30 Sep 2009
'Hernando de Soto argues that individual ownership of land becomes capital when land is certified by international agreements guaranteeing investments. He recommends to the indigenous that get individual stocks outside of the collective ownership of their communities. Only thus, he argues, could they benefit from the wealth that is in their land. But not a word from de Soto about the 1.228 forestry concessions 7,'802 660 hectares and 81 lots of oil in 56 `131.862 hectares, and handed over to multinational and national companies, and / or individuals, representing 10.0% and 72 % of Peruvian Amazon territory, respectively. (See the map of distribution of Amazonian territory, prepared by the Instituto del Bien Común, Lima 2009).
What's for left for indigenous communities? Ideally, these companies become partners to exploit these resources, but de Soto said that the collective title is worthless and does not know of companies willing to partner with native communities.' More here.
Alan Garcia is a bit of a fat buffon and despite a huge wave of repression including the massacre at Bagua has consistently failed to defeat the indigenous.
Capital, its a bit like paying someone to hang themselves with piano wire....a grotesque and painful death for some short term goodies.
If we log the Amazon and destroy it for oil...collectively we face destruction, you cannot go on smashing the planet without severe environmental ill effects.
Now for the indigenous, they don't even benefit in the short term, their land is stolen and their society wrecked.
So they resist!
The Peruvian intellectuals are now weighing but on the side of Garcia!
The economist de Soto has not, as far as I know, defended the indigenous attacked at Bagua...but in a new film 'The Mystery of Capital among the indigenous people of the Amazon' has argued that if the collective communal property rights of the indigenous were abolished, the indigenous could gain prosperity.
In an age of free software he forgets the indigenous have a model of ownership that preserves resources including the forest for sustainable use.....rather more sophisticated than his notions of property perhaps.
He calls the indigenous ill advised and urges them to privatise the forests.
The indigenous the sub text goes are ignorant but could become rich if they followed market based economics.
However the indigenous are wise and strong and for them the market means oil corporations coming into to steal their land.
de Soto should learn from them, instead he seeks to instruct and he misses the far from mysterious nature of the workings of capital in the Amazon....capital steals but the people resist theft!
He failed to interview Santiago Manuin or any other of the AIDSEP leaders....
They defend the property rights of the indigenous, so they are by definition ignorant when it comes to economists....however those who really are ignorant are men like de Soto.
In the past to create private property, commons have been enclosed and destroyed.
The indigenous use mobile phones, the internet and the bits of 'modernity' they find useful....they are sophisticated people, the very fact that they have constructed a working political force made up of over 50 different ethnic groups, shows they can get their shit together.
They face shocking racism, Alan Garcia open calls them dogs and huge repression but they fight back and fight back very effectively.
I am learning that one of the sources of their power is bilingualism.....protestant and catholic groups came to teach the indigenous spanish....many indigenous people learnt Spanish BUT they used the language to build alliances between different indigenous groups.
The anthropologist L.Shane Green argues they customise modernity....i.e, they take and use.
I am guessing they could adapt de Soto's ideas and throw them back at him! Whatever de Soto intentions, there is a war between oil corporations and the indigenous and he does not seem to be taking the side of those defending property from theft as far as I can see.
I am not saying indigenous people in the Peruvian Amazon are either perfect or all the same, and hey what do I know living in the UK, but they are certainly savvy and well organised.
They have responded to de Soto by essentially threatening him with eviction. They argue that they have a legal right to their land and the state wants to steal their land and give it to oil corporations.
If de Soto really was a liberal who believed in property rights he would be manning the barricades at Bagua.
The problem with liberals is that believe in a mystery. The mystery of capital but the idea of individual ownership rests on a history of theft.
Happily in 2009 those threatened with enclosure can use some pretty handy trappings of modernity like the web to defend their legal rights.
A Peruvian anthropologist has provided a good critique of de Sotos film.
And indigenous Peruvians have been blogging some criticism of de Soto
De Soto get off our land they say!
Liberals they drip with blood!
The Regional Organization AIDESEP Ucayali - ORAU condemned the video of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy, led by Hernando de Soto, and which seeks to create a smokescreen against the reality of Indigenous Peoples who had the need to mobilize against legislative decrees, prejudicial to their rights and were meant to deliver them of their land to multinational companies.
If you leer Spanish, I highly recommend you have a good read of the indigenous criticisms of de Soto, very interesting reading and very inspiring.
These people don't take the assaults on their land laying down and whether its the courts, the web, non violent direct action or debating with comprador intellectuals they are very much up for it.
Posted by Derek Wall at 12:23 pm