history of
stretching back into the pre-Columbian period. Mapuche territory
the Bio-Bio River was the last bit of the coastal country to be
incorporated into the state, not becoming governable in any
sense until the late in the 1800s. Since that time, the Mapuche
embroiled in land struggles with both corporations and the Chilean
In an effort to recoup their lands from successive presidential
administrations, the Mapuche have resorted to increasingly radical
tactics such as reoccupying lands and sabotaging corporate
Former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, a pink tide politician
was herself detained under the Pinochet dictatorship, used a
dictatorship-era anti-terrorist law to repress Mapuche activists.
extends the definition of terrorism to include property violence,
for civilian cases to be tried in military courts and permits the
anonymous witnesses by prosecutors.
In the Mapuche context, the far-reaching law can be used to
activists to lengthy sentence for an array of crimes that wouldn't
normally be considered "terrorism," from torching corporate
crops planted on their lands to
On October 8, current Chilean president Sebasti? Pi?ra signed an
executive order establishing an Indigenous Development Area
(IDA) defined as
"territorial areas where state agencies will focus action in favor
of the harmonious development of indigenous people and their
communities" in the town
Erskine. Thirty-seven Mapuche communities have accepted the order,
five are refusing to participate in the new scheme. Nine Mapuche
activists are being detained for attempted murder, illegal
firearms and other charges that their supporters say are
Jorge Huenchullán, spokesman, for the Temucuicui community, told
Down World that the government is trying to paper
this issue. He added that the IDAs are:
Part of the administration's strategy to cover up the real
which is the complete recovery of the lands demanded by the
and to cover up a series of violent abuses and deny the protests
are staging here in Ercilla's Mapuche communities. We Mapuche are
looking for handouts for our people, so we reject the ADI. It does
apply to us.
Dangl told In These Times that he sees a radical potential
indigenous demands. Andean indigenous movements, he explained,
proposed "buen vivir," or "living well," as a
solution to crisis. "The concept is roughly translated into a
respect for this rights of Mother Nature, an idea of social
which isn't based on greed, the depletion or national resources
pollution of the environment," Dangl says. The idea is supported
the policies, if not the actions, of national governments in
heavily-indigenous Ecuador and Bolivia.
"Here is a case where a vision, history and politics of certain
indigenous movements," Dangl says, "could have an impact on
regional and even international debates around how we overcome
and move toward a more just and sustainable world."
Nyki is a contributing editor with the Public Media Institute,
2012 editorial intern with In These Times and a freelance
holds a BA in Latin American history from the University of San
Francisco, where she edited Divisadero, a journal of Latin
that still can ring, Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack, a crack in everything, That's how the light
~ Leonard Cohen