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Chile

Food Sovereignty Is About Deciding To Change the World

By Pancha Rodríguez - La Via Campesina, April 27, 2021

To celebrate April 17th, International Day of Peasant Struggle, Capire publishes this interview with Pancha Rodríguez, a member of the Latin American Coordination of Countryside Organizations (Coordinadora Latinoamericana de Organizaciones del Campo—CLOC-La Via Campesina) and of the National Association of Rural and Indigenous Women of Chile (Asociación Nacional de Mujeres Rurales e Indígenas—ANAMURI). Pancha spoke about a long personal and collective journey of struggle for food sovereignty, feminism, and socialism.

First of all, please introduce yourself, looking back at your struggle as a militant and your life story.

I’m Luz Francisca Rodríguez, and everyone knows me as Pancha, which is short for Francisco and Francisca in our country. I come from a rural village that is now part of the city, because as the city expands, it takes over a big part of the countryside and the sectors that used to feed the villages. This forces me to be constantly migrating from the city. I’m someone who doesn’t have much formal education, but I have a great contribution regarding social, political, ideological, and cultural education within the movement.

I’m a flower farmer—this was my contradiction, I produced flowers, not food. When I was young, my work was dedicated to what now may be called a seasonal worker. I was a farmer, a gatherer. We started with the beans and worked our way to the vineyards.

Since I was very little, I had to take care of my home. I worked in different areas, including seasonal work in the countryside and working several different jobs in the winter. I worked for two years at a casino, the post office, and the telegraph office. Then I started to work in the union, at the youth department of the CUT [Unified Workers’ Central]. At age twelve, I joined the Communist Youth, and I’m “old school”: I’m part of the Communist Party, I do militant work in a cell, I pay my dues, I buy the newspaper, I study, I don’t hold big positions in the party, but I’m dedicated to the organization.

I was the woman in charge of the Communist Youth national office in its Central Committee, I worked a lot with the Women’s Front of the Popular Unity for the people’s government, I was one of the sisters working side by side with great women who built the first Women’s Department in the Allende administration, working for the Ministry of Women. Later, when I went underground, I worked with human rights supporting women who were building collectives with partners of political prisoners and victims of forced disappearance, with political prisoners, and family members in exile.

As of 1979, I was no longer underground and I joined the work of the Peasant Confederation of El Surco, now Ranquil, and became the female head. In 1988, when the “no” plebiscite was about to be held, my partner was elected secretary of the International Union of Agriculture, Forests, and Crops, which at the time was part of the World Federation of Trade Unions. I was in charge of the Women’s Matters office. From this process, I went on to build the campaign to commemorate the 500 years of Indigenous, peasant, Black, and grassroots resistance, and then the constitution of the CLOC and La Vía Campesina, always developing work with women in the organization, side by side with young sisters who come from feminist movements and organizations.

Lithium, Batteries and Climate Change: The transition to green energy does not have to be powered by destructive and poisonous mineral extraction

By Jonathan Neale - Climate and Capitalism, February 11, 2021

I have spent the last year working on a book called Fight the Fire: Green New Deals and Global Climate Jobs. Most of it is about both the politics and the engineering of any possible transition that can avert catastrophic climate breakdown. One thing I had to think about long and hard was lithium and car batteries.

I often hear people say that we can’t cover the world with electric vehicles, because there simply is not enough lithium for batteries. In any case, they add, lithium production is toxic, and the only supplies are in the Global South. Moreover, so the story goes, there are not enough rare earth metals for wind turbines and all the other hardware we will need for renewable energy.

People often smile after they say those things, which is hard for me to understand, because it means eight billion people will go to hell.

So I went and found out about lithium batteries and the uses of rare earth. What I found out is that the transition will be possible, but neither the politics nor the engineering is simple. This article explains why. I start by describing the situation simply, and then add in some of the complexity.

Lithium is a metal used in almost all electric vehicle batteries today. About half of global production of lithium currently goes to electric vehicles. And in future we will need to increase the production of electric vehicles from hundreds or thousands to hundreds of millions. That will require vast amounts of lithium.

