control of water
The US National Intelligence Council (NIC) has issued a new report, "Global Trends 2030: Potential Worlds," that emphasizes the rise of China and the risk of catastrophic climate change. An Associated Press summary Dec. 10 says the report finds global terrorism will recede along with the US military footprint in Iraq and Afghanistan, but cyber-attacks will be a growing concern. "The spectacular rise of Asian economies is dramatically altering...US influence," said NIC chairman Christopher Kojm. While the report sees the potential for US-China cooperation on global security, it also warns of resource struggles leading to instability. Under the heading "Stalled Engines," in the "most plausible worst-case scenario, the risks of interstate conflict increase," the report said. "The US draws inward and globalization stalls." The section "Black Swans" foresees extraordinary events that can change the course of history—such as a severe pandemic that could kill millions in a matter of months, or more rapid climate change. The report is optimistic, however, on the prospects for US energy independence. "With shale gas, the US will have sufficient natural gas to meet domestic needs and generate potential global exports for decades to come," it predicts.
Peru's government is seeking to restart talks with opponents of the $5 billion Minas Conga copper and gold mining project in the northern region of Cajamarca, Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar Vidal Nov. 14. Pulgar Vidal said in a TV interview that Catholic priests Miguel Cabrejos and Gastón Garatea will resturn to dialogue, and called upon Cajamarca's regional president Gregorio Santos, to participate. "He has to be there," Pulgar Vidal said when asked if Santos, a harsh opponent of the project, would join the talks. As Pulgar Vidal spoke, campesino mine opponents from Cajamarca and their local supporters were maintaining a plantón (open-ended protest vigil) in front of the Lima offices of Newmont Mining, the US company that is the major investor in the Conga project.
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega announced Dec. 3 that his nation's ships are already exercising sovereignty over resource-rich Caribbean waters claimed by Colombia but granted to the Central American nation by the World Court last week. "At midnight on Sunday [Dec. 2] our ships sailed, they sailed to the recovered area, and by now they have established sovereignty in that whole territory," Ortega said in a message on television and radio. (Reuters, Nov. 26) The ships actually appear to be fishing boats, as Nicaragua has virtually no naval forces—while Colombia has dispatched warships into the disputed waters. Nicaraguan fishing boat captains told the English-language Nicaragua Dispatch that they are "fishing with fear" in the disputed waters beyond the 82nd meridian. "We are doing our part to support the government," said Carlos Javier Goff, president of the Copescharley fishing company out of Puerto Cabezas. "We feel protected by the government and by the international community and, God willing, this won't go to extremes… it won't get beyond words and intimidation."
Work on Brazil's controversial $13 billion Belo Monte hydro-dam has been at a halt since Nov. 11, when workers torched buildings at three work sites of the Monte Belo Construction Consortium (CCBM), hired by parastatal Norte Energia to build the massive complex. The violence broke out after CCBM proposed a seven percent wage hike to the workers in an area where the inflation rate is at 30%. In addition to labor undest, CCBM has also faced physical obstruction by local indigenous peoples. On Oct. 9 a group of protesters—150 natives and local fishermen—interrupted construction, accusing Norte Energia of backtracking on accords signed in June when indigenous people occupied the dam site for three weeks. (AFP, Nov. 13; Xingo Vivo, Nov. 11) A local court halted construction of the project Aug. 14, finding that indigenous inhabitants had not been consulted, but Brazil's Supreme Federal Tribunal ordered construction to resume two weeks later, citing the project's criticality to "the administrative order, the economic order and the Brazilian energy policy." Brazil's Prosecutor General is to meanwhile investigate the question of whether indigenous peoples had been properly consulted. (The Rio Times, Aug. 30)
The Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corporation has had to suspend some of its operations at Pascua Lama—a giant open-pit gold, silver and copper mine being built in the Andes at the border between Argentina and Chile—as a result of an inspection by Chile's National Geology and Mining Service (Sernageomin) on Oct. 24. Sernageomin ordered the suspension on Oct. 31 after its inspectors found unsafe levels of fine particles in the air at the mine; a report blamed "incorrect technical monitoring" of the earth being excavated. Barrick said it suspended the operations voluntarily on Oct. 27. Chilean mining minister Hernán de Solminihac indicated that the suspension may last several weeks. (Radio Universidad de Chile, Nov. 10; Bloomberg News, Nov. 11, via BusinessWeek)
On Nov. 9, the Costa Rica-based Latin American Water Tribunal, an oversight body on environmental justice formed by jurists and specialists from across the hemisphere in 1998, issued a judgment calling on Peru to cancel the controversial Conga mining project in northern Cajamarca region, finding numerous irregularities in its approval. The ruling, issued in a public hearing in Buenos Aires, questioned the objectivity of Peru's Environment Ministry (MINAM) and Naitonal Water Authority (ANA) in the case; condemned the criminalization and repression of social movements in Cajamarca; and called upon Peru to uphold access to water as an internationally recognized human right. (Celendín Libre, GRUFIDES, Nov. 9)
In a sign of community divisions in Peru's northern region of Cajamarca, campesinos from the "influence zone" of the proposed Conga mineral project demonstrated in the regional capital Nov. 1, where they threatened to evict the "Guardians of the Lagunas"—campesinos who oppose the mine, and have established an encampment near the concession bloc to assure that the Yanacocha mining company does not begin work that would impact the zone's highland lakes. "We don't want violence, but they are ursurping our lands and we are reaching an agreement to expel them," said Felipe Palma López, leader of the ronda campesina (peasant self-defense patrol) in the community of Quengorio Alto. Demonstrators accused the Guardians of being "manipulated by politicians."
Local campesinos reported Oct. 26 that thousands of young trout were found dead in the Río Llaucano, in Peru's northern region of Cajamarca, and blame contamination from the ginat Yanacocha gold mine that sits atop the watersahed. The campesinos held a press conference in the town of Bambamarca to announce thier grave fears for the safety of the region's waters. The Llaucano is a tributary of the Marañon, one of the main rivers that drains into the Amazon. The fish were found washed up near the communities of Santa Rosa in Bambamarca province and La Paccha in Chota province. (Servindi, Oct. 26)