POINT COUNTERPOINT* – Of democracy and constitutions and how the indigenous movement changed the nature of political power in Ecuador.

POINT COUNTERPOINT* :Of democracy and constitutions and how the Indigenous movement changed the nature of political power in Ecuador.

February 2000

by Gerard Coffey

On Friday the 21st of January of the year 2000, more than 500 years after the arrival of the Spanish in the “New” World, the Indigenous people of Ecuador held, if ever so briefly, the reins of power in its hands. That they did so by taking over the Congress and the Presidential Palace with the help of sympathetic mid ranking military, and not through the ballot box, has led to some debate over the political nature of the event. Those who finally retained power have charged that it was an unconstitutional and undemocratic action, and that those who occupied Congress on the 21st and subsequently deposed the President, should be charged with sedition and punished, according to the new President, with the full weight of the law.

Unfortunately, while they may be technically correct, their point of view loses much of its weight given that the accession of the new President, Gustavo Noboa, is also unconstitutional, as the previous president, Jamil Mahuad, refused to resign and should therefore according to the supreme law of the land still be the true president. It should be mentioned that there is one point on which both sides agree, constitutional or not, Mahuad will not be back.

Further complicating matters is the fact that Mahuad himself apparently approached the armed forces with the idea of taking control in an unconstitutional “Fujimori” style take over. Of course, when talking of Fujimori it might be worth remembering that his running for the Presidency of Peru for the third time is also ‘unconstitutional’.

So one might be forgiven for asking what exactly is the constitution, and what is or isn’t constitutional or democratic. What was it about the actions of the indigenous movement and its allies that provoked the chorus of cries of unconstitutionality? Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that the winners write the history books, while the losers go home, or to jail. That the provisional “National Salvation Government” which the indigenous people championed, finally had the ground cut out from under it by the Military member, General Mendoza, who resigned under pressure from the United States, is undeniable. That the indigenous people went home the next day, and a new “constitutional” president was proclaimed is also clear. This is apparently what makes the occupation of the Congress and the installation of a new popular government more unconstitutional than other “events” which have been swept aside as irrelevant by a wave of official press coverage.

What is perhaps more relevant is the question of whether we should be debating the constitutionality of this “dark episode”, as is charmingly referred to by the press and others whose morals and judgement have been stunted by self interest, or rather the value of democracies and constitutions which serve only as a guise for the most appalling acts of robbery and corruption. Should we talk therefore of constitutions or should we rather talk of ethics?

If the constitution is a set of rules to which all generally agree to abide in the best interests of the people of the country, but which are evidently, as in the case of Ecuador, unable to control the avarice of the bankers and the corruption of the politicians, how then can these vices be rooted out? What should one do if the very apparatus of rule making and change is controlled by the politicians and bankers who benefit from the status quo. The case of President, ex-president, Jamil Mahuad makes the dilemma extremely clear.

With a campaign financed in the main by one banker, who is in jail waiting some sort of “trial” for withholding taxes and embezzling clients through loans to non-existent companies, one could be pardoned for asking if Mahuad was able to act independently. It is also interesting to note that the ex-president’s campaign also received contributions from companies with state contracts, and that the one huge campaign contribution only came to light because the Banker’s crime was of such a nature that it was politically impossible not to jail the man, who unlike the other robber bankers, was arrogant enough not to flee the country. In a flurry of counter charges the contribution was revealed. Unconstitutional – no. Unethical – most certainly.

Another amusing anecdote also illuminates the problem. In March of 1999, after a bout of bank failures, inflation and devaluation, which at one point took the exchange rate of the national currency from 5,000 Sucres to the dollar to18,000, before “dropping back” to around $10,000, the government declared a banking “holiday”. Banks were closed for three days, after which all accounts were frozen. Some of those accounts, in particular terms deposits, have never been unfrozen, and their owners will now have to wait up to ten years to get their money back. After investigation, one Congressman made it public that members of the Presidential Cabinet and personal circle had, forewarned, taken all their money out of the country. No legal action was ever carried out. Unconstitutional – No. Unethical – absolutely.

Finally it is worth mentioning that in order to save his government, ex President Mahuad was on the verge of making a deal which would have allowed Abdala Bucaram, another deposed President, and one who has a string of corruption charges against him, to return to the country with impunity. No comment.

And so to the dilemma of the indigenous people. What to do when all the cards are stacked against you. When the majority of native people live without basic services, and around 80% of all Ecuadorians, indigenous or not, have an income equivalent to about US$1.50 a day. Constitution or ethics? The choice was, and still is, brutally clear.

Ethics and justice demand that corruption be rooted out, that inequality be levelled and that political and economic structures be changed. The need for dramatic change can hardly be doubted from the overall economic picture. The national currency lost 75% of its purchasing power: it was devalued by 300%, in only one year. Thousands of millions of dollars were spent on bailing out banks while spending on social services was cut to virtually nil. The price of basic foodstuffs increased between 50 and 100% in the week after the unconstitutional “dolarisation” of the economy was announced. And in reality, the country does not have sufficient dollars in order to exchange all Sucres, and therefore had to resort to maintaining term deposits frozen.

That the need for drastic change was supported by the vast majority of the population is made dramatically evident by the fact that after the indigenous people and their allies took over the National Congress and installed a popular parliament, the act was supported by a an overwhelming 70% of the population. And that according to a poll taken in a country where 90% of people cannot pay for telephones with which to answer pollster’s questions.

However, necessary or not, supported or not, ethical or not, the United States intervened to convince the Military member of the Triumvirate which was to clean up and reorient the country that he should resign and thus restore democracy and respect for the constitution. It did so with threats that the country would be isolated and cut off from all support. Turned into another Cuba. On whose behalf did it intervene one might ask ? A political concept? On behalf of the global political/financial/commercial system which it supports and controls ? On behalf of the 80% who can barely feed their families?

And so now things have “returned to normal”: the 20,000 indigenous people who took over the country’s roads and the capital city Quito have gone home; a number of the colonels that bravely supported the indigenous people and their allies in making the necessary changes will be tried by the military courts; arrest warrants have been taken out on the indigenous leader Antonio Vargas; the new government has been formed by the same politicians who have haunted the scene for the past twenty years, and are implicated through their direct or indirect associations with the economic policies, and sheer robbery, which have impoverished millions; the economic policy which was the basis for the uprising is unchanged. And now the trouble with normal is all too easy to see.

