The ongoing violence between the indigenous communities of Peru on the one hand and the government on the other has been cited as the one of the country’s worst political crises. For a considerable period, the communities have not only expressed their opposition against the government, but have also engaged in acts of civil disobedience in the recent past. In June this year, confrontations between indigenous protestors and the state police left nearly a hundred people dead and hundreds injured, the majority of the casualties and fatalities being civilians (Romero, 2009).
This followed a government decision to end the massive demonstrations by launching an aggressive military campaign against those protesting on the country’s roads. In essence, the communities’ initiative of holding peaceful demonstration so as to protest against the exploitation of the Amazon rain forest, and the deliberate government efforts to counter such protests can be described as a global crisis precipitated by the unprecedented struggle to exploit the few natural resources available in the environment.
Though the conflict is occurring at the national level, its effects will inevitably be felt at the international front, considering the central position of the Amazon as a focal biodiversity epicenter. Globalization has been defined as the process of blending or homogenization by which individuals and organizations of the world are unified into one society and work together without restrictions, through a combination of economical, technological, socio-cultural and political forces.
It also entails the reduction or elimination of enforced restrictions of countries on international exchanges hence increasing integrated and complex global system of production and exchange (Christian, 2002). Indeed, globalization has served to shape the world economy. Individual economies which were originally isolated from each other are currently being influenced by the each other’s actions, as well as policies and circumstances in the global markets, which in turn assist them to devise their own policy measures.
One of the characterizing attributes of globalization is the process of merging and integrating the economies of world economies. Over the past half century, the western countries, and particularly United States and Europe have been vocal in the establishment of a global market economy characterized by the free flow of people and capital, and free trade. However, a skeptical view depicts global integration as only beneficial to the developed world, but harmful to poor nations, the environment as well as native populations.
In the face of many, the process is increasingly worsening the global environmental crisis that has prevailed with the intensification of industrialization (Christian, 2002). From a practical point of view, this appears to be the case in Amazon basin of Peru. In April 2006, the United States and Peruvian governments signed a Free Trade Agreement intended to foster bilateral trade between the two countries. Even at its outset, the agreement was heavily criticized by environmental organizations, citing potential environmental and labor concerns.
The FTA became effective in February this year, and precipitated a number changes in Peru’s law so as to facilitate increased access to the Amazon forest (Cabello, 2009). Although the Peruvian Congress approved the initiation of such legislative changes, the indigenous people living in the expansive Amazon region were not consulted, thus contravening the 169th convention of the International Labor Organization. Describing the regulations as a deliberate move to invite foreign companies to exploit the natural resources within the forest zones, the native communities held massive protests in August 2008.
Subsequently, the Congress was forced to repeal two of the laws, and additionally pledged to reexamine the others. The apparent failure to abide by the promise eventually led to an eruption of renewed protests starting April 2009. Since then, they have been remained persistent in advancing their cause: that the legislative provisions which inevitably undermine their land and water rights have to be abolished (Romero, 2009).
Central in the current conflict between the indigenous people and the Peruvian government is the controversy surrounding the idea of allowing multinational oil corporations, particularly those of American origin, to explore as well as mine oil and other mineral resources in the Amazon under the 2006 agreement (Romero, 2009). From a basic point of view, the physical clashes represent the conflicting interests between these two parties. On the one hand, the government led by President Garcia purports to exploit the natural resources in the Amazon in order to bring economic wealth for all citizens.
Notably, the potential geographical zones to be explored for their oil and gas deposits cover about seventy two percent of the country’s rain forests (Chauvin, 2009). Similarly, the government also intends to open up the water resources and forest lands to other economic activities such as large-scale farming and extensive mining explorations. From the side of the incumbency, such a move should not elicit any local opposition, considering that the government’s ownership of all subsoil rights. The exploration of these vast lands by multinational corporations would definitely accrue immense economic wealth.
On the other hand, the indigenous people see the move as a threat to their ancestral land, their own security, and the environment in general. This is so considering the fact that the mineral exploration initiatives could end up affecting more than thirty thousand natives spread across six of Peru’s provinces (Chauvin, 2009). An estimated 50 percent of Peru is covered by the Amazon rain forest, which houses more than sixty ethnic groups. In the recent past however, the Amazon region has attracted numerous oil, gas, and other mining corporations with the objective of exploring the natural resources found within the forest.
Since 2005 for instance, the regions selected for gas and oil concessions have significantly increased (from an estimated fifteen to seventy percent) (Cabello, 2009). Early this year, the country’s oil licensing organization signed contracts with several multinational oil corporations, permitting them to explore natural resources in the Amazon. Although such initiatives will promote economic growth in the country, a critical observation reveals the activities of these international companies jeopardize the very existence of the Amazon, which is widely recognized as an important center of biodiversity, even at the global front.
Indeed, the Amazon Basin is an extremely important resource especially when we consider international issues such as the realities of environmental pollution and global warming. Generating close to twenty percent of the earth’s fresh water, the basin is home to numerous indigenous Peruvian communities. Despite their continued habitation of the forest regions for many years, the natural resources have been well-preserved, thus promoting environmental sustainability.
Additionally, the Amazon has been cited as vital in the regulation of atmospheric emissions, particularly carbon dioxide responsible for environmental pollution, besides stabilizing rainfall and guarding against desertification (Chauvin, 2009). Seen in this sense, Amazon has served to mitigate the devastating impacts of climate change that are often associated with global warming. Recent government reports highlight continued overlap between the concession lands (those designated for hydrocarbon extraction) and the natural protected areas occupied by the indigenous population (Chauvin, 2009).
United States’ oil companies such as Burlington and Hunt Oil are currently mining fossil fuels in areas that were traditionally reserved as natural lands. With no hope of a possible retreat of the current trends, the indigenous Peruvians continue to face numerous environmental problems including soil and water pollution, which in turn impacts negatively on their health. In essence, continued investment in the Amazon rainforest appears to contradict what world nations, including the U. S. nd Peru postulate as viable strategies of mitigating the currently witnessed global climate change. It is apparent that the continued extraction and transportation of fossil fuels will lead to an unprecedented release of toxic materials into the soil and increasing the percentage of greenhouse emissions in the atmosphere.
Additionally, these multinational companies are also contributing to deforestation via the establishment of infrastructures such as roads and oil pipelines. It is indeed ironical that bilateral and international agreements such as the one between the U. S. nd Peru could actually end up fueling the global climate crisis and threatening the very livelihoods of indigenous populations, rather than initiating measures towards its alleviation and encouraging sustainable development. It is questionable that the Peruvian government should take advantage of the natives who lack title deeds and therefore direct claims to the land they have lived in for many years. Instead of focusing on the immediate economic benefits, the government ought to consider the potential harm to the Amazon Basin, as well as the life it has supported for a prolonged duration.
Courtney from Study Moose
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