MAC: Mines and Communities

Wikileaks reveal Western diplomats target anti-mining activists

Published by MAC on 2011-03-01
Source: CounterPunch (2011-02-15)

Not just in Latin America, but beyond

Further wikileaks reveal an even bigger "conspiracy" than earlier thought, on the part of western diplomats to undermine campaigns against mining in the Americas. 

The diplomats - from the U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia, Switzerland and South Africa - specifically targeted activists from Bolivia, Peru and Venezuela, but also included several European solidarity and support NGOs.

See earlier story:  Peru: Wikileaks, Mining Companies and Embassies

"Whoever Opposes Mining is Seen as a Terrorist"

Wikileaks on the US and Peru: Spying on Indigenous Groups, Defending Mining Companies

By Brenda Norrell

CounterPunch

15 February 2011

A Wikileaks cable reveals the US Embassy in Lima, Peru, identified Indigenous activists and tracked the involvement of Bolivian President Evo Morales, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Bolivia Ambassador Pablo Solon, prominent Quechua activist Miguel Palacin Quispe and community leaders.

Since the writing of this cable, the bonds with Native Americans and First Nations have grown stronger in the struggles for justice. Bolivian President Morales and Ambassador Solon were in the forefront of the Indigenous global climate change efforts in 2010. Palacin was in Tucson for an anti-mining conference in 2007, and more recently with Indigenous Peoples from around the world at the climate summits in both Cochabamba, Bolivia, and Cancun, Mexico, in 2010.

The US Embassy report dated March 17, 2008, focuses on Indigenous activists and their supporters who, the cable states, were organizing "anti-summit" protests against the European Union-Latin American Heads of State summit scheduled for mid-May of 2008 in Lima.

James Nealon at the US Embassy in Lima wrote the cable released Sunday, Feb. 13. "The greatest concern among our European Union mission colleagues is the threat that radicals could hijack the protests by aggressively confronting ill-prepared security forces, as occurred in Cusco in February."

The US Embassy's espionage of the Indigenous Peoples and their supporters is obvious in the cable, which is designated "secret."

Nealon wrote, "A variety of radical Peruvian social movements and European anti-globalization NGOs have been planning protests against the May European Union-Latin America summit since at least early 2007 under the slogan Linking Alternatives 3 ("Enlazando Alternativas 3"), according to internal planning documents shared with poloffs," Nealon said.

"The documents show that organizers have held a series of workshops and meetings among dozens of social movement leaders to coordinate roles and international fundraising efforts.

"On the European side, principal groups include Attac -- an anti-globalization organization that has led protests against several European summits -- the leftist solidarity group France Amerique Latine, the Spanish environmental organization Ecologistas en Accion, the Amsterdam-based scholar-activist Transnational Institute, and many others," Nealon wrote.

Along with naming the names of support groups in Europe, the US Embassy also named other Indigenous activists and community organizers opposing mining in South America.

The US Embassy's insult of Bolivia Ambassador Solon reveals the US bias. It refers to Solon as an "anti-free trade and globalization guru."

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in a separate cable, states that the Intelligence Community relies on biographical information from US diplomats. In cables to Africa and Paraguay, Clinton asked US Embassy personnel to collect address books, e-mail passwords, fingerprints, iris scans and DNA. In other words, Clinton asked US Ambassadors to engage in espionage.

"The intelligence community relies on State reporting officers for much of the biographical information collected worldwide," Clinton said in a cable on April 16, 2009. Clinton said the biological data should be sent to the INR (Bureau of Intelligence and Research) for dissemination to the Intelligence Community.

The cable released from Lima, which insults and targets world leaders and Indigenous activists, fails to describe the underlying reasons why Indigenous Peoples are fighting to protect their land, resources, families and communities.

There is no hint in the cable of the fact that multi-national corporations are responsible for widespread displacement of Indigenous Peoples, the poisoning of the land, water and air and the assassination of Indigenous community leaders opposed to mining.

Instead, Nealon focuses on Palacin in the report.

"Anti-summit leader Miguel Palacin complained to the EU mission that the GOP (Government of Peru) appears intent on criminalizing democratic protests, which makes dialogue useless; the government in turn argues that protesters want only to undermine the government and to sully its international image."

Palacin is the president of Coordinadora Andina de Organizaciones Indigenas (CAOI) the Andean Coordination of Indigenous Organizations and a Quechua Indigenous leader. Palacin was also president of the National Confederation of Communities Affected by Mining in Peru (CONACAMI) which was instrumental in uniting communities affected by mining in Peru.

