Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bearing Witness: Bagua Grande

Spontaneously, people organize mass demonstrations against the action of their government. The government cracks down on them, killing an unknown number of them. People on the scene risk their freedom or even their lives taking pictures and video of the fight, circulating the images on the internet for the sake of international witness. There were solidarity protests in other countries. Sly conspiracy theories were soon floated that the protesters are "terrorists" and are being manipulated by other countries.

No, not Iran. We've all been watching that. No, I'm talking about Peru.

This is a story showing the dark side of global neoliberalism, of unrestrained capitalist economics, the paradigm that views a jungle as a box full of resources rather than as a community and a living organism.

The President of Peru, eager to comply with a free-trade pact with the United States, used executive orders to grab the Amazon. Some sources I have read say that he was actually exceeding what was required in the trade pact, but in any case, he issued a series of decrees declaring the Amazon open for mining, oil excavation, and logging. There was no public comment, no vote, no democratic participation in the policy, nor even a legislative debate. The indigenous people living on this land had no representation in the decision.

They were a little bit angry. These policies meant mass numbers of human beings being displaced, along with the destruction of all that land. 300,000 human beings staged sit-ins and blocked roads in protest.

The police moved in and started cracking heads. Protesters were murdered, others vanished. Some fought back and a few policemen were killed as well. Ji Jang Bosal, Ji Jang Bosal, Ji Jang Bosal.

Peruvians have expressed revulsion for these events, and the government has now repealed two of President Garcia's decrees, while the United Nations calls for an investigation into the battle at Bagua Grande.

It's a great story, isn't it? I wonder why the American press pays such scarce attention to it. Human beings in central and south America are marching against the negative aspects of free trade, and in some places -- as here, and in Guatemala -- they are being answered with violence.

It is a story that most corporate-owned media and the Obama Administration would just as soon avoid, because in a story like this dead people are not silenced, but speak more loudly than ever. The need to stop and reconsider our views of human progress for the next century is impossible to ignore in a story like this.

The Obama Administration, at the State level if not at the top, must comment on the impact of free trade agreements on small places and the human communities that live there. They must comment on the incidents where official violence is used to pave a road for extraction of resources by international capitalists, at the expense of human life and the world that sustains us.

1 comment:

Ji Hyang said...

Thanks for covering this.