Thursday, June 25, 2009

Citizen Practice: A Letter on Peru

[I'm not very good at being concise. This is a bit squashed to get it on a single page, but the point more or less comes across. A similar version goes to the Secretary of State. I figure, SOMEBODY will read it...]

Senator Jeff Bingaman

148 Loretto Town Centre, 505 South Main

Las Cruces, NM 88001

RE: Peru and Global Trade

Dear Senator,

In Bagua Grande, a veil has dropped and, one more time, the dark side of globalization has shown itself.

The Peruvian government’s violent crackdown on peaceful protesters in Peru ought to shock our conscience. While I understand there is also major news in the middle east this month, the events in Peru deserve to be witnessed and remarked upon by our government.

Citing Peru’s free-trade pact with the United States, President Garcia of Peru rammed a series of decrees through the legislature that would summarily open up the Amazon to international companies. Regardless of the human communities who live there, the jungle would be logged, the gold and oil excavated, the water polluted or drained, and human beings displaced. There was no democratic participation in the decision, nor even a debate among lawmakers.

It was an executive order, made with no regard for the human or the ecological impact.

300,000 human beings who live in, near, and care about for the land and the human communities connected to it, staged peaceful but effective protests. They blocked roads and staged mass sit-ins. The Garcia government responded with violence, which ignited into an uprising that killed several police officers as well as protesters. A number of demonstrators have also disappeared with no accounting.

To be fair, some sources I have read said that Garcia’s decrees reached far beyond what was required in the free-trade pact, and in no way am I suggested the United States has any direct culpability in this act by the Peruvian government. There are, however, some questions our nation should consider and remark upon.

In our economic paradigm, “competitiveness” is the paramount value. More and more of the world is pressured to accept the idea that economic progress means maximizing environmental impact. In other words, to stay “competitive,” we see a pattern of overlogging, clear-cutting, draining wetlands, overgrazing, over-fertlizing and subsequent destruction of soils, and industrial pollution. President Garcia, in numerous comments, has demonstrated that he views the Amazon as a box full of treasures rather than a living organism, and a community of human beings for whom he is responsible.

This paradigm also requires us to deflect or ignore the human consequences of our economic activity. Garcia referred to these human beings as “dogs,” certainly not as citizens. President Obama has just declared the right to peacefully assemble and address ones government as a “universal“ human right. Have we nothing to say about what has happened here in the Americas?

We must re-think our assumptions about human progress. The harvesting of the Amazon has already caused the loss of human life and the destruction of communities. Although two of Garcia’s decrees have now been repealed, the issue remains. In your view, should profits prevail over human life? Does our economic activity serve the many, or the few?



Nathan said...

I have a friend whose husband is from Peru, and who lived there with him for about two years. And I have followed issues in South America, especially those linked to our governmental/corporate actions here, for many years. You're so dead on about the double standard concerning human rights. We'll stand up and call the Iranian government a thuggish dictatorship, but when it comes to countries like Peru, which support of economic agenda, we turn the other way on their abuses.

The world is too damn small to play these kinds of games. Thanks for "pestering" people in our government. I'll ship something off to Senator Klobuchar soon (we still have only one Senator here in Minnesota (snicker, snicker :) After all the constant pestering I've been doing on health care, maybe a topic shift is called for.


Algernon said...

Thanks, Nathan. You have a great opportunity coming up, as I am sure you know the President of Columbia arrives in Washington on Monday to discuss Columbia's embattled FTA with the U.S.

Obama the candidate opposed it for all the right reasons. Uribe is backsliding on democracy, and the legislature is riddled with people associated with the far-fight paramilitary goon squads that kill labor organizers and other citizens who want a say in these far-reaching economic decisions. Prosecutions of these assassinations have been absurdly lax, and Columbia's promises to "improve" human rights have not been substantiated.

Doesn't matter. Obama the President embraces a paradigm of economic viability and human progress that tolerates murder, winks at tyranny, and considers the earth a box of goods rather than an organism.

Insanely, we call this "pragmatism."