During the disucssion in class last week about mining in Latin America, its effects and the peoples’ reponses I think we touched on, or at least started to, the general topic of this week’s reading which seemed to mainly focus on the continued expoitation of Latin America. I focused mainly on the Lago Agrio Case in Ecuador which actually reminded me of another case that happened in Nigeria between Shell and the Ogoni tribe. One difference between the two however, is that the people have received their settlement which was determined through a federal court in New York, although there was also a great deal of violence involved in this case (there is a lot more to be said about what happened in Nigeria than what I shared, so if you want to read more about it here’s a link to an article https://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/jun/08/nigeria-usa ). The people in Ecuador never received their settlement, despite appealing to a court in New York too. Instead, Texaco who I believe at that point had already merged with Chevron, demanded that the trial be taken to Ecuador, I’m assuming in part because the government had previously been in favour of multinational companies- which is another issue in itself that is up for discussion because why do these governments allow corporations to pollute and destroy the land? The answer usually is: for economic profit and development. However, another reason as to why they wanted the place of the trial to change was to drag it on. It has been going on for an exceptionally long time, Texaco (Chevron) was first accused in 1993 and decisions are still being disputed today over 20 years later. This is an example of the strategy that they used probably so that the plaintiffs would give up. They did not and the ironic part of Chevron pushing for the trial to be held in Ecuador is that the court there actually ruled in favour of the people. Chevron refused to pay the settlement and took the case back to America. I think an important thing to mention about this case is that there was a fair amount of allegations of fraud and manipulation on both sides which complicates the situation. It provides an unclear story and discredits both sides. As well, the plaintiffs were not completely innocent and the judicial system was not entirely lawful. To what degree do you think this matters in the larger scheme of things?
What can be done to hold multinational corporations more accountable? There has been some changes over the past few years, but clearly larger steps/more regulations need to be put in place, but who is willing to create them and how can they be enforced (think of the International Court of Justice)?
I find it difficult to imagine a world where “surveillance and torture” equals “peace and security”, but sadly, even more than sadly, this was the reality for many people in certain Latin American countries. As the reading highlights, there were many, many accounts of the government killing, kidnapping, and torturing their own citizens. In the sections about how word got out to the rest of the world about these injustices, I found it a bit funny how governments exiling people almost worsened whichever regimes they ran. The people were able to share first hand accounts of what was really going on in their respective countries and by attempting to silence the people, they were only given more of a voice. These people were not exiles, but the story about the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo in Argentina although extremely tragic was also inspiring. The law prohibited protest yet the women continued to call attention to and demand back their missing children. The movement made the missing people into a personal issue rather than vague and viewing those who were missing as “simply statistics”- they had a life and connection to the community. However, after increased global scrutiny the government framed the women as crazy and as terrorists, but groups still sympathized and believed them. Others did not.
The United States once again involves itself in Latin America and once again their actions anger me. I cannot believe that anybody would support what was going on in Argentina or choose to turn such a blind eye to the evidence of human rights abuses taking place. Although we have learned in previous weeks that the United States supported other far right administrations in Latin America. Reagan’s comments particularly upset me, one reason being that he only mentions incarceration even though people were also being tortured and killed (-although I’m not completely sure of what information was known at the point, but I’m sure it was enough to not be in support of the Argentinian government).
What I found really interesting was the connection of these regimes, the United States, and the drug trade in Latin America. Due to lack of support from authoritarian regimes, many propped up by the United States, disadvantaged people were forced to find other means to provide for their communities and one of these ways was through the drug trade. Some of the “drug kingpins” were able to build and fix hospitals, schools, etc. even though they also commited/still commit large acts of violence, contributing to/creating a dangerous environment. The USA then gave money to governments like Mexico for example which was then used to buy weapons and military equipment to combat the drug trade. However, it remains quite unsafe for many people. This simplifies/condenses a complicated issue with many levels, but it seems like the root of the problem goes back to the marginalized being neglected.
Why do you think some people/groups chose not to believe the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo and other people who gave testimonies?
What benefits do you think the USA got out of supporting Argentina and their involvement in the drug trade, as it was a different situation from the UFCO for example?
Balderas’ paper titled “Death During the Conquest Era” connects to our group’s theme “The Meeting of Two Worlds” through their discussion of funeral rites practiced by the Mexica/Aztec/Nahua people (which I will refer to as Mexica as that is the term Balderas uses) and how these rites changed during the Spanish Conquest.
Balderas first mentions how the Mexica belief system focuses on “death as the main creator of life” with different rites depending on how a person died- where a person’s being went also depended on their death (167). It is important to note that although there is a list of some rites, the author recognizes that there was a fair amount of diversity and not one universalized practice (182). Some rites include the cremation of people who passed away from “common illness or old age” and the burial of those who died from resaons relating to water (170). Those who died in battle or childbirth were considered very important because both were thought to go to “Solar Heaven” to keep the sun in motion (170). Most people were given various offerings after their death as “they were [considered to be] for the next world” (184). Balderas also acknowledges that there are some sources that state class played a role in a person’s funeral rites (172-174). This one aspect of society clearly shows that before the Spaniards came the Mexica people had a complicated and developed culture. The Spanish did not come to a land that was uncivilized or without tradition.