It seems almost inconceivable that the new “constitutional” government would simply continue blindly with the policies of the previous President, almost. It seems incredible that it doesn’t seem to matter that by doing so, the anger and resentment within the indigenous population and the lower ranks of the military will be pushed out of sight until the next time, and that the plight of the marginalised 80% of Ecuadorians will be made worse.

There appears to be a certain amount of panic within the political ranks, which for a day saw the control of their domain slip away, and only with the help of the United States and the shameful support of almost all the press, were able to maintain themselves and their system in place. Now that the power of the indigenous people, and the level of support for their ethical vision of government have been made plain, the economic changes that the government is proposing will have to carried out quickly, in time to avoid the next uprising. The panic can also be seen in the fact that instead of negotiating, the government has rushed to issue a warrant for Antonio Vargas, which if executed would almost certainly lead to an even more serious revolt. The feeling that this government is even more unstable than then last is unavoidable.

In the meantime the allies of the “constitution” are raising their voices. The official Catholic Church for example, in the name of Monsignor Mario Ruiz, hypocritically condemned the “Coup” while also stating that there was a social debt to be paid, but was silent on how this debt was to be repaid by present policies, or exactly how the injustice which the official church supposedly opposes, could be changed “constitutionally”.

So where does all this leave us? With an indigenous movement strengthened by the realisation of its own power; with an armed forces whose actions were ethical but which have been condemned; with an economy in ruins, and a political class desperate to finish the job of neoliberlising the state.

John Maynard Keynes once pointed out that in the long run we are all dead, but Keynes didn’t live in the Andes and his western view of economics never envisaged the tenacity with which the indigenous people have held onto their culture and economy during a long night that has lasted five hundred years. The fact that this time the native people were ultimately deprived of their opportunity to transform a corrupt and oligarchic country is, in the long run, unlikely to matter. The native people have stated that they are open to dialogue, but that the dialogue will need to be about fundamental change. If these fundamental, and fundamentally needed changes are not achieved, there seems little doubt that they will be back.

As Salvador Quishpe, one of the principal indigenous leaders stated, the major objective was to show that the indigenous people had the ability to hold power, and by doing so to reinforce their demands for a new social and financial structures based on ethics and justice for all Ecuadorians. And the likelihood is, United States or not, that in the near future they will achieve it.

* with all due deference to Aldous Huxley.

ON THE BUS THE PAPER

On the bus, the paper.
“Government fears rise of a guerrilla movement with Colombian help.”
On the street, the beggar drags himself on buckled hands and dusty knees between two lanes of stationary traffic.
A notice hangs from his neck, REGALAME UNA CARIDAD.
He smiles. I wince. The bus grinds forward in a cloud of fumes.

Lima 1997.
In the Japanese embassy residence Nestor Serpa waits,
patiently, with friends from the MRTA,
Week after week, weak after weeks.

“Come on people now, call on your brother, everybody get together, gonna love one another, right now”.
Sixties love and peace reaches out from the radio
in a small room overlooking the park in Jesús María.

Inside, Latin America spills blood from the veins of an open book.
Outside the indian dead murmur in the trees in the heat of the afternoon.
cars move slowly, the wrong way round the roundabout.

On the television, Fujimori floats out,
Walking, dreamlike, up the stairs of the smoke filled residence,
past the bullet riddled Serpa, the fallen downstairs angel.

Abimael Guzman, the great bear, is exhibited,
Walking, in the firmament of his cell, a shining path traced from wall to bars.
Freedom comes, they say. The guerrilla, dead or alive, is defeated.

On the bus, the paper. “Forty percent of Colombia is in guerrilla hands.
U.S. proposes international intervention to save democracy.”
Democracy is cornerstone of Latin America says the Group of Rio.

On the street, the beggar smiles, drags himself forward,
picking up a coin tossed from a car,
his sign swinging, like a pendulum marking the hours.

WHAT’S HIS ADDRESS?


May 2011

I’ve known the man for a while, although I couldn’t say with any certainty where I first met him, or even tell you his name. I have to admit that most of the time, certainly up until recently, I tried to avoid him. In my defense I should say that he’s almost stone deaf, consequently shouts a lot, and has moments that can only be described as lunatic. For instance, there was the time he collared me in a café and started on about Rafael Correa, the president, his favourite subject, the man he loves to hate.

“He’s sold the entire Amazon to the Church,” he tells me, shouting in my ear. “I want to denounce it, it’s a disgrace, someone’s got to do something about it.” “I hadn’t heard about it,” I tell him. “Where did you read that?” “It’s in the papers,” he says. “We have to do something about it. I want you to help me.” I look at him with a mixture of amusement and terror, trying hard to keep both under control. “I’d like to check it out before I do anything,” I say. “Tell me where you got the information, and I’ll do a little research to make sure I’ve got my facts right.” He snorts, dismisses me with an imperious wave of the hand, and marches off.

I should add that the conversation was not totally happenstance. The man knows that I was once part of a now disappeared local newspaper that achieved a certain level of standing amongst a sector of the left wing, unemployed, coffee drinking and café haunting population, and that has now assumed an almost mythical status, at least amongst those of us who once worked there. So his asking for help wasn’t totally out of line. Of course, the newspaper no longer exists, and after the debacle of the international media centre in the Ministry of Political Coordination, which I won’t go into, no-one takes much notice of me anymore.

The point is that the man seems to find me whenever I‘m in the vicinity. He seems to have a radar screen with my name written on it, in very large letters, and over the last year or two exchanges have consequently become relatively frequent. Most recently he’s been after me about one of my partners in the newspaper, the editor, who is now a high up in the Foreign Office and is relatively well known amongst the previously mentioned set. Somehow the man had got wind of his new post and wants to talk to him. As usual he’s desperate, and shouting in my ear. “I know them all” he says, citing a few names. “I know them all, we go back a long way. So what about this friend of yours? Do you see him often?” “Only from time to time”, I answer, “but less so these days”. “Well”, he barks, “do you know where he lives?” “Not really, somewhere in the valley”, I respond vaguely, although it’s true that I now don’t know where he lives, and that saves me from lying. “Maybe you know the house?” “No”. “Have you been there?” “No, I haven’t been there, he moved just recently.” “Then what about the telephone?” “No, I don’t have his number”. This time I’m forced to lie. “It must be in the book” says the man. “I suppose so.” “Then what we need is his address. Do you know the house?” “No”. “Have you been there?” “No”. Now he seems to lose interest, and wanders off to sit by himself.

