Latin America in continuous struggle

November 22, 2013

World in View

Colombia—Indigenous groups and others are in continuous resistance to incursions on their territory and ways of life. Among the most recent:

A megaroad in the Valle de Sidunboy to connect with Brazil is being built. Colectivo de Trabajo Territorio Tamoabioy, a youth group, is leading the resistance. The Inga-Kamentsa people, whose land the megaroad is destroying, were not consulted regarding its construction. The road threatens their land and water, and may well lead to intense extraction of their natural resources by large corporations.

AngloGold Ashanti’s La Colosa gold mine project received a decisive “No!” in a vote conducted by the townspeople of Piedras, in the Cajamarca district. Some 99% of those voting rejected the project. The vote was the latest step in a resistance that has involved roadblocks and other actions. AngloGold, through propaganda and company-created “citizen committees,” has been working to win approval.

There are protests against toxic spraying of the Embera people’s land in Northwest Colombia. The spraying—part of the government’s program to eradicate coca production—is causing sickness in people, including children. The aerial spraying is often indiscriminate, falling on non-coca areas, destroying food crops and contaminating water. The Embera people want coca growing stopped as well as the destructive aerial spraying.


Guatemala—A Canadian mining company has been taken to court by the Mayan Q’eqchi’ people of Lote Ocho, near El Estor. Hudbay Minerals Inc. will be standing trial for murder, rapes, and attacks against Indigenous Guatemalans by security personnel working for Hudbay’s subsidiary, Compañía Guatemalteca de Níquel (CGN). Hudbay has been involved in a land dispute with the Mayan community.

Rights Action, a group defending Indigenous people in Central America, reported that “security personnel—under the control of Hudbay—gang-raped 11 women, shot dead an Indigenous leader and outspoken critic of mining practices, and left another man paralyzed from the chest down after sustaining a gunshot wound.” This marks the first time that a Canadian court has agreed to accept a case brought by foreign people against a Canadian mining company.


Mexico—In Mexico City tens of thousands of teachers from around the country have camped and held daily protests, disrupting traffic and services. They are protesting the government of President Peña Nieto, which passed an “educational reform” law whose primary purpose is to control teachers. The government claims the law improves teacher standards by testing teachers’ competence. But it was rammed through Congress with no input from teachers.

In the poorest states, conditions—from the physical structure of schools, to lack of teaching materials and other resources—are abysmal. The response of a militant minority has created the most substantial teacher protests in decades. They have gone on for months, including a month-long strike at the beginning of the school year in many states. The federal government has refused to negotiate in any serious manner.

Many students in Mexico City support the teachers, and joined in their demonstrations. But the protests haven’t found the needed mass support from other sectors of society, particularly other unions—a legacy of corrupt, party-controlled unions. Where the movement will go now isn’t yet clear.

—Eugene Walker

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