My group’s Week is number 9 – Commerce, Coercion and America’s Empire. It discusses the history of the North American influence in Latin America, driven by an ambition to control the region and increase wealth. It talks about how that was done through a division of labour that favored the North Americans and put the Latin Americans in a perpetual disadvantage – they latter were to be exploited by foreign companies who would buy raw materials, and Americans were to export industrialized products to these countries, not allowing them to develop a domestic industry of their own, and putting them in a position of dependency in relation to the North.
This dynamic is seen to this day. The article “Imperialism and Resistance:
Canadian mining companies in Latin America” discusses how Canadian mining companies in South America, responsible for up to 35% of the Latin American market in 2004 (63) have faced local resistance from the communities around the mines in response to their practices.
The authors talk about how mining involves controversial practices such as the displacing of local people and ecological degradation (63), and they believe the best way to analyze these practices is within the dynamics of global capitalism, in particular the relation between the global South and the global North (64).
The paper goes into detail about cases in which mining companies faced opposition from the local community in Chile and Colombia. In Chile, for example, they discuss the acquisition of the Pascua Lama gold, silver and copper mine in the Huasco Valley in the Andean Mountains by Barrick Gold Corp. in 1994 (74). Journalists uncovered plans to relocate glaciers in order to make mining the area viable, which was met with great resistance by a coalition of local organizations representing tens of thousands of inhabitants of the area (75), as well as protests from around the country and a petition from the Citizens’ Foundation of the Americas to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, claiming the mining efforts would violate human and indigenous rights of the Huasco Valley residents (76). The project was still greenlit in 2006 by Chilean authorities, but only under the condition that the glacier not be relocated (76).
In conclusion, the authors highlight other struggles across South America (in Mexico, Ecuador, and Peru, just to name a few) against what they describe as “Canadian mining imperialism” (82). They reinforce how the examples of Chile and Colombia document how the affected societies have reacted to these imperialist efforts, reclaiming popular power over natural resources (83). This article clearly portrays how the struggles for Latin American sovereignty from centuries ago are at play still to this day, and looking at a current example of that dynamic helps to deepen our understanding of what was happening all those years ago.
Source: Todd Gordon & Jeffery R Webber. “Imperialism and Resistance:
Canadian mining companies in Latin America.” Third World Quarterly, vol. 29, no. 1, 2008, pp. 63-87.