There are three ways to mine lithium. It can be extracted from rock. It can be extracted from the brine that is left over when sea water passes through a desalination plant. Or it can be extracted from those brine deposits which are particularly rich in lithium. These brine deposits are the common way of mining lithium currently, because it is by far the cheapest. Most of the known deposits of lithium rich brine are in the arid highlands where Bolivia, Chile and Argentina come together.

Lithium mining is well established in Chile and Argentina. In both countries the local indigenous people have organized against the mining, but so far been unable to stop it. The mining is toxic, because large amounts of acid are used in the processing. But the mining also uses large amounts of water in places that already has little enough moisture. The result is that ancestral homelands become unlivable.

Bolivia may have even richer deposits of lithium than Argentina and Chile, but mining has not begun there. The Bolivian government had been led by the indigenous socialist Evo Morales from 2006 to 2019. Morales had been propelled to power by a mass movement committed to taking back control of Bolivia’s water, gas and oil resources from multinational corporations. Morales was unable to nationalize the corporations, but he did insist on the government getting a much larger share of the oil and gas revenue.[1]

His government planned to go even further with lithium. Morales wanted to mine the lithium in Bolivia, but he wanted to build factories alongside the mines to make batteries. In a world increasingly hungry for batteries, that could have turned Bolivia into an industrial nation, not just a place to exploit resources.

The Morales government, however, was unable to raise the necessary investment funds. Global capital, Tesla, the big banks and the World Bank had no intention of supporting such a project. And if they had, they would not have done so in conjunction with a socialist like Morales. Then, in 2019, a coup led by Bolivian capitalists, and supported by the United States, removed Morales. Widespread popular unrest forced a new election in October. Morales’ party, the Movement for Socialism won, though Morales himself was out of the running. It is unclear what will happen to the lithium.

That’s one level of complexity. The local indigenous people did not want the lithium mined. The socialist government did not want extractavism, but they did want industrial development.

Those are not the only choices.

For one thing, there are other, more expensive ways of mining lithium. It can be mined from hard rock in China or the United States. More important, batteries do not have to be made out of lithium. Cars had used batteries for almost a century before Sony developed a commercial lithium-ion battery in 1991. Engineers in many universities are experimenting with a range of other materials for building batteries. But even without looking to the future, it would be possible to build batteries in the ways they used to be built. Indeed, in January 2020, the US Geological Service listed the metals that could be substituted for lithium in battery anodes as calcium, magnesium, mercury and zinc.[2]

The reason all manufacturers currently use lithium is that it provides a lighter battery that lasts longer. That gives the car greater range without recharging, and it make possible a much lighter car. In other words, lithium batteries are cheaper.

Chile: Lies, dam lies and a Mapuche activist murdered

By - Freedom, January 30, 2018

It has taken nearly a year-and-a-half of fighting the authorities, and a second autopsy, to confirm what the family of Macarena Valdés Muñoz already knew – she was hanged after her death. There was no suicide. 

On the afternoon of Monday August 22nd, 2016 Macarena, a Mapuche environmental activist fighting against the construction of a mini-hydroelectric dam near and over her property in Newen-Tranguil, near Liquine, Los Rios, was found hanged in her home aged 32. A noose was round her neck and for the coroner the situation was obvious: “Death by suffocation and hanging” – a suicide with a technical explanation that baffled her family.

What had actually happened however was murder. A doctor was first to explain to loved ones that key factors for a suicide had not happened. Her cervical vertebra hadn’t been broken, and it was clear, explained her father-in-law, Mapuche political leader Marcelino Collío, she had been killed. Most likely, it had happened in front of her one-year-old child who was with her at the time.