The next time I bump into him, the routine is the same: “See him often?” “No”. “Address?” “No”. “Know the house?” “No”, and so on and so forth. But this time it occurs to me to ask him why he wants to talk to my ex colleague. “I know them all” he says, “I know them all, and I’ve been thinking that I could do with a job. It’s not that I want to be an ambassador, that’s probably out of reach, but something in an embassy, that would be fine. I want to talk to your friend, I know him well”. “Then why don’t you go to the Foreign Office”, I tell him, “after all it’s just up the street. This time he really surprises me. “I’ve already been”, he says, “but they wouldn’t let me in”. “Perhaps you need an appointment”. “They wouldn’t give me one”, he says, “they told me he was very busy”.

A day later I see him on the street, he looks like he’s in a hurry. I wonder whether I should say hello. Finally I decide that, why not, he’s amusing, even if he is a bit crazy. “Do you know how to use a computer?” he asks. “No problem” I tell him. “Then help me to find this address in Chile”. “Fine” I say, “let’s go to the nearest internet place, and see what we can do”. It’s more complicated than I imagine. We find the directories for Chile, but for some reason the Santiago section doesn’t work, and he gets angry, at the machine, at me, and as he leaves, at the owner who wants to charge him for the time we’ve been using the computer. He refuses to pay and storms off.

I last saw him a week or so ago, sitting in the café drinking his coffee. He signals me to come over and sit down. “Read this,” he says “I’m claiming compensation, but they’ve told me that I have to write it all over again, that I didn’t do it properly”. I begin to read. It’s the story of how as an Ecuadorian student in Chile he got caught up in the aftermath of the Pinochet/CIA coup in 1973. He and some others were able to take refuge in a church, but for some unfathomable reason left and were immediately arrested. My friend was driven to a basement somewhere, where they questioned and beat him for a number of days. One of the others was shot. The rest were then taken by boat to an island, where he was thrown onto the beach with his hands tied behind his back. He was beaten again for a number of days, but somehow, with the help of the United Nations, was eventually released.

“I lost seventy percent of my hearing when I hit my head on the hard sand”, he says, “but at least I didn’t die”.

WHAT’S A PAINTING WORTH?

Sept 2006

Last week I had the rather dubious pleasure of being present as a witness at a Harrogate County Court hearing. The matter under discussion was the loss (presumed theft) of two small unsold paintings, valued by the artist at £360, from exhibition held two years previously and whose proceeds, should there have been any, were to have been donated to charity. I was there in support of the person being sued, the organiser of the event. We lost.

These kind of things happen every day you might think, and in that you’re probably right. There’s little in the details of the event to excite interest. But while the case itself was perhaps unimportant, there were some unasked, and therefore unanswered, questions relevant to the world of art and commerce that might be worth exploring.

So back to the exhibition, in which I myself presented a couple of perhaps unsurprisingly unsold works. It’s obvious to even the casual observer that ‘art’ exhibitions are organized on a number of levels. At one pole there’s the London gallery scene, where paintings by folks generally dead, and sometimes excruciatingly alive, sell for astronomical sums. At the other end of the scale are the informally organized church basement sales in which lesser talented local artists such as myself participate, and which involve the concepts of both Caveat Emptor and Caveat Exhibitor.

One presumes – and I have to say that as I am not part of the London scene, I am in fact presuming rather than operating on the basis of experience – that the high end events are rather well organized, with all aspects covered including the possibility of theft or loss. There is simply too much money at stake. Although I do seem to recall that a couple of years back a fire destroyed a great deal of expensive work stored in an art ‘warehouse’. Not all eventualities can be assuaged.

At the other end, my end, things are, well, let’s say, not always quite as well planned. There’s less at stake. And to be honest much of the work is often of lesser quality and often doesn’t sell, no matter how many red spots might appear before your eyes. The prices are also often dubious. The exhibitions are held for ourselves rather than for the buyer. They make us feel good. We stand proudly about at the opening or drink ourselves silly while making vain pronouncements about our work or the art scene in general “the stuff that sells is all rubbish”. “Did you see that ridiculous work at the Tate Modern? It was just a hole in the floor and they paid millions” or “People have no taste, they just buy for decoration: ‘I‘ll take the blue one’ ”.

We have our difficulties with the buying and selling, after all we’re artists, we tell ourselves, not salespeople. I myself am not always a fan of the so-called market, it often leaves a great deal to be desired but, as far as art goes, I don’t see any other way unless we were to return to the make art projects of the nineteen thirties. As artists we put a price on our work that in most cases is quite arbitrary, it reflects what we would like to receive, it reflects our admittedly often rather biased opinion about its value. At this end of the spectrum it reflects aspiration rather than market reality. In the end, it sells or it does not. If you can’t sell the work, it has no commercial value. It matters little what emotional attachment a painting or sculpture may have for you the artist or how technically or artistically accomplished it may, or may not, be.

It is a part of any artist’s training to learn the painful lesson that your treasured masterpieces are not always appreciated by others to quite the same extent. That does not mean that if you eventually (posthumously) become as well known as Picasso, someone won’t enthuse publicly about the profound implications of the one you did with the bicycle seat and handlebars and then threw away, only to see it rejected by the bin-men and end up in the attic next to your Adam Faith record collection. Or that the shark in aspic that you once foisted on an unassuming world will always be worth the small fortune some presuming collector paid for it. The art world is like that. Prices, like tastes, are notoriously fickle.

So in the end, what is a painting really worth? The short answer: whatever you can get for it, in court or elsewhere.

ABOUT THE TIME WE WENT WEST FOR A COUPLE OF WEEKS

It’s late January. I’ m ‘seasonally unemployed’ as they say, drawing the dole until the race track opens again in February. Paul is heading off to Edmonton to a job in a therapy centre for handicapped kids. It seems like an opportunity. After we arrive I’ll head over the mountains to Vancouver and see all my old friends for a couple of days. I’ll be back in two weeks.

We leave on a snowy morning, sent off like Shackleton’s heroes in Paul’s ’65 Chevrolet, a monster of a car which has room for everything, including his house plants. I have just got my licence, for the second time, and am confident, more or less, that I can share the driving. But for some reason we don’t pay much attention to the fact that the car is heavily loaded behind, the weight distribution uneven, not calculated to improve road holding.

Heading North from Sudbury around the northern shore of Lake Superior, I begin to realise that I am terrified by the possibility that on a tight slippery curve the back loaded Chevy, and I, just can´t handle, we might, just might, drift into the path of one of the monster trucks that are travelling all too frequently in the opposite direction. The conditions are not like they were in Liverpool. The road is two-lane and narrowed constantly by drifting snow that tends to cover the slick patches. The car’s power steering makes me feel like I´m driving on skies. And I can’t ski. To complicate matters my feet are being chilled by the wind that’s whistling in through the hole in the floor we have only recently noticed. Twice we, that is to say I, drive into a ditch. That we don’t die is something to be thankful for. We get out somehow and head off again in a sort of Laurel and not so Hardy prairie adventure. Paul drives the rest of the way.

