“Law of Mother Earth” set to pass in Bolivia: Will President Morales’ indigenous values save the economy?
Posted 22 May 2011, by Three Sonorans, Tucson Citizen, tucsoncitizen.com
Bolivia is a very important country in South America, historically, politically, and for the future.
The popular and indigenous President Evo Morales has brought in a series of reforms that some US Economists hate, but that his people love, which has led to a better standard of living for the poor. Now Morales is set to pass the historic “Law of Mother Earth.”
With the cooperation of politicians and grassroots organizations, Bolivia is set to pass the Law of Mother Earth, which will grant nature the same rights and protections as humans. The piece of legislation, called la Ley de Derechos de la Madre Tierra, is intended to encourage a radical shift in conservation attitudes and actions, to enforce new control measures on industry, and to reduce environmental destruction.
The law redefines natural resources as blessings and confers the same rights to nature as to human beings, including: the right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered. Perhaps the most controversial point is the right “to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities”.
In late 2005 Bolivia elected its first indigenous president, Evo Morales. Morales is an outspoken champion for environmental protection, petitioning for substantive change within his country and at the United Nations. Bolivia, one of South America’s poorest countries, has long had to contend with the consequences of destructive industrial practices and climate change, but despite the best efforts of Morales and members of his administration, their concerns have largely been ignored at the UN.
A decade ago Bolivia was the poorest country in South America, and Bolivia is the country where Che Guevara was captured and killed.
The “Chicago boys” from the Milton Friedman school of capitalism were unleashed up South America, using countries as a live lab for their economics experiments that affected the poorest of the poor drastically.
Bolivia was one such country and its response to this attack by American economists may be a model for other countries.
To begin with, a whole volume of books can be written about the next statement I will make, but put simply, what Americans believe about their economic system is mostly delusional. People who love their police and fire departments, schools, libraries, and roads and bridges and clean water in their tap, along with government programs such as Medicare are sometimes the first to bash “socialism” without realizing they are directly benefiting from “socialist” government programs.
The top employers in Tucson, Arizona are all “socialist”, with the University of Arizona, State of Arizona, Pima County, and City of Tucson making up 4 of the 5 top employers. The top employer is Raytheon, which gets most of its money from the US Government, unless private citizens in Tucson are going up to the Raytheon shopping line and buying Patriot missiles. Even private construction firms get paid by the government to build roads and bridges and schools, etc.
Americans also fail to factor in the very real advantage that slavery has on the economy. With zero labor costs, its not necessary capitalism but slavery impacting the economy, and with exploitation of labor overseas in sweatshops and locally with immigrant labor, and the extraction of natural resources from other countries using the US Military as the security firm to protect these corporations (such as from oil) as they do so, with the permission of the US puppet put into office to run that country… let’s just say it’s the “invisible hand of the market” seems to be worn by Big Brother in the United States.
Back to Bolivia
Pretending that the riches the United States has comes solely from capitalism, the US decided to try some disastrous economic experiments in South America using the World Bank as its main tool.
The World Bank is the Payday Loans of the Third-World. At least Arizona, even under Jan Brewer and Russell Pearce, got rid of the predatory loan targeting the poor.
What would the World Bank do? They would lend money to the poorest of the poor with certain requirements (usually privatization of some natural resource) that would always allow the country to be further exploited by multinational corporations.
In Bolivia, the resource that was privatized was water. Rather than view water as a right of all people, a public good, water was privatized and was now owned by Aguas de Tunari, which was owned by a company you may have heard of, the Bechtel Corporation of San Francisco.
As soon as the water was privatized, the cost of water doubled.
Cochabamba is a town of 800,000 situated high in the Andes Mountains of Bolivia. Two years ago, a popular protest there turned into a deadly riot. The army battled civilians in the streets on and off for three months, hundreds were arrested, a seventeen year-old boy was shot and killed, the government of Bolivia nearly collapsed. The issue was water.
The spark was privatization. A private consortium, dominated by the Bechtel Corporation of San Francisco, had taken over Cochabamba’s water system and raised water rates. Protestors blamed Bechtel for trying to “lease the rain.”
New Yorker writer William Finnegan traveled to Cochabamba to learn about the water war and to see what lessons could be drawn about privatization, globalization and the growing anger in Latin America over economic inequality.
Bolivia is the poorest country in South America. 70% of its people live below the poverty line. Nearly one child in ten dies before the age of five. The Bolivian economy, never strong, was wrecked by hyperinflation in the 1980s.
Desperate for relief, Bolivia has been faithfully following the dictates of the international lending community for the past fifteen years — selling its airline, railroads, mines and electric company to private — usually foreign-controlled — companies. The economic shock therapy tamed inflation but led to severe recession and massive unemployment.
via Frontline – PBS.
What made this even more egregious was that peasants could not even collect rainwater. ALL the water in Bolivia was now privately owned, and the cost of it just doubled, now costing the average person a quarter of their monthly income. The Frontline – PBS excerpt I linked to above has some video news stories during this time.
