Colonial Latin America (Louis)
lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Jun 11 18:48:22 MDT 2001
>In net terms, colonialism was a bleeding process. It was plunder. But
>colonialism proper is pretty much gone. The dominant type of economic
>relationship in today's world market is trade, both of commodities ('goods
>and services') and financial assets (which includes capital exports). It is
>not altruism or cooperation. It is capitalist commerce. It entails the
>exploitation of workers by capitalists the capitalist way. But it doesn't
>entail consistent or systematic plunder of one country against another.
The Houston Chronicle, December 15, 1996, Sunday, 2 STAR Edition
Ecuador's toxic new world; Thousands of peasant farmers, lured to a vast
rain forest by oil, settle into sickness, poverty and discontent
BY DUDLEY ALTHAUS; Staff
SHUSHUFINDI, Ecuador - This rain forest promised a fresh start, says Angel
Ordonez, a chance to make good on everything that went so bad in the high,
dry land where he was born.
Here in Ecuador's Amazon Basin, Ordonez, and thousands more like him, were
going to make a new world for themselves. Oil had opened up the once
impenetrable region. The settlers were going to fill the void.
Land was for the taking. Draining out of the high Andes along roads cut
into the green vastness by the oil companies, the settlers dreamed of
subduing the land, forcing it to produce, making themselves rich in the
It hasn't happened.
The rain forest and the indigenous people who once roamed it have been
decimated in three decades of oil production and colonization. So far, what
has replaced them has fallen far short of many newcomers' expectations.
Today, most of the several hundred thousand colonists who marched into
Ecuador's Oriente, as the Amazon region is known, scratch a meager living
from an increasingly depleted soil.
Deforestation has brought the settlers drought and erosion.
Lack of government planning and the distance to markets for their products
have bankrupted many.
Across the Oriente, spilled crude oil and toxic wastes have tainted streams
and rivers. Gas flares and raging fires in open pits foul the air. Deep
pools of black crude, full of production chemicals and heavy metals, brood
alongside every oil well.
Petroleum revenues have become essential to Ecuador's nearly 12 million
people, padding the government's budget and paying its international
creditors. But here in the Oriente, the oil-fueled destruction of the
forest has benefited very few.
Farmers like Ordonez and many of his neighbors have been left insolvent,
sick and seething.
"When we arrived, the only hope I saw for us was the land here,'' Ordonez,
61, says as he walks through a small banana grove behind his house, where
toxic runoff from an oil waste pit drains into a small creek. "And now we
are dying because of this place.
"We have worked harder than animals,'' he says. "But it hasn't served for
One of Ordonez's daughters already has died of an illness that he blames on
oil pollution. A son is going blind. Ordonez says his hearing has been
damaged by the constant high screech from water being injected into the oil
well that stands not 50 yards from his home.
"We have found death here instead of relief,'' he says.
The plight of the settlers has been ignored until recently because the
world's attention has focused on the destruction of the rain forest and the
fate of the nomadic indigenous people who lived here.
All but a few hundred of the forest Indians have been subdued or swallowed
up by the tide of colonization. Now with the remaining rain forest platted
for future development, what happens to the settlers and to the oil
industry here will largely decide the fate of this fragile and essential
corner of the world.
"The future is really uncertain,'' says Luis Yanza, who heads a coalition
of peasant and indigenous groups that monitor the oil companies' activities
in the region. "They have taken a lot of oil out of the area. But it hasn't
helped those of us who live there. ''
The drama played out in Ecuador's Amazon country echoes across the tropics,
where poor and deeply indebted societies find it necessary to extract and
export their natural resources to the industrial world. In the process,
huge swaths of once pristine lands are being destroyed, legacies sold off.
In many nations, where democracy remains a mirage, international companies
and the powerful ruling elite grab the lion's share of income from oil and
Environmentalists argue that the relatively small amount of oil here - the
nearly 400,000 barrels a day now pumped from Ecuador's rain forest
represents a fraction of the 60 million barrels produced daily worldwide -
cannot justify the destruction that production will cause.
Oil executives here and government officials scoff.
"If we don't produce it, someone else will,'' says Manuel Echeverria, 46,
Occidental Petroleum's manager for community relations in Ecuador.
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