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Resistance is Building in Ecuador to FTAA Summit and Policies

We were gifted last night with firsthand accounts about the effects of free-market globalization policies in Ecuador, and about the growing indigenous farmworker movement working to oppose the free market policies being forced on Ecuadoran people. They are planning a mobilization to shut down the FTAA Summit meeting in Quito Ecuador Oct 27-Nov 1. Many indigenous people have been elected to positions of power in Ecuador, in the hope that their way of life may be preserved. 2 marches will converge in Quito from the north and the south.
Last night the Alliance for Democracy hosted a speaking event Tuesday featuring William Trijillo, who is working with and representing a growing movement in Ecuador called The Confederation of Social Security for Farmworkers in Ecuador. This group represents over a million indigenous farmworkers from all over Ecuador and Latin America and has been working for positive social change in a variety of ways. [This group might actually be named or at least be affiliated with The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador]

"In the beginning, we [in this confederation] were struggling for land, roads, and other things... After this we were able to take the next step in involving ourselves in the politics that would involve us in creating the political scene there." So now we are working toward integration on a community and organizational level, by putting people that will represent campesino interests into positions of political power. "We are of course also involved in Direct Action, taking over buildings and offices, in order to reclaim the rights that are justly ours." This process has started to involve members from all sectors, including youth, women, campesinos, and others all helping with creating a political proposition, well-documented in writing, a proposition that will work for the interests of our people. With the work these organizations have put into the effort, Ecuador has reached a point where 12 nationalities are represented as a pluralistic state, where differing interests can create a workable definition for the future.

So this effort has been directly against the corrupt system that is basically a system based around slavery and robbery of our people-- Over 2 million dollars for example has been stolen from the People of Ecuador and invested in foreign accounts. There is no way this money will ever be returned to us. And there are many other ways the corrupt system has grown to include corporate interests and the power is in the hands of a very few, those in control. For example some environmental laws are implemented by employes of timber companies. Even in biological and environmental preserves, monoculture crops are being grown with strongly negative environmental impacts. Shrimp farms are in mangrove swamps for example.

Even with all these political conflicts going on in our neighboring countires, we feel even more threatened to open Ecuador to FTAA. These [FTAA] projects will simply open the doors to transnational corporations that will then assume power over people and countries in Latin America. We already have enough problems... Recently there were Meetings with Chilean representatives over apple imports-- These have effectively destroyed small apple farmers in Ecuador. Genetically Engineered corn is now in Ecuador, and small farmers can't compete with the lowered prices. Even just 2 months ago, a large shipment of milk arrived, negatively impacting many Ecuadorian farmers dependent on milk for their livelihood.

This is not a simple problem to solve. It is not only the economic impact, but a threat to the entire way of life of people who now need to seek employment in cities. Especially since 1995, there has been a huge effort to privatize essential elements of our society, in the areas of health care, education, telecommunications, electricity and water. In Ecuador, State-run health care is available for unions and state workers. But there is also health care set up for campesinos, and even this they are trying to sell off, to diminish the prestige and public appreciation for state-run health care, and so the State puts less and less money into public health care. And the same private companies responsible for building roads in Ecuador have set up "free", (for now) privatized health care facilities right next to the public health dispensaries. These newer privatized ones provide better health care, and have more services to offer. So the people are starting to use the private health care facilities instead. Right now the private ones are free. We don't believe they want to give health care to campesinos for free. They are just interested in privatizing to make a profit. The same thing is happening in other sectors of Ecuador, especially with Education and Electricity.

This is how transnational corporations move in. We are worried because coca cola has begun to sell us small bottles of water.... Another example is the rerouting of water supplies to use for irrigation projects. This displaces residents in order to water monocrops of African Palm and Mango. and they're telling those who would like to use the water that is now irrigating monoculture crops, that they can use it if they pay $6,000 per year, an impossible sum. Now a law for "environmental protections" is being proposed, where private companies would be responsible for management of ecologically biodiverse preserves. And at this point they would measure the Oxygen Reserves produced by the forests they manage, and CHARGE THE RESIDENTS FOR THE OXYGEN PRODUCED BY THESE FORESTS!!

At this point the floor was opened up for questions, which are in italics, followed by the translated answers. Some of these were:

*What are the biggest obstacles to getting the support of the population to resist the FTAA and privatization of resources?"
We haven't taken all the steps forward needed for a real democracy. We lack public media to do this. The real steps we need to take include: -Public access to telecommunications -Presidential elections can be influenced in this way, using university broadcasts and public access channels, since the commercial media doesn't cover any of these issues affecting most of our population. -We are having to get out into the communities and talk to people, and even that isn't enough.

*How is the gov't reacting to your organization?
Up until the time I left, there has been no official gov't statement about the mobilization, but they'll certainly be protecting the Summit and using military force to disperse the people who are planning to attend to prevent these meetings from all over Latin America

*What can we do to help in this country?
Please work to establish a brother-sister relationship, with like-minded groups in Ecuador, as has been done between ecologists in SanFransisco and a sister group in Ecuador.

*How do you plan to oppose the FTAA?
In Ecuador the resistance movement is a network representing campesinos all over Latin America and the world. So we need up strongly to our opposition at the end of the month and beyond. Oct 23rd there are 2 marches beginning from the S. border with Peru and along the N. border with Colombia. These 2 marches will be meeting in Quito (sp?). From the 25th onward, people will be arriving to represent organizations from all over Latin America, including landless farmworkers from Brazil, Coca farmers from Bolivia and Colombia, others from Peru and Argentina... This will come together in what we are calling a "Ring of Diversity" that will circle the Summit and represent all organizations of diverse backgrounds, not just the Summit.