The Spanish Conquerors practiced Catholicism which differs from Mexica beliefs in that “where one’s soul will travel after death…[depends on] one’s behaviour on earth” and there was only one funeral practice (burial) regardless of how the person died (178). The change in tradition for the Mexica people was not one entirely of “blind acquisition of the rites and beliefs of the Spanish conquistadors” (184). Balderas indicates through remains found in cemeteries near old hospitals that there was a mixing of both cultures as people had been buried, but had been buried with various objects (183). Clearly, the people did not choose to change their beliefs and did not entirely discard them.
As it was mentioned earlier, the Mexica people did not abandon their practices in favour of new ones, but rather those practices somewhat fused together (184). The people “had to give up [some]…rituals and practices”, but the “new institutions, forms, and meanings” that were created still somewhat reflected their traditions. (184). Lastly, to tie in with an important point made by Balderas is that the Conquest “established the bases for the development of new practices” in the emerging colonial society (184). At this time societal norms and practices seemed to be fairly undefined, so Balderas’ article provides some insight on how at least one area of society may have begun to develop.
Balderas, Ximena Chavez. “Death During the Conquest Era”. Invasion and Transformation: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Conquest of Mexico, Brienen, R. P. and M. A. Jackson. University Press of Colorado. 2008. Pp. 167-184. Project Muse.
I think if there was one word to sum up what the reading talks about and the video interview is violence. The word is mentioned so many times and for good reason. Most of the focus is on Peru although there is mention of some other states and how certain regimes oppressed their people through violence. Dawson does note that the Sendero Luminoso was just as bad, if not worse than the government in use of violence. Part of the explanation for this is because they were able to fund their cause (through cocaine trade) more than in other countries. This gave them a huge advantage because they did not need as much support in numbers since they had a large supply of arms. They did not need to rely on support from peasants, however this later lead to most peasants siding against the Senderistas with the government. What was interesting to read though was how the Senderistas came about and helped the rural populations because they were largely ignored by the government. In the video Cameron talks about how they helped with local injustices and crime like cattle thieves, corrupt mayors/tax collectors, and punishing abusive men. As well, when the government first attempted to eradicate the Senderistas they only caused more people to support it because of the massacres the marines enacted. I am a bit confused at the time around the 1980’s though because Dawson mentions that the Senderistas lost support from most peasants around the 1980’s, but Cameron doesn’t seem to mention that at all. Dawson discusses how many peasants created their own defensive or rebel groups because they did not support either the government or the Senderistas, although as I mentioned earlier, people were happy when an end was brought to the Senderistas.
What is clear though that those who suffered the most through this was the peasants or rural people. As well, from what I understand from the readings, it is difficult to place where there support lay throughout the war and it should not necessarily have to be. Their stance in the war cannot be universalized because both sides were doing such terrible things and to add onto that, some people decided not to choose a side and chose to defend themselves. Another point I wold like to mention is that this sentence: “indeed, most of the senderistas who ever made it to a jail cell were urban, middle-class students. Their rural comrades and sympathizers met more violent ends” proves that a difference in class still changed the way people were treated and even the views of the senderistas evolved so that they “treated peasants as if they were ignorant tools of revolution, to be called to arms when useful and destroyed when recalcitrant”.
How would you define/place the peasants involvement in the war?
Technology and politics will always be connected in some way to one another. Of course there are different types of technology used by governments two of which being media-based technologies and weaponry. Both can easily be used against the people, in the case of media (newspaper, radio, tv), to promote certain negative ideals, point of views or false information and in the case of weapons I feel it is fairly self explanatory.
This week Dawson focuses on more media based technologies, particularly the radio and leaders ability to make use of it. He starts by noting that in the 19th century and before the use of the radio was widespread “crowds were…most often unable to sustain movements that went much further than the village boundary for any length of time” (209). With increasing urbanization in the 20th century and more availibility to certain technologies people became more connected. The radio allowed people to listen to the same music, radionovelas, and historietas, it “produced new forms of nationalist sentiment” and “blurred the boundaries between classes” (210). As I somewhat mentioned previously, governments also saw this as a useful tool because they could broadcast to more people whatever they wanted in part because it made information available to people who were illiterate.
Dawson saw Vargas from Brazil and Cardenas from Mexico as mediocre users of the radio, but unable to reach the full potential that the technology offered. A good point that was made was that they had too much competition from other channels and were not compelling enough to draw people to their programs. People preferred the popular stations rather than the government ones. I agree that Cardenas did a better job though by broadcasting speeches and announcing important decisions over the radio- nationalizing the oil industry and getting rid of foreign companies- which helped him receive support from the people. Peron in Argentina was deemed to be the greatest user of the radio as he was fairly charismatic and I think more importantly was able to connect with the people through pop culture. He “mixed tango lyrics in his speeches”, which were popular amongst the people, so they were able to connect to what he was saying more. Arguably, his wife, Evita and “her status as a radio star” was even more useful (223). She was able to use her voice and fame to bring attention to Peronism. She was not limited to this however, and created a foundation that was “the most important social agency in Argentina” at the time (224).
The importance, it seems to me, is to use all parts of new technologies. It was simply not enough to just use the radio, but to be fully effective one has to make use of the culture that comes along with it as Peron and Evita did. I suppose that is a large part in what populism is, finding a way to connect to the people on a level that they understand and can associate with. As well as, making use of the “nationalist sentiment” that the radio created in order to lead the people to a particular political cause or group (210).
How effective/important do you think technology and popular culture was/still is in politics?