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puce Editorial 30 may 2012
Michel Laforge

The association AGTER runs an international network of people, exchanging and thinking together how to improve the governance of land, water and natural resources. The network selects and makes information available but it also formulates suggestions and alternatives to face the current great challenges. A quaterly newsletter presents the latest information available on our website : www.agter.asso.fr. Each newsletter is introduced with an editorial written by a member of AGTER’s network.

Tremors in Latin America ?

Solidarity march for land in Guatemala, solidarity march for Life in Ecuador, Solidarity march for Tipnis (Indian territory and national park where Evo Morales’ government had a project to build a new road) in Bolivia... Is that just a simple coincidence for Indian organizations to protest the same way ? A kind of « atavism of the protest march» ? Or can we detect links between the events of last month ?

Beside the fact that it is undoubtedly a very effective method of protest - in theory non violent - and that allows a very good media coverage – we can observe that in all cases, the purpose of these marches is to draw the attention of public institutions and public opinion on the situation of access to land and natural resources. This is a march to protest against their debt after financing their lands, a march against the eviction of communities from their land in conflict and against mining projects in Guatemala, a march to protest also against the mining projects in Ecuador, and a march to protest against the proposed road construction through a protected area, endangering the lifestyle of Indian people in neighboring Bolivia.

At least in Bolivia and Ecuador, these protests come as the countries are run by governments who present themselves as progressive, with speeches almost revolutionary, and are the result of Indian and peasant organizations that should be logically backing these process of political transformation.
This shows that it is not the political speeches that are called into question but an economic model that continues to see the export of raw materials (with minerals in the first place) as the main resource of funding for the countries in question (when these latter are actually able to not give the bulk of these profit to big business dealers, which is not the case in many South American countries known) and which does not sufficiently take into account the views of people concerned, not hesitating to manhandle to silence, bringing people to organize ... marches!

One would like to say that these peaceful protests are a tremor that prepares the arrival of a new economic model that will take into account the natural resources and populations, but it would certainly err on optimism.
But at least they show the willingness of local people not to leave their future in the hands of international investors.

Michel Laforge is a member of aGter

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