After making up for time lost in ditches, we stop around midnight in a National Park on the North shore of the Lake Superior. “Wow man ! look at those stars. Let’s pull over and smoke a joint”. We do. We walk across a frozen lake admiring the glittering night sky. “Wow Man !”. The night sky is a jewel, but as we walk back we realise that the car is axle deep in the snow. “Wow man, heavy duty”. It’s past midnight in an isolated park, North of nowhere, and we haven’t seen a single car drive by since we stopped about half an hour ago. We’re worried. We’re really worried. Worried that we don’t have the blankets or candles or any of the other things they tell you to take if you don’t want to freeze to death on a lonely highway north of Superior. “Oh shit man”.

I don’t know what we do, or how we do it. Perhaps we dig with our hands or put branches under the tires. We certainly pray. I keep thinking about stories of mothers who wrestle cougars or crocodiles to death, or lift cars over their heads to save their children. It feels like the same kind of mystical experience. I know Jesus is on our side. On the third try we get the car out.

It begins to dawn on us that we’ve been optimistic about the time it will take to cross the prairies in the middle of winter. Optimistic about the amount of money we need and optimistic about the ability of the house plants to survive. When we finally arrive in Edmonton, the snow is piled five feet high and the house plants are dead. Thankfully we are still alive, but we have no money. We stay the night in a room in the therapy hostel, and in the morning I borrow five dollars from Paul, who borrows it from someone else, and buy a bus ticket to Vancouver. I leave the next day. We wish each other good luck.

On the other side of the mountains the weather is much better: the grass is green and the cattle are fat. But one thing doesn’t change, money is still a problem. Thankfully there are refuges for those who don’t have any: shelters for the needy, which I have never considered myself to be, at least until now. After convincing those who needed to be convinced, that, Canadian citizen or not, I’m stranded with no money or place to stay, I’m given a bed in a men’s hostel close to Pigeon Park, where the pigeons are outnumbered by the drunk and homeless. There I see the first person I know, ‘Max’. We had met a few years ago picking strawberries in Abbotsford, about twenty five miles from Vancouver. I’m glad to see a friendly face. I call out. He looks at me blankly and wanders unsteadily into a grim looking hotel.

At the hostel they give me vouchers for meals in the White Spot Lunch, a greasy spoon with its complement of cigarette mouthed waitresses, men who would not be out of place in a 30’s Bowery film, and an owner with a drooping moustache and an enormous belly covered by a grease stained semi white apron who looks like he has seen his best days, but might still convince himself to cut your throat if you don’t pay. I eat well. At night, back in the dormitory, I sleep soundly, with wallet and knife under the pillow.

After waking and checking that I‘m alive and documented, I set off in search of a more comfortable place to stay. I hunt through telephone books and anything else I can think of in search of friends, anyone I might know. But like the history of the men in the hostel, no trace is evident. Then, on the third day, salvation calls. My heart leaps when, sitting in a bus stopped at a traffic light close to the Burrard Street Bridge, I notice a Volkswagen passing in the opposite direction. There she is, a vision of a clean room, conversation, and perhaps more. In a Zhivagoesque scene, I shout and wave frantically, Sandy, Sandy, Sandy … while she, oblivious, drives off slowly in the other direction.

I give up on my invisible friends as a source of shelter, and head to the race track in the Pacific Exhibition Grounds. I know the season is to start around February or March, and I hope I might find a room in exchange for work. But fate doesn´t seem to be on my side. The scene is desolate. Apart from the seagulls shitting on the Greenpeace boat forlornly exhibited in the winter rain and the few hardy ducks that sit contemplating their navels, not much seems to be going on.

Of the few people braving the rain, no-one is interested in giving me work. I go back the next day, and then the next, until finally I manage to persuade someone to take me on. Wayne, a thin, dapper man with a Clark Gable moustache and an affable manner, seems like a decent type, and appears to be doing well enough. He has some good horses, he says, they’re in California for the winter…he’ll give me a 5 by 5 concrete block room complete with thin mattress, iron bed and burlap sack over the window, some horses to look after and, best of all, money.

It rains all the time. I feel like I am living on like Noah’s Ark. But nothing lasts for ever. Soon the spring leaves begin to appear. I begin to enjoy life. My little room becomes a refuge. Each morning I step out to look across the river onto the coastal mountains and breathe in the smell of the cedar mills down in False Creek. I am as happy as I have ever been. Spiritual revival, the Tao, Lotus Land. I am walking on air. I meet Laura. She works walking ‘hots’, is interesting, and is interested in me. So we sleep together, do acid in Stanley Park, talk horses, drink wine and watch foreign films at the somewhat unfortunately named “East Vancouver Cultural Centre”. But nothing lasts forever.

Tony is my co-worker, we look after about eight horses each. He has a couple of his own in the barn and is an experienced worker with aspirations of sorts. Tony definitely does not walk on air, nor is he interested in the Tao or the East Vancouver Cultural Centre. He likes to play tricks on me. He talks of animals suffering from ‘rain scalds’. I suppose I bother him. I work hard and don’t complain, and Wayne promises me one of the good horses that are to arrive shortly from California. Maybe this is the key, no way to be sure, but I’m certain that something is wrong when Tony accuses me of giving “needles” to his horse. An absurd idea perhaps, but Tony’s sense of the absurd is not that well developed. He isn’t keen on his “hippy” co-worker, so the long hair, and the needles, have to go.

The confrontation starts. Wayne stands by but says nothing. Tony goes a little berserk and hits me somewhere. Surprised, I do nothing. He hits me again. This time I fall back against the wall. He stands back shaking, neck bulging, face purple, fists at the ready. This is his mistake. He lacks the killer instinct. At least I can say that for him. Or perhaps he is just so certain that hippies high on love and peace don’t fight back. As he comes for me the third time I hit him a good straight left, and that’s that, suddenly it’s all over. I see him the next day in the racetrack kitchen. He has a black eye. “It was his ring” I hear him say. I tell them at the barn that I was once a boxer. I think some of them believe me.

I quit. Going back East, I tell Wayne. Just like that. It seems unfair to Laura. I like her, and but for the unforeseen would probably still be here, working. It even seems a little tragic, but for reasons I’m not able to define, I’ m determined to go. We sleep together for the last time, and then go down to Central Station. It is early May. I board the train for Edmonton to see Paul, the 65 Chev, and the duck he now has living in his bathroom.