In the theme that runs throughout the leaked Wikileaks diplomatic cables, the United States focuses criticism on President Morales and President Chavez, tracking their activities, naming their associates and undermining their efforts.

In a previously released cable, the US Embassy in Lima reveals its bias against Indigenous Peoples protecting their homelands, and in favor of mining.

It reveals that a core group of diplomats formed an alliance with mining companies to promote and protect mining interests globally. The diplomats were from the U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia, Switzerland and South Africa.

The US and Canadian Ambassadors met with these mining companies: Antamina, Newmont (Minera Yanacocha), Minera Quellaveco, Barrick, BHP Billiton (Tintaya mine).

The diplomats were from the US, Canada, the Swiss Charge, the new Australian Consul General, and the British Embassy Trade and Investment. "A representative from the South African Embassy, which forms part of this diplomatic mining group, was unable to attend," the cable said.

The cable states that their goal was to improve the climate for investments and security around mines.

The cable exposing the diplomatic mining group does not describe the devastation of Indigenous lands by mining. Two of those corporations targeting Indigenous lands globally -- Newmont and Barrick -- targeted Western Shoshone lands for gold mining in Nevada. A federal lawsuit remains before the court to halt Barrick from coring out sacred Mount Tenabo for an open pit gold mine.

In September of 2007, about six months before the Lima cable was written in March of 2008, Palacin was in Tucson, along with Native American and First Nations activists opposing mining on their lands.

Speaking out against mining, Quechua leader Palacin said Andean Peoples from Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina have organized to protect Indigenous territories in this region. Palacin spoke of his work as coordinator of the Coordinadora Andina de Organizaciones Indigenas (Andean Federation of Indigenous Organizations.)

"This group is working to protect Indigenous rights," Palacin said, speaking with Brenda Norrell, publisher of Censored News, at the Western Mining Action Network Conference 2007, held in Tucson on Sept. 28-29.

Palacin said the concept of Indigenous territories does not only refer to the lands of Indigenous Peoples, but also to Indigenous' languages, cultures, values and clothing. Indigenous territories include the right to autonomy and self-governance based on Indigenous Peoples' own legal systems and principles.

"This is a fundamental right, a right that is being offended by the politics of globalization, the invasion of transnational corporations and the contamination that is damaging the life and culture."

Palacin said it is essential to grow in visibility and expose the mining, energy and hydroelectric corporations seizing Indigenous territories for profit.

He said Indigenous territories are under attack by governments. "The governments are campaigning against the social movement." This is particularly true in Colombia, where Indigenous Peoples are confronted by the federal government, FARC and the paramilitaries.

"In Colombia, there has been a lot of death and displacement."

However, Palacin said there is also hope. In both Bolivia and Ecuador, new Constitutional reforms propose changes that respect Indigenous Peoples rights.

Further, the Andean Federation of Indigenous Organizations is now proposing the establishment of Indigenous Diplomats, to meet with governments to explain their positions. These include opposition to Free Trade agreements and militarization. Further, concerns are arising because of new visa and passport requirements.

In support of these struggles, Indigenous Peoples plan mobilizations throughout South America on the "Day of Genocide," October 12, followed by a delegation to Europe on Oct. 13, he said.

"The Indigenous movement has power in the south. We want to be included in the transformation of our countries. Indigenous Peoples have the right to govern their countries," Palacin said.

Attorney Javier Aroca of Lima, Peru, said the government of Peru has criminalized the social movement to protect the land. "Mining is very strong. The government really supports this industry because they view it as a means of receiving a lot of revenues.

"Whoever opposes mining is seen as a terrorist and anti-patriotic," Aroca said, during an interview in Tucson at the anti-mining conference in 2007.

At issue now are the mining companies who obtain their leases from leaders without consultation of the community, including copper mines.

"The biggest concern is water," Aroca said, pointing out that water from the mountain tops flows throughout the region. Where copper mine exploration is being carried out, there are natural protected reserves in the high mountain region. "These mountain top areas are the source of water."

Aroca said the Peruvian government supported the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including the right to free, informed and prior consent and Indigenous Peoples' rights to their territories.

"But in practice, the Peruvian government is doing the opposite."

--

Read Lima diplomatic cable: http://213.251.145.96/cable/2008/03/08LIMA480.html

Previously released Peru mining cables:
Cable 1: http://213.251.145.96/cable/2005/08/05LIMA3571.html
Cable 2: Posted and highlighted by London Guardian - http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/38881
State Department Cable from Hillary Clinton on biographical data: http://213.251.145.96/cable/2009/04/09STATE37561.html

Brenda Norrell has been a reporter in Indian country for 28 years and is publisher of Censored News

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