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And, yes, I DO take it personally: Citizens assemblies make slow progress in slowing down the mining industry's planned rape of Argentina
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Saturday, May 02, 2009

Citizens assemblies make slow progress in slowing down the mining industry's planned rape of Argentina


the rest of the world really ought to sit up and pay attention to the plethora of popular movements in latin america... they may be struggling against the powerful, monied elites, but at least they're out there DOING something...
Gathering in the Province of San Juan, the heart of the Argentinean mining industry, representatives of the Union of Citizens Assemblies reaffirmed their commitment to fighting an economic model which is plundering natural resources and destroying livelihoods.


Defined loosely as Citizens Assemblies, these organizations emerged in Argentina during the 1990s in response to the rapid advance of an economic model focused on the extraction or cultivation of primary materials for exportation.

“The neoliberal model pursued in particular by President Menem and which continues to a large extent today is one which values business interests and profit over the environment and the well-being of the population,” says Ramon Gomez of the Citizen’s Assembly of San Juan. “This model was imposed on us–there was no consultation whatsoever despite the fact that the arrival of multinational companies and the plundering of our natural resources, has a massive impact on our lives. It would have been suicide for us not to react–we had to come out and defend our lives and the environment. And so we began to organize and to present alternatives.”

Citizens Assemblies have since become important alternative spaces for involving citizens in local and national politics.

“As these spaces do not exist within institutional politics which in Argentina continue to be anti-democratic, we had to create them ourselves, they have become the only way we can have our voices heard,” says Gomez.

Among the main actions taken by Citizens Assemblies to demand change and express their repudiation of the current economic model are: road blocks, including blocking transportation of machinery or materials to the plants of multinational companies, mass demonstrations, events to humiliate public figures known as “escraches”, and symbolic hunger strikes. They also carry out information and education campaigns and research on an ongoing basis.

According to Gomez, the assemblies evolved naturally, based on a conviction that people power is the only way to bring about change.

they've got a real uphill battle on their hands, now that argentina has been tagged as a very ripe, relatively unexploited mining area...
Hailed as the mining industry’s “rising star,” with 75 per cent of its mining potential still unexplored, companies from countries including the U.S., Canada and South Africa have all expressed an interest in working in Argentina. Eighteen large-scale projects are planned for 2015, including one which would straddle the Andean peaks between Argentina and Chile. Known as the Pascual Lama project, it is lead by the world's largest gold miner, Barrick Gold Corp, of which former president George Bush the senior is amongst its board of directors.

when i taught my course a couple of summers ago in elko, nevada, the students were primarily from the mining industry, not a few of them from barrick... i got to tour a barrick open pit gold mine and was fascinated by the giant machinery and the unbelievable amounts of rock that have to be pulverized in order to obtain the tiniest amount of gold... i was also quite frankly horrified at the use of cyanide... yes, i knew cyanide was used in the process, but to see it up close, dripping into huge vats of mineral slurry is quite another level of reality... the guy who showed me around stressed barrick's mitigation procedures and showed me the extensive protections around their holding ponds... i was just stunned with the scale of the whole thing... also, i was acutely aware that i was seeing an operation that was under u.s. and nevada environmental regulations... god forbid what the same kind of operation would be like here in argentina...

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