BOLIVIA ON MY MIND. (Part I)

When I first arrived in South America in the nineteen seventies, supposedly on my way to Tierra del Fuego, Patagonia and the, for me, mythical Magellan Straits, I don’t suppose Bolivia was on my mind.

I didn’t make it to the straits of course. I got stuck in the South of Colombia, in Cali to be exact, with no money to get any further, in the company of a blond German friend who much to my dismay turned all the girls heads, a rolled up dollar bill and some white powder thoughtfully provided by a member of the Peace Corps.

How come you’re back so soon asked Anne, a woman I’d met on the plane from Panama (a DC3, I think it even had bullet holes from the Korean War) to Medellin 1, where I showed up only a month after I’d supposedly left on my round South America tour. I can’t remember my reply, it was probably pretty feeble, but I do remember feeling awkward, as if I’d somehow failed, despite having travelled from Toronto across Canada and then down West Coast of the US and Mexico, through Central America and eventually into Colombia. In retrospect I hadn’t done so badly, and definitely had no regrets about missing Bolivia.

The second time around

The objective this time, some forty years later, was not Bolivia but rather, once again, Argentina. The result wasn’t much different, although I did get closer, to Bolivian border town of Bermejo to be exact, a place where everyone seems to be involved in trading something or other, tourists are not that common, and the presence of huge rafts supported by what seem to be airplane inner tubes, and that don’t appear to move during the day, suggests that most of the traffic and the goods are contraband. Isn’t that what borders are for?

It was a close run thing however. I actually crossed the river to Aguas Blancas on the Argentinean side, where both the Bolivian and Argentinean migration offices are housed. In fact, I made the short journey twice.

Looking back I suppose I was somewhat casual about getting into Argentina. It hadn’t occurred to me that a Canadian passport would be a problem, and at first there wasn’t. It was Patricia that got the grilling: Oh, Colombian passport… wait a minute says the female officer, who, fingering the document as if it were property of a leper, promptly disappears into the back office. She reappears a few minutes later accompanied by a burly white shirted male officer who fires a barrage of questions: you got a name in Argentina? anywhere to stay? A Hotel? A friend? You have a flight out? A ticket? etc. etc. etc.

The frontier: Bermejo and the Bermejo River.

Aguas Bancas-Bermejo - Bermejo, Bolivia
Photo: Walter Ramallo Viajeros.com <http://www.viajeros.com/fotos/bermejo-2009/855502&gt;

The questioning continues until someone notices that I haven’t paid the ‘reciprocity tax’. Patricia is now forgotten. What’s it all about? The Australians, the Canadians the ‘Americans’ charge us a fee for getting into their countries, he says, so we do the same thing. Hence the reciprocity bit.

It doesn’t sound like an unreasonable thing to do. I tell the official that the Brazilians did the same thing when eye scans were made obligatory for entering the U.S. Anyway, I’m quite willing to pay. So how much is it? He doesn’t know, or at least he’s not sure. Could be US $120 he says… but you can’t pay in cash, only on line… and this, of course, involves crossing the river and going back to Bolivia. It wasn’t the answer I‘d been expecting.

There’s a chance, I imagine, that they’ll let me in with my UK passport, which I’m also carrying. I suppose that if it was simply a UK passport my chances would not be much better, perhaps even worse given the ongoing Malvinas-Falklands dispute, but as it’s an E.U. document I expect, or rather hope, that there will be little or no problem. I’m wrong. It has no exit stamp from Bolivia, says the white shirt stiffly as he examines the passport. No, that’s in the other passport. But it has to be here in this passport. Why? He doesn’t have a ready answer, and I strongly suspect that he’s wrong, but unsure of himself as he has never come across something like this – and he’s certainly not going to tell me that – rather than make some sort of mistake or appear uncertain, he refuses. Better to be wrong than sorry.

As I’m getting the exit stamp annulled, the Bolivians smile at me, and I admit that perhaps it’s better this way: better to give the money to the Bolivians, who are poor, than to the Argentineans, who are not. 2

Back over the river in Bermejo, we reconsider, rent a room in a cheap ‘hostel’ where the shared and rather grubby bathrooms don’t work, the shared shower has only a single board covering the window and the water is cold. If it had bars it would be called a prison. There are no other tourists here. Our room is also pretty dingy, but on the positive side, it’s cheap and there are only a few cockroaches to be seen, at least during the day. At night we wrap our food in a plastic bag and hang it outside on the washing line, so the greedy little beasts can’t get at it.

When I finally log on – the internet is often desperately slow in Bolivia – the reciprocity tax turns out to be only $75, and we decide to pay it. But it doesn’t make any difference, the system won’t accept my card, and when I call Buenos Aires to find out what’s going on, they tell me they don’t take debit cards, Visa or otherwise. It’s what ‘you’ ask us for says the friendly but determined voice at the other end of the ‘line’. I’m willing to pay I tell him, I want to pay. But it doesn’t work and, besides, it’s late on Friday afternoon…

I go back across the river the next morning in a final attempt to get into the country, but while the officials are different, and very pleasant, the answer is the same. It seems a shame, but rather than staying another day in Bermejo we decide to turn around and head back to Tarija and Bolivian wine country. Argentina won’t cry for me.

* * * * * * *

1.  Medellín:  The first visit to Medellín, was, shall we say, interesting. The years of silver and lead as they called them (Años de Plata y Plomo ) which roughly translated means pay up or you’re dead, had not yet begun: Pablo Escobar, a local resident who would become the world’s most famous Cocaine King, had only recently left University, while the Medellín Cartel, which by 1989 had become so powerful that it declared ‘total and absolute war’ against the Colombian government, was still in its pre infancy. That said, a bomb did go off somewhere in the city while I was staying, and the guerrilla was ‘out there somewhere’ Anne warned me one day when we went wandering in the countryside. She wasn’t joking, although the second phase of the Civil War, this one involving the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) lead by Manuel Marulanda or Sure Shot (Tirofijo), was also still in its initial stages.

