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IIRSA and isolated and vulnerable indigenous peoples. The Billinghurst Bridge and the Interoceanic: point of no return for genocide and the devastation of the Amazon

IIRSA and isolated and vulnerable indigenous peoples. The Billinghurst Bridge and the Interoceanic: point of no return for genocide and the devastation of the Amazon


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By Pablo Cingolani

When the construction of the Billinghurst Bridge over the Madre de Dios River is completed and with it the construction of the so-called South Peru-Brazil Interoceanic Road Corridor is completed, South American history will change forever. Finally, the most extensive plan of capitalist recolonization of South America, of assault on its natural resources at the service of transnational corporations and the business community, will be able to exhibit a longed for and first great victory over geography, nature and peoples, inaugurating for the first time in the history a highway of more than 5000 kilometers with bridges that hold up to 60 tons of weight and that will allow the permanent flow of investments and goods from one ocean to another, and the consequent irreversible opening of the Amazonian space to the world market.


"Development" and the Amazon are no longer more than an oxymoron. As the developmental and neo-extractivist policies of the governments of the region advance, the destruction of nature and the genocidal ethnocide of the native peoples that inhabit it advances. The crossroads is more pressing than ever: either capitalist penetration stops or indigenous peoples and forests will disappear. Either the Initiative for the Integration of the South American Infrastructure is stopped, which is strongly encouraged by the Brazilian state and the other governments of the region, the multilateral banks and the transnationals, or the jungle and the Indians will be images and memories of the museum of horror of the violent conquest of the last continental internal frontier to open it to the looting of its natural resources, the irreversible change of its ecosystem and the physical extinction of its cultures.

Brazil has become one of the ten largest economies in the world and theirs represents more than half of South American economic activity. The Brazilian GDP corresponds to 55% of the GDP of South America. The new monster of capitalism has set a goal that places the Amazon at the center of the world stage, making it the most important geostrategic space of this still brand-new 21st century: opening the Amazon to the massive exploitation of its natural resources, completing its territorial dominance and its inexorable march towards the west.

The complementary prerequisite for its fulfillment was to break the geographical obstacle that the great forests and great rivers historically represented as a brake on the penetration of transportation, machines, markets and large corporations. Hence, the opening of the Amazonian territory and its physical link with the export ports of the two most important oceans on Earth, the Atlantic and the Pacific, and through them with the rest of the globalized world, is the main objective of the called Initiative for the Integration of South American Infrastructure, better known by its acronym IIRSA, which was launched in August 2000 in Brasilia. Just ten years and a few months later, IIRSA is about to achieve it.

When the construction of the Billinghurst bridge over the Madre de Dios River, which will link the city of Puerto Maldonado with the hamlet of El Triunfo, both in the Department of Madre de Dios, in the extreme southeast of the Republic of Peru, is completed, and with this, the construction of the so-called Peru-Brazil South Interoceanic Road Corridor is completed, the South American history will change forever.

Above all, the imperial desire of two centuries to unite the two oceans at the heart of the continent that continues to be the one that treasures the most vast resources of water, energy, biodiversity and land on the planet will have been fulfilled (1). Then, what was secretly agreed forty years ago between the then US president Richard Nixon and the then Brazilian military dictator Emilio Garrastazú Médici, to build an interoceanic highway (2), will take place. Finally, the most extensive plan of capitalist recolonization of South America, of assault on its natural resources at the service of transnational corporations and businessmen, will be able to exhibit a longed-for and first great victory over geography, nature and peoples, inaugurating for the first time in the history a highway of more than 5000 kilometers with bridges that hold up to 60 tons of weight and that will allow the permanent flow of investments and goods from one ocean to another, and the consequent irreversible opening of the Amazonian space to the world market.


The inauguration of the Billinghurst bridge and the bioceanic is scheduled between January and April 2011, before the presidential elections are held in Peru, scheduled for April 10 and where Alan García, the great promoter of the IIRSA works in his country, he says goodbye to his second term. The inauguration ceremony will surely be attended by the newly elected president of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, and the current president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, who has just signed with García an act for the construction of an 80-kilometer stretch of highway that directly links to Bolivia with the interoceanic, which for hundreds of kilometers runs almost parallel to the Bolivian border. The Nareuda-Extrema-San Lorenzo section, agreed by the presidents, is also part of the IIRSA plans (3).

What will happen after the longest suspension bridge in Peru is inaugurated, 722 meters long? It is important to try to put this work in historical context to understand the magnitude of the tragic impacts it will bring.

Until now, river navigation was the most effective way to penetrate the jungle. When the phenomenon of the rubber extraction boom occurred between the years 1870 and 1914, the first forced incorporation of the continental Amazon to the world market, the rivers became the entry point for thousands and thousands of people from outside the forest that caused a genocide among indigenous peoples that to this day continues to be hidden and silenced.

