Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Not Without Some Blame

I'll admit it. When I see what a mess American imperialism has made of things in Central America I always feel a little prouder that I am from the land of the great white north. Not to offend any American readers that I may have. We all know that you are not your government's foreign policies, past or present. But I could never help feeling just the tiniest bit of Canadian superiority that my country didn't play an active role in these fiascos.

But recently I watched a documentary about a mining project here in Guatemala. The project is run by Glamis Gold, a Canadian owned company. So it isn't my government, but I now see that my country is playing a part in the exploitation of Latin America which means that tiny superior feeling has vanished.

Spokespeople for the project claim that the project has no disadvantages and only benefits fo the people of Guatemala. It is hard to envision what those benefits may be when Glamis will reap $870 million usd from the sale of the mine's gold and silver of which only 1% is kept in Guatemala to benefit the people.

The people of Sipakapa living near the mine are being left with depleted water supplies. In an area already struggling for sufficient water the mine uses in a single hour more water than the average agricultural working family uses in 22 years. Then of course there are the soil contaminacion and health risks associated with living in the vicinity of a mine. A Glamis Gold project in Honduras has already caused cases of skin irritations, rashes, respitory issues and potentially cancers that were not present before the development of the mine.

A year and a half ago the 14,000 inhabitants of Sipakapa held 14 consecutive town meetings and voted nearly unanimously against permitting the continued development of the mine. The documents of these votes were brought to the capital and presented to their government. But democacy works differently in this country. Mining continues. And the people are still waiting to reap the benefits.

Some may call this development but at what cost?

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