All in all, though, I felt pretty safe in Medellín. It was one of the most beautiful cities I’d ever seen, the other being Vancouver, and seemed a pretty relaxed place to be a drink coffee, or tinto as they call it. Although on a more personal level there were ‘incidents’. For example, the night the American exchange students, (female and from Boston if I remember correctly) arrived at the house where they and I were staying, followed by two drunk and rather impatient Colombian men. As the only male in the house at the time I was expected to stand up to them, and ‘persuade’ them to leave. I don’t know what they said to me, but I do know that the decibel level was high and that if the face of one of them had been any closer he would have been kissing me. It clearly wasn’t meant to be friendly and I was certainly worried, in part about how of the house owner, a local university professor – whose friend ran a local steel mill and owned an impressive vintage car in which we would drive down to the local liquor store to buy Aguardiente – would feel about his furniture being splattered with blood, skin and pieces of bone. Mine, I might add. In the end I suppose my passive resistance (I like to think of it as Gandhian) had some effect, at least that’s what I tell myself, although the men finally left only when one of the girls began screaming the house down.

2.  Bolivia is a poor country: According to the CIA Factbook (yes, that’s the dear old Central Intelligence Agency), Bolivia is the poorest nation in South America, even taking into account Surinam, Guyana, and French Guiana, and that despite growing at a fairly healthy rate (5%+) over the last few years. With a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per Capita of only US$4,900 (the UK weighs in at some US$37,100), it lags some way behind Argentina, whose GDP per capita is US$17,700. Of course, the statistics offer little hint about how the money is being spent or distributed, and given that South America is the most unequal continent on earth, the panorama in Bolivia would likely continue to be pretty desperate if it weren’t for the advances made in the last few years under the Morales government. There are no real numbers for inequality (GINI index) since around 2008, so it’s impossible to come up with hard data to support the claim, but anecdotic examples include the fact that Bolivia is one of only three countries in the ‘developing’ world that provides an income for all its retirees and that the Morales government recently raised the minimum wage by 20%. A cynic might point out that there’s a presidential election just around the corner, but that’s how democracy works, isn’t it? Or is that just being cynical?

ENEMY OF THE STATE: The battle over sustainable development in Intag.

by Gerard Coffey

Born in Cuba, Carlos Zorrilla left the island when he was 11 and emigrated with his family to the United States. But the promised land did not live up to his expectations. Like many of his peers he found it hard to accept the war his adopted country was waging in Vietnam, not to mention the politics of then President Richard Nixon. So he left, looking for somewhere to live in peace. In 1978 he found himself in the Intag valley in Northern Ecuador where, he tells, he found an attractive agricultural area populated by solid and supportive communities. So he stayed. “I love agriculture” he says with a smile.

Attractive is probably an understatement.  Intag, located in the western foothills of the Cotacachi volcano in Imbabura Province, some 150 miles south of the Colombian border, is warm, green and unequivocally beautiful. Populated in the late nineteenth century by families that migrated from other parts of the province, the area is a sub tropical and primarily agricultural district with plenty of water, high levels of biodiversity and spectacular landscapes.

But the story of Zorrilla and Intag is not one of bucolic bliss. As he found out, peace and harmony do not come so cheaply. There is copper in the hills, and twice in recent decades mining companies have come looking for minerals to exploit. “The first we knew about mining in the area,” he says,”was in late ninety four, when Bishimetals, a subsidiary of the Japanese multinational Mitsubishi, showed up. At the beginning we didn’t know why they were here.”

It didn’t take them long to find out, and the following year Zorilla and others, including a local priest, set up DECOIN (Ecological Defense and Conservation of Intag). The goal was to protect the local environment and implement sustainable development projects. “We knew that the projects were going to be important for the area’s future,” says DECOIN’s now president, Silvia Quilumbango. Time seems to have proved them right. One of the most important results of the group’s efforts, and presently the area’s most important product, is the organic coffee produced and sold internationally through the local coffee growers association (ACRI). “There’s a global market for the coffee,” adds Zorrilla, presently DECOIN’s executive director, “but it’s not the only positive consequence of the work we’ve done over the years, Intag also has a growing tourism industry. That was our initiative too.”

There was a less positive side to the mining company’s presence, explains Zorrilla. Conflicts sprang up, local communities took sides for or against the mine and what it represented. It wasn’t possible to be neutral. The disputes came to a head in May 1997, when hundreds of demonstrators came down from their communities in the hills to occupy the Bishimetals camp. After three days of ‘dialogue’, tempers frayed, part of the camp was dismantled, the equipment was removed, and what remained was burned. The predictable response was not long in coming, in the form of prosecutions. A number of community leaders, including Polivio Perez, a local leader from Junin where the mining concession is centered and who is still involved in the fight against the proposed mine, were the subject of legal action. For a time Pérez went into hiding[i].

Faced with solid local opposition backed by substantial international support, including in Japan, Bishimetals decided to cut its losses and in 1998 packed up and left. But the peace proved to be short lived. Six years later the Canadian company Ascendant Copper arrived, and with it came new and increasingly severe conflicts. The company used more aggressive tactics than Bishimetals, and the fight intensified. There were death threats and intimidation; clashes between pro and anti mining groups become more common.

CODEGEM

Part of the problem, explains Zorrilla, was a parallel community association, CODGEM, set up by the company to create divisions amongst the local the communities. The organization had links to what he generously calls ‘unpleasant’ characters, at one point being directed by a former parliamentarian, Ronald Andrade, in whose hacienda four people linked to the drug tradewere killed[ii].  Andrade, who was accused of having links with convicted drug king Oscar Caranqui[iii], is presently on the run, and now appears on the INTERPOL’s  ‘most wanted’ list.

And in December 2005 history repeated itself. An Ascendant Copper work camp was burned down, some 300 people agreeing to take collective responsibility for the act.

As a prominent member of the opposition Zorrilla was in the eye of the storm, finding himself the subject of a preventive detention order. Fortunately, he says, the decision was overturned: according to the judge there was insufficient evidence to warrant detaining him. He was also accused of ‘robbery’ and ‘harm’ by an Ascendant Copper employee. The incidents allegedly took place while she distributed company information at an anti mining demonstration in front of the Ministry of Energy and Mines in Quito.[iv] The complaint was also dismissed. According to witnesses and footage taken at the protest, Zorrilla took no part in a confrontation between protesters and the company employee. Not a hair on her head was touched, he adds.

The complaint may not have had a solid basis, but it was enough to induce a raid on Zorrilla’s home by the police. Weapons and drugs were said to have been found, and in October 2006 a case was brought against him for illegal possession of arms and narcotics. Once again he walked free. In March 2007 the case was thrown out after the local prosecutor declined to accuse him[v].

Not that he was alone. As Zorrilla points out, he was just one of the targets of the company’s aggressive tactics. A group of 30 people led by company employees attempted to lynch Polivio Pérez, but he managed to escape. His motorcycle did not: it was thrown into a ravine. Masked gunmen entered a house where a group of environmentalists were holding a meeting; tied them up and stole their equipment.

