Neoliberalism has been promoted across the globe by Western governments and institutions as the dominant model through which increasingly globalized capital moves. As we’ve discussed in lecture, Westernized countries have disproportionately benefited from these institutions, structures and policies because they have been the primary architects. Although these models have contributed to a rise in living standards for much of the globe, there exists an exhaustive amount of people and communities that face negative aspects of globalization—particularly exploitation and dispossession which can take on many different forms—and are actively resisting these forces which continue to dispossess them. So, what do MNCs, free markets and FDI mean for people in vulnerable communities? It’s been occasionally touched on in a few of our lectures, for example we recently discussed how difficult it is to extrapolate legitimate evidence that shows some rural communities in Latin America are facing questionable practices by MNCs who carry out extractive resource operations (Crawford, 2019). In Gerardo Munarriz (2008) article, he also touched on important points of Western institutions and Eurocentric models of International Law and their implications for some of the most vulnerable communities existing today. Institutions such as the World Bank and international legal frameworks have assisted in the expansion of MNCs (particularly mining companies) into rural indigenous communities within Latin America, without proper consideration or consultation with these communities, ultimately resulting in a dispossession of their land and resources which are essential to their way of life (Munarriz, 2018). Although it wasn’t the primary focus of Munarriz’s article or our discussions, I was prompted to consider how these vulnerable communities take on MNCs and the neoliberal policies that accelerate the destruction of their community, heritage and livelihood; Furthermore, what does this dispossession and resistance look like first hand?
Although there are many examples of Canadian mining companies in particular engaging in questionable tactics to secure natural resources in Latin America, the case of a rural farming community in Azacualpa, Honduras provides a recent example that has been somewhat well documented. In brief, the community has long been facing the exhumation of bodies from a centuries-old community cemetery by Minerales de Occidente (MINOSA), a gold mining subsidiary of Aura Minerals (Canadian), who is expanding its open pit operations into the cemetery (Geis, 2018). The community has expressed discontent and cited that MINOSA has been involved in cutting cash bribes with single members of families in exchange for their consent to exhume bodies (Geis, 2018). Most notably, Geis’ article points to an attempt by the community to make use of the Honduran legal system in order to have their claims and concerns heard, hopefully preventing the further exhumation of bodies. However, struggles with the legal process have been apparent and community organizers mentioned that judicial officials have failed to have a clear understanding of the problems (Russel, 2018). In response, the community has continued to engage in acts of physical resistance by occupying the cemetery to prevent further exhumations. In this case and many others, it’s apparent that property rights of MNCs have trumped the generational claims communities hold to the land and resources, creating serious tensions. People are willing to put their lives on the line to protect what’s sacred to them. The fate of the cemetery and community is still uncertain. However, considering the forces and policies that stand in support of Aura minerals, it’s likely that this community may see the excavation of the entire cemetery so that Aura minerals can access gold deposits below it.
The Azacualpa case gives a clearer example of the exhaustive struggles that vulnerable communities go through when resisting forces of globalization and the expansion of a mining MNC that stand as a threat to their community, heritage and way of life. In the Azacualpa case, the impacts faced by the expansion of the mine have gone as far as to disrupt the ancestors of families who are meant to be laying in their final resting places.
Crawford, R. (2019, March 28). Retrieved from Political Science 372A.
Geis, H (2018, May 28) Honduran villagers take legal action to stop mining from digging up graves for gold. 2018 The Guardian. Retrieved Oct. 30, 2018: (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/28/honduran-villagers-take-legal-action-to-stop-mining-firm-digging-up-graves-for-gold)
Munarriz, G. 2008. Rhetoric and reality: The world bank development policies, mining corporations, and indigenous communities in latin america. International Community Law Review 10 (4): 431-43.
Russel, G & Rights Action (2018, September 2) No to aura minerals destruction of azacualpa cemetery. [Blog] retrieved from: https://mailchi.mp/rightsaction/no-to-aura-minerals-destruction-of-azacualpa-cemetery?fbclid=IwAR0LwdjLiKMZjDS9eoVD7-KJDE-0pSy22aZrZ0CGkcYWSyDGtiyAZHx7TZ0