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(en) France, Union Communiste Libertaire AL #306 - Ecology, Amazonia: at the risk of the virus and the thirst for gold (fr, it, pt)[machine translation]

Date Fri, 31 Jul 2020 10:25:44 +0300

The health situation has exacerbated the problems already existing among the indigenous populations, causing shortages and isolation. Far from solving them, the authorities' actions go in the opposite direction: the authorization of a new mega-mining project. ---- Worried about their income, the capitalists rushed to their "safe haven" during the pandemic. Result, the price of gold explodes. In the Amazon, the consequences were immediate: while the police left to control the confinement, the artisanal miners increased their activity, and therefore the pollution and destruction of both the forest and the river. ---- The economic "refuge" of the capitalists destroys the refuges of humans and living beings in the Amazon. The alert was quickly given by the Wayana populations on the Haut Maroni, which the WWF was able to illustrate with aerial photos. Faced with the lack of reaction from the authorities, the Grand Customary Council of the Amerindian and Bushinenge populations pronounced on March 29 the closure of Haut Maroni to traffic, by its own means.

Indigenous people organize themselves
But illegal gold panning is not the only danger. In full confinement, the prefecture, obviously without any other priority, brings together the departmental mining commission. During this commission, the Compagnie minière Espérance (CME) and the transnational Newmount, one of the world leaders in gold, present and receive a positive response to its gold megamine project between the municipalities of Apatou and Grand-Santi. . And this, even though the CME is still awaiting a judgment from the correctional court for water pollution (a lawsuit which was postponed due to confinement).

Remember that gold is used at 86% for jewelry, the creation of money or government stocks. The remaining 14% are divided between electronics and medicine. Once again, it is not the capitalists who pay for their crises, but the forest and those who inhabit it, and those who die in the mines.

It is estimated that around 13,000 indigenous people live in Guyana today. The health crisis itself hits them hard. Amerindian villages can present more risk from several points of view: health infrastructure reduced to a minimum or even absent, and therefore access to treatment areas by canoe or plane, which is obviously very expensive.

The inhabitants are sometimes considered "at risk" by epidemiologists, due to the greater presence of diabetes and hypertension. The situation may have pushed the indigenous populations to move away from urban centers to find the forest, in Colombia for example. In Guyana, indigenous organizations have organized themselves to provide isolated areas with gasoline and rifle cartridges, in order to facilitate hunting.

Indeed, the crisis has caused serious food shortages on the rivers. While the authorities have carried out supplies by helicopter, agriculture, hunting and fishing are the only real tools for resilience in isolated areas. The empty stores have once again demonstrated Guyana's dependence on European France, and on the oil that sustains transatlantic trade lines.

The health risks came to a head in Brazil, when missionary evangelists tried to reach indigenous territories despite the risks. And for good reason ! The National Indian Foundation (Funai), in charge of mapping and protecting the lands occupied by indigenous peoples, has been headed since the beginning of February by... Mr. Lopes Dias, former missionary of New Tribes Mission, a multinational evangelist: 3 200 missionaries from around the world, already accused in Brazil of pedophilia and slavery.

Climate change and colonial heritage
The Customary Grand Council, in its press release on the crisis, moreover explicitly makes the link with past colonization and its genocidal consequences: " [The crisis]puts us face to face with the legacy of a colonial wound and the collective trauma left behind. by epidemics, which once decimated our ancestors[...]. Despite this, we remain determined[...]to fulfill our mission in the fight against climate change, which is a significant factor in the appearance and transmission of viruses. »Many studies have indeed shown major links between the emergence of disease, deforestation for intensive agriculture and climate change.

The climate has also impacted the situation. Mawalum Amandine Galima, spokesperson for the Indigenous Youth of Guyana, explains it on Radio-Canada: the drought in March (one third less rain than normal) lowered the water level of the rivers, and therefore made the movement of goods and people difficult. Temperatures were particularly high, with + 1.6 ° C compared to normal maximum temperatures.

March 2020 was the hottest month on record since measurements began in Guyana in 1955. Subsequently, the heaviest rains in thirty years fell, causing flooding in villages, drowning houses and cultures.

Guyanese urban areas have suffered the effects of the crisis differently. The Maroni Lab Association explains it on its website: in Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni, 15 to 20,000 people live in "spontaneous neighborhoods", the official name for slums in Guyana.

How do you confine yourself when you have to go down to the river, to the communal fountain to do your dishes and wash ? How to "stay at home" when there is no demarcation between one's plot and that of the neighbor ? How to feed when all the informal economy stops, and the "jobs" with ?

The health crisis has accentuated pre-existing social problems in Guyana, inherent in the situation in which the "metropolis" places its "overseas" territories , and shows once again that movements from the stock market to the other side of the world here translate into life or death.

Jocelyn (UCL Guyana)

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