*What are the chances of getting a good president in power that will oppose the FTAA?
It was known that if Lula won in Brazil, he would oppose these policies. It is rumoured that thousands were sent to Brazil by the U.S. to ensure that Lula would lose. Meanwhile Argentina has been asking for money for how long and they have gotten nothing. It is not through lack of affinity, or that people don't believe these free market policies are not in our interests that the leaders are not responding. For example, when the presidents of the Andean nations met, there was a letter 50 meters/150 feet long that was sent by many groups to tell them to reject the FTAA. Instead of being able to present this letter at the meeting, the representatives carrying the letter were detained and arrested. But people found out about his and so many letters stuffed the boxes of the mayors, police chiefs, and other officials, that these people were released... We hope this is a sign that our organization is becoming stronger.

*Roses are another monocrop [destroying the diversity of agriculture] in Ecuador? Which companies buy these roses?
[The speaker did not know the answer to this question. A person from the audience and the translator gave the following replies:]
Some estimates claim that around 60% of all roses bought in the states come from Ecuador. Roses are shipped in daily from Colombia and Ecuador. Workers are having many health problems and even death resulting from handling roses covered with pesticide residues.

*How has technology affected the progressive movement?
Only some NGOs and some organizations have access to internet and only a few have one small video camera. But those personal connections helped a small encampment last fall to get systems up and running and now there is a functional Ecuador indymedia site.

*What are the effects of the militarization in Colombia on Ecuador?
Opening this market to free trade will only achieve massive unemployment and relocation. All that is wanted is our resources. It is well-known that there are U.S. supporte military bases in Panama, Bolivia, 2 in Colombia, and in Peru. An area that is of special concern is the 3 way border between Colombia, Brazil and Ecuador. Recently a coca field up to 20,000 hectares was destroyed by fumigations there. This caused massive numbers of Colombian refugees to relocate to Ecuador. Unemplyment was already a big problem in this area, and now is skyrocketing. Another 60,000 hectares has been planted to replace the lost coca. This has obviously not been a successful way to eradicate coca production. What they really want is to take control of natural resources, to take control of mines, biodiversity and oil in the area.

*Is there a real people's candidate in the Ecuadorian elections?
Not really any specific candidates. But we are working on organization and construction of alternative systems so that one voice could represent the will of the people. We do support one candidate we think whose dialogue keeps the door open for social interests we support.

*What are some other effects of corporations coming into Ecuador?
Family subsistence farms are being displaced by monoculture farms focused on export crops only. For campesinos, food isn't just a market product. It's our whole way of life. So they are effectively ruining family farms and subsistence farming for the production of roses! And even the people working in the floraculture places, have no social security, no health care, and some are having serious health problems and even death due to the heavy pesticide use. The main banana exporter owns over 130 businesses. Recently, after a protest to raise the wages of the people working for this banana exporter, the exporter actually LOWERED wages and fired 200 people. Their interest is obviously not for the people. $150-$160/ month is the minimum monthly wage in Ecuador

[Indigenous representatives have been voted into positions of power all over Ecuador.] ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

These notes are not verbatim. This account is what I heard from the translator, and may not reflect the full intent of the speaker. The questions are paraphrased and the answers are as I understood them. Listen to the audio for exact wording on translation of Willam's powerful explanation about the campesino movement that is mobilizing to resist the FTAA Summit in Quito, Ecuador October 27th- Nov 1st. To find out more about how to get involved with creating a sister organization to help with the movement to resist privatization and corporatization of this country, contact the Alliance for Democracy at pafd@bigfoot.com.

I was not able to find a reference to the campesino group William Trijillo comes here representing that was called The Confederation of Social Security for Farmworkers in Ecuador. However there is another name that I think is the same group, or at least that may be affiliated with this group, called The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador.

The Global Justice Video Project is planning on attending the FTAA in Ecuador Oct 30 & 31st. Donations are needed to help defray travel costs. Website for this is: www.globaljustice.ca and donations can be made by calling B.C. Canada: 604 904 2412

The Global Exchange project is hosting a 12 day "reality tour" to Ecuador for the FTAA Summit. It is probably too late to get onto this "reality tour", but well worth looking into the myriad of places and courses you can choose to visit, to see places the media never tells us about. Go to http://globalexchange.org/ for more info.

http://www.globalexchange.org/ftaa/update.html is a site where some of the recent FTAA-related issues affecting life in Latin America can be found, although I couldn't find much about Ecuador.

over 200 computers were recently built with the assistance of Free Geek and sent to Ecuador. Shipments have been delayed due to the lockouts but these computers are expected to arrive in early November. When William was informed of this, his comment was translated to say, "It is going to be hard to get these into Ecuador"... Hopefully they will make it there, in time to make a difference.

From a flyer handed out at this event: Here in Portland, we will join in solidarity Oct 31st with people in Latin America resisting the oppression of the FTAA Summit meetings by attending the "Radical street festival celebrating our desire for a better world-- one which values mutual aid over private ownership, people over markets, rights over riches. Through cultural resistance we will strengthen local networks and show that the FTAA is not welcome in the Americas. meet at the South Park blocks at 3:30, in costume, and prepared to have a good time.
for more information contact: noftaapdx@yahoo.com"

STOP THE FTAA 09.Oct.2002 12:17

anti-corporate globalization activist

see  http://www.stopftaa.org for more information