MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Comment from Paula Palmer of Global Response:

Published by MAC on 2006-03-06

Comment from Paula Palmer of Global Response:

In late January at the World Social Forum in Caracas, Venezuelan indigenous leaders asked Global Response to support them in their struggle to stop construction of open-pit coal mines in their territories. I joined them in an all-day march through the streets of Caracas, carrying banners saying "No al Carbon!" (No to Coal).

Later I visited the Wayuu, Yukpa and Bari communities in northwestern Venezuela, where villages, rivers, forests and farms would be directly affected by the coal mines. Everywhere there were signs that read "No al Carbon!" By foot, canoe and donkey-back, community leaders arrived to appeal for international support to stop the mines. We saw the concrete markers where the mining companies have staked out their concessions, encompassing forests, farmlands and villages.

We walked to one of the rivers that would carry mine-polluted water into the reservoir that serves the city of Maracaibo, potentially affecting the health of 1.5 million people. In the cool tranquility along the river, it was impossible to imagine the enormous gray cavity that the miners plan to excavate, the blasting, the choking dust, the screeching of machinery and trucks. "The river is our mother," said Lida Narva, a Yukpa community leader. "We cannot let them kill our mother."

Most of the indigenous people and the poor throughout Venezuela enthusiastically support President Chavez, who is channeling millions of dollars of oil revenues into state programs for education, health care and job training. "We're not against Chavez," the indigenous people chanted as they marched in Caracas; "we're against coal mines."

In that spirit, we are launching this new Global Response campaign -- not against Chavez, but for sound environmental policy and indigenous peoples' rights. Please join the Yukpa, Wayuu, Bari and Japreria peoples in this campaign.

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