Saturday, October 22, 2005

The Importance of Being Ecuador, 1

1. Cartels

Hard on the heels of OPEC's 1999 "3rd time's the charm" price increase, the US provided a spike of its own with its 2000 "Plan Colombia." No surprise there; what Saudi Arabia is to oil reserves, home to the largest and most profitable, the US is to guns and death squads. The US Congress authorized $1.3 billion to kit out the Colombian military with latest in counter-drug, counter- insurgency armaments. The size of the appropriation made it clear that there would be enough materiel to go around. There would be enough for the military and political officials to sell to the drug cartels thus offsetting any drop in their own income in the unlikely event the military actually interrupted the drug commerce; and enough to resupply the FARC and ELN militias who would tax the drug producers, accepting payment in weapons and ammunition. Who says the market is not the most perfect of mechanisms for the distribution of resources?

Of course the elements of the "plan" had existed prior to its designation as Colombian, prior to 2000, prior to 1999. More packaging than plan (everything under capital is more packaging than plan), more regional than Colombian, the United States ruling class had begun assembling the components after ceding control of the Panama Canal and Canal Zone to Panama. That, in conjunction with and under the cover of "drug interdiction," led the US to negotiate for and obtain "forward operating locations" (FOLs) from governments in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The FOLs were/are military bases from which the US military can conduct, and sub-contract, surveillance, interdiction, and insertion operations against.... against everything and anything. FOLs have been used to base air surveillance of the Andean countries; to intercept, and interrogate those attempting "unauthorized" immigration into the United States; for insertion of military advisors into conflict zones.

And since repackaging failed policies-- like reincorporating and renaming bankrupt companies, is essential to capitalism, indispensable for maintaining cash-flow-- each year of big bucks and little bangs brings forth pre-Plan Colombia and Plan Colombia repackaged as expanded regional initiatives, involving Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Brazil (in 1999 Chavez began limiting and withdrawing Venezuela's participation US anti-drug schemes).

In1999, Ecuador agreed to a 10 year lease by the United States for the Eloy Alfaro airbase at Manta on the Pacific Coast. While the advertised function of the US at Manta is "aerial detection, monitoring, tracking, and control of illegal narcotics activity," US actions have included naval intercepts of ships suspected of carrying "illegal immigrants," and accumulating intelligence regarding guerrilla fighters and movements of indigenous people on the shared border of Colombia and Ecuador.

Under Plan Colombian, the Colombia military was to take the war to the FARC and ELN guerrillas, covering anti-left warfare as anti-drug intervention; securing the benefits of pipeline capitalism for... for the pipeline capitalists, of course. But the Colombian military, armed and transported by the US has failed to isolate, encircle, and destroy the guerrillas of the FARC.

The FARC military and political command has been able to secure and protect rear areas, establishing bases in the Colombian region of Putumayo.

Unable to penetrate and control the Putumayo, Colombian military actions have created waves of refugees, with estimates of up to 75,000 Colombians forced into and through the Putamayo to seek safety in Ecuador. The FARC itself has reportedly set up areas for medical treatment of its fighters on Ecuador's side of the border with Putamayo.

Putamayo, surprisingly enough, is the area in Colombia considered the most promising for future exploration, discovery, and development of oil reserves. Or maybe not so surpisingly, since Putumayo borders the Ecuadorian areas of Sucumbios and Orellana, the two regions responsible for Ecuador's daily 500,000 barrels oil production; the two areas explored, exploited, and fouled by Petroecuador and the international oil majors, ChevronTexaco, Occidental Petroleum, Encana: two areas that, prior to 1967, were inhabited by indigenous tribes that recognized neither Ecuador nor Colombia, much less a border between Ecuador and Colombia; two areas where the indigenous peoples have been brought "forward" from their "archaic" past of isolation to the thoroughly modern conditions of advanced extraction capitalism-- the conditions of immiseration, oppression, and abandonment.

Since 2001, the US has added yet added another component to the identity of the enemy to be targeted by Plan Pipeline-- that of the indigenous peoples. And in a burst of serendipity, or radical simplification, or co-branding, the US found the one word, that ultimate in packaging, to describe them-- the Marxist guerrillas, the cocaine growers and manufacturers, the indigenous peoples-- all, and all of them: Testifying before a US House of Representatives subcommittee, US undersecretary of state, Richard Armitage announced that Al Qaeda cells were operating near Ecuador's borders with Colombia and Peru. There was the word, the package that was the best and the worst of times, the apex and nadir of capital, the fear and greed and trembling all in one: terrorists.

2. Nation(s)

If historically the nation is the product, the symbol, and the package of the bourgeoisie's triumph over its predecessors; over the pre-conditions of its own existence; over feudal and near-feudal conditions of land and labor; of its unification of city and countryside into a home market-- if all that, then Ecuador was formed in the defeat, the strangulation of that revolutionary impulse of capital. Ecuador preserved in its very creation the power of those predecessors, those pre-conditions, that feudal and near-feudal relations of land and labor, that divergence between city and countryside, that insignificance of the home market.

And all these, these indexes of backwardness, these bundled incapacities, were/are but facets of capital's thoroughly modern incapability: the inability to emancipate the labor of the indigenous people. Capital's gleaming failure is the dirty secret to it tarnished success. And that success is the preservation of private property. In its preservation of the legacy of indentured labor, in its maintenance of the miserable, impoverished terms of labor, capital maintains its miserable, impoverished self.

From the 16th century, when half the indigenous population were confined to the slavery of the encomienda system through the late 20th century when 2/3 of the rural indigenous population served the hacienda economy, the huasipungo, by laboring 4 days of every week for the hacienda owners, through the 21st century where the national and international oil companies have destroyed the environment, the culture of the indigenous peoples, the oppression of the indigenous peoples has been the bedrock upon which church and state have rested.

In February 2004, the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights of the OAS ordered the government of Ecuador to protect Leonide Iza, leader of the Congress of Indigenous Natives of Ecuador, from threats of assault and assassination. Responded Ecuador's then Minister of Energy and Mines, "The OAS doesn't give orders here." So does capital preserve the haciendaist in its modern terms of expropriation.

S. Artesian, October 22, 2005.

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