Latin America notes, March-April 2021

March 11, 2021

From the March-April 2021 issue of News & Letters

by Eugene Walker

Coal mine casualties

Mexico City—Christina Auerbach, an activist from the Pasta de Conchos Family organization which brings together the relatives of the 65 workers who died in February 2006, said: “Fifteen years after the explosion in the Pasta de Conchos coal mine, the labor situation for the miners has not changed, as the conditions of insecurity and the contracts that favor businessmen remain intact.

“If I compare a photo of a coal mine from yesterday, to one from two, eight or 15 years ago, the truth is that there is no difference as to which corresponds to [the presidential administration] of the 4th Transition [Lopez Obrador], Peña [Nieto] or [Felipe de Jesús] Calderón. They are all the same. There is an inertia in the region because there is a strong contempt for the lives of the miners.”

Obrador had promised upon taking office that his government would recover the 63 bodies still entombed in Pasta de Conchos since Grupo México, the mining company responsible for the miners’ deaths, has consistently refused to do so. But little to nothing has been done.

Now, with Obrador’s concept of energy independence and “developmentalism,” there are new plans for more coal mining financed by government buying, and for reactivating a pair of coal-fired plants on the Texas border. His “state-ism” will mean that the government oil company Pemex and the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) will be pumping petroleum and generating electricity with little emphasis on renewable sources of energy.

This past February, two miners in the state of Coahuila, Cristóbal Ramírez and Macedonio Huerta, lost their lives. Auerbach commented: “The coal entrepreneurs say: we can supply more coal so that we can generate more jobs. Yes, but they generate very precarious jobs, in subhuman working conditions.”

La Minería Mata! Mining Kills! No Más Muertes! No More Deaths!

Mapuche resistance

In Chile, the government of President Sebastián Piñera is playing a double game with the Mapuche nation in the Araucanía region. On the one hand, the government said it would negotiate—and is organizing a constituent process that guarantees Indigenous representation in Congress. On the other hand, it announced that the army will carry out joint patrols with the police, and integrate command posts in the south—a territory of over 27,000 square miles.

In that region Mapuche resistance actions have been taking place, mainly aimed at combating and expelling the presence of logging companies that control over 15,000 square miles of native forests that have been replaced by pine plantations and eucalyptus.

In response to the deployment of the armed forces, Héctor Llaitul Carrillanca, spokesman and co-founder of the Coordinator of Communities in Conflict Arauco-Malleco (CAM), a Mapuche insurgent organization, stated: “If they come to attack us, we will have to defend ourselves and resist in some way. That has been a characteristic of our people. It is a situation that we analyze among the communities. We are getting together, doing a lot of trawün (meetings), calling for unity and resistance.”

Mapuche political prisoners issued a statement: “We call on our nation to give continuity to the autonomist and revolutionary struggle, strengthening resistance to capitalism, exercising true territorial control, disputing and fighting against our real enemies. This is the only way to rebuild our nation including its cultural matrix sustained by our territorial and political spaces, once they are liberated.”

While the Mapuche are willing to discuss with the government, militant organizations such as CAM regard reserved seats as a quota of indigenous participation that the Chilean State offers for the management of capitalism. CAM insists on the need to confront the government’s repressive forces within a consolidation of the Mapuche revolutionary struggle, including of resistance and defense of their ancestral territory.

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