Other events were more serious. In December 2006 a group of 15 armed security guards attacked opponents of the mine with tear gas and firearms. But they got more than they bargained for. The locals regrouped and took them hostage, together with 40 other guards sent to build a camp, and held them for six days in a nearby forest. The guards were released after the National Department of Energy requested that the mining company refrain from any further activity in the area.[vi]

In the long run the opposition proved stronger and more numerous, and in 2006, the last month of President Alfredo Palacio’s mandate, they managed to once again stall plans to install the mine. But as with Bishimetals, the company’s exit was not the end of the story. Ascendant Copper brought a claim against the Ecuadorian government for having terminated the concession. Carlos Zorrilla is now a key witness for the defense.

The third time – lucky for who?

The battle over, the breathing was easy, but as Zorrilla points out, no one was fooled, “we were always on the alert” he says. The companies had gone, but the copper was still there, and that meant that the miners would likely be back at some point, in one form or another. And they were right.

This time, the third, it is President Rafael Correa, a former finance minister in the Palacio government, who is leading the offensive. And the battle could prove even tougher than before. Alianza País, the governing party, has the resources, controls the security forces and enjoys a high level of national support. So there was little surprise when on the 26th of July 2012 it was announced that Correa had signed an agreement with Chilean authorities to revive the project in Intag; Chile is to participate through the national mining company CODELCO. The road map was now drawn, and for good or bad, Carlos Zorrilla, the most visible of the local opposition, was once again at the forefront of the conflict.

In the circumstances it is perhaps not that surprising that the president should assail the Cuban -Ecuadorian. In one of his Saturday ‘Enlace Ciudadano’ speeches, he linked a manual on non violent resistance co-written by Zorrilla with a demonstration in which diplomats from Chile and Belarus were harassed. “I had nothing to do with the demonstration organized by the now closed Pachamama foundation,” he protests. “nothing at all. To connect me with it is simply an attempt to discredit me, because in the president’s view I represent an obstacle to his plans, so he has to get me out of the way.”

“The irony,” says Zorrilla “is that the manual was written to deal with illegalities and abuses committed by of transnational corporations, and when government agencies are mentioned, it suggests cooperating with them.”

Given the time he has been living in the country (with four children born here), it is not hard to understand him being offended by the President’s words. “I’m not at all surprised to be verbally attacked by the President,” he says, “that’s the nature of politics, but what does surprise me is being labeled a destabiliser who is promoting foreign interests and interfering in government policy. It’s an outrage. And as for calling on people to react, that’s nothing less than stirring up xenophobia.”

He is concerned. Being designated by the President as an enemy of the state, complete with photos, is few people’s idea of a good time, and could quite easily have consequences for him and his family. Amnesty International concurs. In December the international institution issued an alert[vii] which noted ‘a growing concern for the safety of Carlos Zorrilla, environmental activist from Ecuador, and others who have protested against development projects in the Intag region.’  Zorrilla tells that in that month the police visited his house on the pretext of a carrying out a survey. They took pictures of the property, he says.

In the final count, he comments, “It’s wrong to say we’re getting in the way of the country’s development. What I and others represent is a different vision, a proposal for another way of living, a way of life that has more to do with Sumak Kawsay[viii] (Buen Vivir) than a development depending on the extraction of minerals. We’re not naive or destabilisers, we’ve seen the results of mining in Peru, and believe me, they’re not pretty. Here in Intag we’ve got another vision of the future.”

All mines pollute.

What he says is hard to deny. Mining is one of the dirtiest industrial extractive activities. If drilling for oil can cause serious environmental consequences, mining is clearly worse, and in Intag the proposal is not for one, but several mines. “Copper is not like gold,” says Zorrilla, “deposits are scattered, so mining in the local Toisan mountain range would be a disaster,” adding for good measure that the mining sector is the biggest polluter in the U.S.

Of course, not all mines or mining companies are alike; there are ways and ways of extracting metals, some better than others. Official sources in Ecuador talk of using leading edge technology, but in the end even the best technology in the world cannot eliminate the solid waste caused by opencast mining. And there is an awful lot of it. From what is known, the concentration of metal in the Intag concession is around 0.7 %, which means that 99.3% of the removed rock ends up as waste. For every ton of copper, more than 99 tons of rock are mined and then left lying around. Apart from the tremendous amount of land needed to store the waste, or mine tailings, an added problem is that the latter are not inert. “They can release heavy metals and trigger acid drainage” explains Zorrilla, “causing serious impacts in the environment, especially rivers. And here we’re at the headwaters of several major river systems that feed the coastal region, and in an area where the rain is a strong and permanent presence.”

But the arguments did not bend any official ears. According to the state mining agency, Enami EP, present holder of  the mining concession in Intag,[ix] in order to obtain an environmental license from the Ministry of Environment, ‘it is necessary to comply with favourable, documented administrative acts approved by various authorities, amongst which, according to cantonal economic development land use and social planning, is the Cotacachi Municipal Council [x]’. And the acts, of course, require site measurements.

Orders may be orders, but Enami’s words did not carry much weight in Intag either. Site visits and measurements might be ‘necessary’ for the mining agency and for the Ministry of Environment, but when technicians from both CODELCO and the national mining company tried to enter the Junín area of in September 2013 accompanied by police, the local response was to block the road and keep them out.

Rafael Correa ‘s reaction was blunt. “Let’s learn from this…not to allow a few to hinder the progress of the many and undermine the common good; to reject these people who with pretty labels such as the ‘right to resistance’ want to impose their group, family or individual interests, and undermine democracy itself… Have faith in this government” he concluded “one that seeks nothing for itself, but for you. Responsible mining can get people out of poverty, in particular the people living in these areas.”[xi]

So the battle goes on. At the moment the confrontation is no more than verbal, but there is always a danger that it will become violent. The president, as is his wont, does not seem willing to compromise his position, and opponents of the mining project are sticking to theirs. They have been through these battles before and don’t doubt their ability to resist.

Development and El Buen Vivir

It is true that in Ecuador there is a lot of poverty, that is to say a great many unmet basic needs, and it is equally true that to meet those needs – providing drinking water, sanitation, education and health services – money is essential. Few would doubt it. The question is not whether to try to resolve the problems, but how. For President Rafael Correa it is crucial to use the resources available to the country to maintain social and infrastructure programs that will improve Ecuadorians’ lives. Faced with an uncertain oil future, he might say, there is no sense in being beggars sitting on a sack of copper.