The people in Bolivia finally had enough, and in 2005 elected the Aymara-descended indigenous President Evo Morales.
The socialist President brought in many needed reforms. Bolivia actually has many natural resources, and need not be the poorest country in South America. But when the country sells it all to an American company to exploit, then the people on that land are left behind in poverty.
President Morales is now using many of Bolivia’s natural resources to benefit the people first, not multinational corporations that are already rich enough.
Now the Native American President has put Mother Earth in her proper place, the source of all life, and our life, viewed not just as resources to be exploited, mined, a polluted, but as (from above):
as blessings and confers the same rights to nature as to human beings, including: the right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered. Perhaps the most controversial point is the right “to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities
Trees have a right to live also, and deforestation should not take place just so a few people can become billionaires. Mountains which are homes to millions of lifeforms, trees, bugs, insects, birds, etc, should not be blown up just so that we can get a few of the shiny rocks inside.
Protecting the wilderness is not a wild idea, but the best idea.
Yes, the economy suffers as consumerism drops, but then again, pretty soon it is going to drop anyways once the oil runs dry and clean water no longer available to many in desert communities (such as Phoenix, Tucson, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas). Even desalination will be nearly impossible due to the super-high energy costs.
Indigenous communities in the United States
There are many Third World communities in the United States also, and many are right here in Arizona.
The Navajo reservation is one of them, and it is being exploited like Bolivia was, and every single person living in surrounding states, from El Paso to Los Angeles, are all guilty of this exploitation that takes place to this very day.
The Navajo reservation is a prime example of environmental racism, and even Democrats are guilty of this in Arizona, such as former “blue dog” Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick who represented the Navajo Nation until 2011, who favors mining over what Native Americans have to say, including siding with Resolution Copper over the San Carlos Apache, White Mountain Apache, Hopi, Hualapai, Yavapai Apache, Camp Verde, and Tonto Apache Tribes.
There are many highly-coveted natural resources to be found near the Four Corners area all the way to the beginning of the Grand Canyon and including top tourist spots such as Monument Valley (the famous formations Ford filmed in his westerns were once uranium mines).
Coal-powered electrical generating plants, such as the one that powers Tucson from the Irvington/Alvernon/I-10 plant get coal from Peabody Coal, which comes from the Navajo Nation.
Not only do we get coal from the Navajo Nation to burn here in Tucson, we also benefit from the electricity that is generated up north with coal that is mined from nearby. Among the coal plants you will find on the Navajo Nation are the dirtiest and top carbon-oxide emitters in the entire country, from the Four Corners Plant to the Navajo Generating Station.
The pollution is so bad that sometimes a haze covers the Grand Canyon and can burn the eyes of the tourist.
Not only is there lots and lots of coal, but there is lots of uranium to be found there, and the home of the largest nuclear power plant in the United States is the Palo Verde Nuclear Plant outside of Phoenix. It is also the only nuclear power plant not near a body of water in our country, but instead uses 20,000,000,000 gallons of water a year from groundwater and other scarce sources of Phoenix water.
All the water that comes to Tucson via the Central Arizona Project (CAP) which pumps water uphill over 300 miles from the Colorado River near Parker, AZ to Avra Valley west of Tucson is powered by the Navajo Generating Station.
Just as egregious as in Bolivia, the water supply in Northern Arizona has been tapped into by the mining companies and is being sucked dry, and to add insult to injury, many homes on the Navajo reservation have zero power running to them, even with huge power lines running nearby.
Cassandra Begay knows what it’s like to be without power. Her home is just 1 1/2 miles away from Arizona Highway 264 where electric transmissions lines hang so near, yet so far away.
Another five families live in the area – all without electricity.
“We use kerosene lamps at night, and then some of us that can afford it, we have generators for electricity,” Begay said.
For heat, the family uses wood-burning stove. For cooking, the family uses propane. For refrigeration, Begay puts the food outside when it’s cold.
“Other than that, I go out daily and get some meat. Just like right now, we went out and got some meat, and we have to cook the whole thing today,” she said pointing to two packages of beef on the kitchen table.
Without electricity, the family can’t pump water, either, assuming they had water to pump.
Asked whether she would like to have electricity, Begay said, “Oh, that would be wonderful.”
Imagine not having a refrigerator in Arizona. Imagine there being no place to charge up your laptop, your iPhone, no internet, no lights, and in the summer, no air-conditioning. How would you feel if everyone was getting energy from the land you live on, siphoning away natural resources while you live in poverty?
As bad as things were in places like Bolivia with water privatization, things are just as bad even here in Arizona, and it is the same cycle of oppression, of the exploitation of indigenous peoples that continues to this day, and we are all a part of it.
And it is not just the Navajo, but even Tucson’s Santa Rita mountains have already been sold to a Canadian mining company which will profit from the Rosemont Copper mine as Tucson’s economy falls and in a few years we will be left with an environmental disaster, less water, and not even a scenic site to enjoy anymore south of town.
Sometimes those that exploit end up getting exploited themselves, and the cycle continues.