Saturday, January 9, 2010

Indigenous protests in Ecuador

According to a recent daily brief from Oxford Analytica, indigenous protests are intensifying in Ecuador with discontent with the government´s mining policy:

"Government policies to attract mining companies to Ecuador have excited strong reactions from the country's highland indigenous communities. Indigenous groups argue that the detailed regulations that would implement the government's Mining Law have not been properly discussed in negotiating committees. Ecuador's mining potential has become increasingly evident in recent years, thanks to a number of exploratory surveys by foreign mining companies. Conflicts between rural communities and mining companies have erupted into major battles in neighbouring Peru. Indigenous groups in Ecuador are demanding that all mining concessions to private companies should revert to the state."

In my view this is one of the most relevant conflicts in Latin America at the moment because it reflects the difficulties that the left is facing to devise a coherent model of development. We have two positions that are at times difficult to reconcile:

a. The modernizing left, which wants to promote economic growth and equity through industrial policy, universal social policy and, more generally, active state intervention.

b. A "small is beautiful" left (for lack of a better name!), which questions the modernization project altogether and wants to concentrate on community autonomy and the protection of the environment.

Which of the two projects make more sense? Are they compatible? These are questions that we must confront both theoretically and in terms of policy if we are going to consolidate a more progressive development path.

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