The inteños who oppose the mine protest that protecting the area’s environment is not simply a matter of keeping their land and way of life unsullied. Nor is it designed to impose their agenda on other Ecuadorians. They proffer economic arguments related to the value of  ‘ecosystem services’ for the country. Silvia Quilumbango explains that “our position is not uninformed rejection. As regional leaders in generating financial resources for communities in alternative ways – by respecting nature, by respecting local customs – we have consolidated a less damaging development model and don’t want it to be ruined.”

A study done in 2011 by Earth Economics[xii] shows that the value of the environmental services that would be destroyed by mining in Intag could be greater than the value of copper extracted. According to the document, by applying a 3% discount rate, ‘…we find that the 17 ecosystem services examined provide an asset value of between $3 and $ 28 billion. This shows that the current natural and agricultural systems of the Intag region are enormous national assets. Because natural assets appreciate, rather than depreciate over time, the actual discount rate is likely closer to zero.’

‘In our research’, the authors continue ‘we found that 17 of 23 ecosystem services across the land cover types in Intag provide the regional and national community an average of $447 million in yearly benefits.’ They end by saying that ‘The overall conclusion of the report is that economic development within the Intag region is best achieved by tapping the vast value that ecosystem goods and services provide…’

The authors explain that the study is not the final the final word on ecosystem service valuation for Intag, nor a full ecological economic analysis. What is does represent, they say, is one part of a debate that is not happening. It is just the first step in understanding the economic and social risks of mining in the region.

Laudable goals

As might be expected, not everyone in the Intag area opposes the project; some see benefits in the presence of a mine and the jobs that it may create. The question is how significant a proportion of the local population they are. The president of the Apuela Parrish Council puts it another way, claiming that the percentage opposing the mine is less than 20 %, while Enami sources speak of majority support based on a survey commissioned by them.[xiii] For Zorrilla the numbers lack validity. “In the zonal and county meetings,” he says “the proportion opposing mining is 90 %. As for the polls, I have no idea where or how they were carried out.”

Notwithstanding the differences between sectors of the local population, external factors could have a decisive influence on the fate of the proposal. One is the international price of copper. The metal has fallen about 25 % from its high point of U.S. $ 4.50 in 2010 to around $ 3.30 today, even though still high compared to historical levels. In 2004, for example, copper traded at less than a dollar a pound.

Much will depend on the Chinese. The country consumes 40% of global production and any reduction of demand will clearly have an impact on copper prices and hence the profitability of mining in Intag. Will the price of the metal rise or fall? Opinions differ. For some[xiv] it is likely to remain stable, while for others a dramatic drop is possible, above all if the housing bubble driving Chinese demand finally bursts. There is also talk of a significant oversupply of copper in 2014, as well as the existence of millions of unreported tons[xv] Both factors could cause a significant price decline in the near future.

Whatever happens to the price of copper, the basic question is how much destruction can be justified in the name of building a more modern and equitable society. And while it is true that all human activity has a negative impact on the environment, the argument is clearly insufficient. As the Earth Economics study implies, the environmental and social cost of open face mines in the Toisán Cordillera could exceed the value of the extracted copper. And that without considering ‘remediation’, the skeleton in a mining industry closet that no one wants to open.

The question becomes even more important in an area where for decades people have been trying to develop less harmful ways to make a living. The opponents of the mine ask why the government does not consider the long term benefits other options might provide for the country, for example improving the area’s tourism infrastructure – a pillar of the plan of the previously loudly proclaimed Plan del Buen Vivir – or promoting the production and export of the area’s organic coffee.

Whatever is finally decided, the real battle Intag is clearly not about the few imposing their agenda on the many, or a personal dispute between Carlos Zorrilla and Rafael Correa and his government. Nor is it a matter of bad faith. Rafael Correa wants to use the money from the mines to improve the lives of the many, as he would say, while the inteños are trying to prove, with some success, that another world is possible. These are laudable goals, but clearly mutually exclusive.

Resolving this clash of interests is important for the Intag area, and for the country as a whole, but the best way to do so is not by personalizing the debate and demonizing Zorrilla. The tactic is grotesque, and probably counterproductive, but more to the point it obscures what is basically a conflict between two ways of seeing and living in the world, and two ways of reading economic texts.


[i] In 2008 Perez and other community leaders around the country who had been living in the shadow of jail sentences for their efforts to protect land and resources, were granted an amnesty by the National Constituent Assembly.

[ii] La Hora, Imbabura.  Clues to the massacre in Otavalo appear. 16 January 2007 http://www.lahora.com.ec/index.php/noticias/show/523677/-1/Aparecen_pistas_de_masacre_en_Otavalo.html#.Ur9blfvMve0

[iii] Caránqui, the self named ‘Jaguar’ whose book ‘La Roca: Cementerio de los Hombre Vivos’ (La Roca: cemetery of the living) was confiscated by the police in February 2013, was himself killed in July 2013 in the ‘La Roca’ jail in Guayaquil while serving a 25 year sentence for drug trafficking.

[iv] The demonstration took place in July 2006.

[v] World Organization Against Torture: Ecuador: Judicial harassment against Mr. Carlos Zorrilla.

http://www.omct.org/es/human-rights-defenders/urgent-interventions/ecuador/2006/11/d18376/

[viii] Sumak Kawsay  or el “Buen Vivir” is enshrined in the constitutions of both Ecuador and Bolivia, referring to a way of living that promotes social economic and cultural rights as well as a more harmonious relation with nature. Sumak Kawsay is contrasted with ‘extractivism’ and the emphasis on an economy whose singular goal is the pursuit of money and economic growth at all costs.

[ix] The concession encompasses an area of 4,956 ha in the parishes of García Moreno and Peñaherrera, more specifically in the community of Junín.

[xi] ENAMI Noticias: President backs work of Enami EP in Intag, and rejects sectors that impede the common good.  http://www.enamiep.gob.ec/index.php/component/content/category/13-noticias

[xii] Earth Economics An Ecological Study of Ecuador’s Intag Region: The Environmental Impacts and Potential Rewards of Mining (2011). Earth Economics is a non-profit organization based in Tacoma, Washington, EE.UU.

[xiv] Jesse Colombo Forbes Magazine: If This Chart Breaks, Copper And Copper Exporters Will Plunge. 13 November 2013 http://www.forbes.com/sites/jessecolombo/2013/11/13/if-this-chart-breaks-copper-and-copper-exporters-will-plunge/

[xv] Tatyana Shumsky. Wall Street Journal. Millions of Tons of Metals Stashed in Shadow Warehouses. 27 December 2013.  http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304244904579276830893405644