The current borders between Brazil, Peru and Bolivia in the territories now crossed by the interoceanic and their area of ​​influence are born of this violent invasion that enslaved entire peoples to force them to work in the collection of rubber and that led to the physical disappearance of many from them. Some took refuge in the mountains, at the headwaters of the rivers where these were no longer navigable, and thus they were able to avoid extermination. They are what we currently know as “isolated indigenous peoples or voluntarily isolated indigenous peoples”.

A century after this ethnic hecatomb, many of those peoples who chose freedom to annihilation, were forced through religious missions, to leave their isolation and find themselves in the situation called "initial contact" with the hegemonic national society of their countries, a situation of extreme vulnerability for the survival of their way of life and culture, threatened by its slow disappearance, a tragedy known as ethnocide.

The opening of the interoceanic and the inauguration of the Billinghurst bridge will leave the river history of the Amazon in the past: rivers will no longer be the only way to penetrate the territory and less a stumbling block for that penetration. The first bridge over a major river in the Southern Amazon is the perfect symbol of this current globalization, and of the planetary scale of economic, political and social relations that it has imposed on the world.

Today, an interconnection such as the one that the bridge will cause, no matter how remote or abandoned from the national point of view the regions where it will influence may seem, is possible for this new world order, based on the development of productive forces on a global scale and where For this reason, aggressions and threats have become planetary. The bridge, we insist, is the perfect symbol of the IIRSA, which is the other name for globalization in South America.

When available for use, an average of 1,500 heavy duty trucks are expected to pass through each day. This will not be but the most visible impact that the bioceanic interconnection will have in the Amazon. Behind the trucks, more illegal loggers will come, more miners desperate for gold, more disorderly colonization, more drug traffickers and what is worse: national and transnational mining, oil and agro-export companies will come from the hand of the governments to exploit until the last corner of the jungle, now opened no longer by the rivers, but by the IIRSA roads, as this first interoceanic corridor proves.

Hence, its inauguration will do nothing other than accelerate the processes of historical genocide and ethnocide against indigenous peoples, causing the final disappearance of the last isolated indigenous peoples of the Amazon rainforest when their lands are invaded as a result of the new dynamic of aggression. that the highway will bring; at the same time, the indigenous and native communities already established will also suffer the same dispossession: the invasion of their territories will be radicalized and they will be forced or to emigrate to the cities to protect themselves or resist this terrifying offensive.

The current situation of indigenous communities is characterized by permanent conflicts for the defense of their territories. What will happen when companies no longer have barriers to be able to enter where they want, where there is a natural resource to be exploited? As we said at the beginning, if capitalist penetration is not stopped, the indigenous peoples will disappear, their communities, their ways of life, their customs, their traditions will disappear, and once the peoples who defended the jungle disappear - because it was essential for their survival. and their culture-, the forest itself will also disappear, burned, deforested and razed for the definitive occupation of its space for extensive agricultural and livestock businesses - as is already the case in the Brazilian states of Acre and Rondonia - and the construction of new cities .

Unfortunately, with the Billinghurst Bridge, we are reaching a point of no return in the tragic history of South America, especially in the Amazon. The condemnation of these plans to penetrate and open the forests, with the shameful human cost that this will entail, should be unanimous. However, it must be said: no matter how global the impact, aggression and threat are, today few know, even in South America itself, what is happening in the Southern Amazon, much less what may happen. Genocide and ethnocide should be stopped, devastation should be stopped, but we are far from being able to do so. The sensible world should speak out and act. And we, from here, mobilize. More than ever.

References:

(1) The United States of America forced Brazil to declare free navigation on the Amazon in 1866. Peru opened its rivers two years later. Free navigation not only fostered trade, but biopiracy, as Henry Wickham proved by stealing 70,000 rubber seeds in 1876. Over time, this sunk Amazonian rubber production.

(2) See Roberto Ochoa: Nixon and the Interoceanic. La República, Lima, August 21, 2009

(3) See Declaration of Ilo, signed on October 19, 2010, between Alan García Pérez and Evo Morales Ayma. There is expressed “The decision to initiate in the course of the first semester of the year 2011 the necessary steps for the financing and construction of the asphalting of the 80 kilometers of the Nareuda - Extrema - San Lorenzo highway, which will allow linking the Departments of Pando Beni in Bolivia with the Madre de Dios Region and the port of Ilo in the Pacific Ocean, becoming a new interconnection axis with the South interoceanic highway ”. See: http://portal.andina.com.pe/EDPEspeciales/…


Video: Eradicating Genocide is Our Responsibility. Hollie Nyseth Brehm. TEDxOhioStateUniversity (June 2022).


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