Imperium Watch: Free Trade and the Amazon

John Perkins wrote the book (literally—it's Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, Plume Books, 2004) on the U.S.'s systematic, government- and corporate-sponsored exploitation of other countries for their natural resources.

The recent violence in Peru, where resistance of indigenous people to timber, oil, copper, silver and molybdenum extraction in the high Amazon region led to arrests, torture and murder, is another iteration of what's in Perkins' memoir. In an email exchange Perkins offered the Advocate this comment about the current situation in Peru:

"Ten countries in Latin America recently voted in presidents who are committed to helping their poor people, to stopping exploitation by foreign corporations, and to protecting their environments. They represent more than 80 percent of the population of South America.

"Peru is not one of these. Peru's [President Alan] Garcia is essentially a corporatocracy puppet. He will do whatever he can get away with to please Big Oil. The message for us here in the U.S. is to insist that our oil and other companies stop plundering resources and destroying cultures around the planet. These corporations—and our obsession with oil—drive the genocide occurring in Peru, and so many other places."

Two weeks ago, Peru's Congress revoked two decrees that would have opened these lands to American, British, Canadian and Chinese logging and mining firms. Now the question becomes whether those investors can challenge the revocation under the U.S.-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement the decrees were designed to implement.

If they succeed in doing that, it means that multinational corporations threatening national constitutions, human cultures and the environment can overwhelm local resistance—not only in Peru but in other countries, including the U.S. Amazon Watch and other groups have asked the Obama administration to support the Peruvian protesters and acknowledge the limits of free trade agreements when they threaten the wellbeing of human cultures and vital ecosystems.

Author: Stephanie Kraft

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