July 17, 2021 Editor

Around the World, Excessive Corporate Power Breeds Political Repression

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By Manuel Perez-Rocha | – an Associate Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C., and an Associate of the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam. Follow him @ManuelPerezIPS

WN: Lord, have mercy!


In the face of extractive industries’ enormous economic clout, Central Americans are facing increasing displacement and threats to their democratic rights.

Free trade agreements and other neoliberal economic rules grant excessive privileges to transnational corporations, elevating their narrow interests above people’s livelihoods and the environment. Beyond mere economic prescriptions, neoliberalism also embraces repressive and anti-democratic measures.

We are increasingly seeing this in the Northern Triangle of Central America, which includes Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. The people of these countries are facing dispossession and forced displacement to clear the way so the extractive and agro-industrial model can thrive.

These repressive measures in Guatemala parallel the repression in Honduras, where communities in the municipality of Tocoa have resisted the mining operations of Inversiones Los Pinares, owned by the country’s elites (like the Facussé family) and fueled by transnational capital.

My organization, the Institute for Policy Studies, awarded in 2019 the Letelier-Moffitt International Human Rights Award to Tocoa’s Municipal Defense Committee of the Common and Natural Goods, in recognition of their efforts to defend water against the onslaught of extractive industries. The Honduran government responded to this campaign with repression and militarization of the region and arrested 32 environmental activists. Despite the lack of evidence, eight of them remain imprisoned.

Juan Lopez, who received the Letelier-Moffitt award on behalf of the Committee, made powerfully clear that his community’s struggle is part of a bigger international story:

Tegucigalpa, Washington, San Salvador, Bogota, Guayaquil, Guatemala, Santiago, Panama, appear day after day on the front pages of conservative newspapers as the political centers where high-level corruption magnates, through privatization or concessions, hand over airports, highways, educational systems, health, territories of high biological value, men and women workers’ pensions. Every day, they are squeezing our throats and the set of rights and guarantees established in our nations’ outdated constitutions that sleep in the drawer of oblivion, while huge armies of white collars and uniformed facilitate the transit of global merchandise. The eye of the hurricane of world capitalism seems to be the great addiction on which agro-industrial plantations, mining, and other extractive projects are built.

A study by the Central American Alliance Against Mining (ACAFREMIN) confirms that the main threat to the region’s peoples and territories is the imposition and perpetuation of this extractive economic model, often without any consultation with local communities — much less their consent. And now in many cases, these destructive projects are being touted as post-pandemic economic recovery.

The alliance also makes clear that excessive corporate power is a key root cause of migration. They report that many people from this region have had to migrate to escape from persecution aimed at protecting the geostrategic interests of U.S., Canadian, and European corporations.

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Wayne Northey was Director of Man-to-Man/Woman-to-Woman – Restorative Christian Ministries (M2/W2) in British Columbia, Canada from 1998 to 2014, when he retired. He has been active in the criminal justice arena and a keen promoter of Restorative Justice since 1974. He has published widely on peacemaking and justice themes. You will find more about that on this website: a work in progress.

Always appreciate constructive feedback! Thanks.

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