But it wouldn’t be until January 19th 2018, with the trail long cold, that they would have their suspicions confirmed by a government department in a statement that acknowledged Macarena could not have killed herself. She had instead been killed and then hanged to simulate suicide,

Last week, following the second report, the family and supporters from the Health For All Movement made a number of demands of the authorities, who they suspect of effective collusion in what amounts to a racist strong-arming of the Mapuche community in Tranguil to force them to accept damaging mini-hydroelectric dams across the regional river network. They called for:

  • A new statement of intent on the part of authorities and agencies involved in the investigation of Macarena’s death
  • The the results of both autopsies be clarified to show why the first was inaccurate
  • That resources be provided to investigate the murder fully and bring the killers to justice

They added:

We denounce the violence and permanent intimidation suffered by the community of Tranguil, exercised by the State and the hydroelectric companies interested in extracting the riches of the territory, at the expense of the destruction of the natural and cultural heritage of the town.

Through our history in Latin America we know that this crime corresponds to the way in which, both state policies and business groups, repress through terror and silencing the dissidence and diversity of peoples.

There were strong reasons for the suspicions of Macarena’s family and community, which have repeatedly clashed with both the government and hydroelectric companies over the future of development in and around Tranguil, in the mountains of Los Rios.

Quintero zona de catástrofe

By René Cumplido - El Ciudadano, October 28, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

La gran mancha de petróleo derramado aún permanece en el fondo de la bahía de Quintero según el informe dado a conocer por las autoridades este fin de semana. Según el biólogo marino Hugo Poblete, del Movimiento de Pescadores Artesanales de Quintero, el nivel de PH en las aguas arroja una acidez de 2,7, lo que provoca la muerte de toda la flora y fauna del lugar.

Esto coincide con la última declaración de la Enap, propietaria del crudo, reconociendo que el derrame, hasta el momento, supera los 22 mil litros, una cifra diez veces mayor a la dada a conocer durante la semana pasada.

Entre el puerto de Ventanas y  la empresa Oxiquim, en una superficie de 1.800 metros de largo por cinco metros de ancho,  la playa quedó cubierta por petróleo crudo, el que lentamente, pese a los esfuerzos de los equipos de limpieza, comenzó a desplazarse a través de las corrientes por toda la bahía.

La mancha de petróleo aún es visible en el mar en una extensión de 25 kilómetros entre la península de Los Molles hasta cerca de Chachagua, sumando más de 20 playas y pequeños requeríos contaminados con el crudo. Al acercarse, por ejemplo, a playa Las Conchitas, a varios kilómetros del accidente, y aunque la empresa ya dio por concluidas las labores de limpieza, aún se observan restos de hidrocarburos en las algas de los requeríos.

Thousands of Workers Begin Strike at World’s Biggest Copper Mine

By Cecilia Jamasmie - Mining.Com, September 22, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Close to 2,800 miners at Chile's Escondida, the world's biggest copper mine, began a 24-hour “warning” strike on Monday morning as they seek to negotiate better working conditions, Publimetro reports (in Spanish).

Workers belonging to the Sindicato No. 1 union said if talks with the mine owners, BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP) and Rio Tinto (LON:RIO), don’t bear fruit, they’ll stage an indefinite stoppage beginning Wednesday morning.

The 1.2 million tonnes a year operation, located in Chile's Atacama Desert, also provides around 1,900 contract workers with full time jobs.

The news did not affect the red metal prices. London copper futures, in fact, fell to their weakest level in months, losing 1.46% to trade at $6,735 a tonne by 0648 GMT. Earlier they had fallen falling to $6,722.50, the lowest since June.

So far this year copper prices have tumbled more than 8%.

Escondida’s Sindicato No. 1 union carried out a similar 24-hour stoppage over pay and conditions last year. That dispute was quickly settled, but during a two-week strike in the summer of 2011 output of more than 40,000 tonnes of copper was lost, forcing operator BHP to declare force majeure.

News of the strike comes not long after BHP said the mine could substantially increase total output next year to 1.27 million tonnes.

The mine which also produces gold and silver as by-products plays a key role in the Chilean economy, accounting for about for 2.5% of the country's gross domestic product. According to Rio Tinto’s website, in 2012 the mine generated 5% of global copper production and around 15% of the South American nation output.

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