I'm on my second day in Georgetown. Remarkable city; a national capital dominated by two story, peaked-roof wooden houses, many with ornate gingerbread trimming (the influence of Dutch and British colonialists), but up on stilts. Cars, trucks, scooters and the odd horse-drawn carriage clog the streets. The shops you pass range from internet cafes and cellular phone stores to stores selling mining equipment. Children play on open fields in the city center while cows and horses graze nearby. The clash of epochs here is disorienting.
The United Nations' International Narcotics Control Board recently made the announcement that Peru and Bolivia should, once and for all, outlaw the chewing of coca.
Those are fighting words in Bolivia, where coca leaves have been grown and used in their natural form for thousands of years.
Soybeans, rows and rows of soybeans all around. In western Paraguay the fields that were once thick rain forests are now soybean plantations. They stretch far into the distance swaying hypnotically back and forth in the wind. This ocean of soy, though, is dotted with small islands — houses, actually, that belong to the subsistence campensinos who once eked out a living farming an array of crops like sugar, cotton, wheat, and maize.
Paraguay is the world's fastest growing producer of soy beans. But the boom has been bad for native peasants. They lived for years on forestland that belonged to no one — logging and growing food for their families.
About ten years ago, the government either gave away or illegally sold the land to political friends in the soybean business. The soy farmers moved in, pushing the peasants out. It's a tense situation, with peasants squatting next to the soy plantations and hoping the next presidential election will bring them some relief.
Aired on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's Dispatches on April 14, 2008
Ruxandra's piece starts approximately 15:30 minutes in.
From CBC's Dispatches site:
The government of Bolivia would like it understood that it is NOT in the cocaine business. It's in the COCA business. Big difference. Bolivia encourages farmers to grow the plant that produces cocaine, providing they turn it into something else.
Indigenous residents of Ecuador's Amazonian rainforest have filed one of the largest environmental suits against an oil company, accusing U.S.-based Chevron of contaminating their soil and waterways.
Adding to the tensions along its border with Colombia, Ecuador filed a lawsuit in The Hague, claiming it’s been affected by U.S.-funded spraying of herbicides to kill coca plants in Colombia.
Photographs Courtesy of Lone OutPost, Inc.
Shortly after winning the presidency in 2005, Evo Morales went on a whirlwind world tour and brought a few small coca leaves with him to New York.
Three decades ago, oil was discovered under parts of the moist tropical rain forest along the border of Peru and Ecuador and by the mid-70’s, Occidental Petroleum had found its way here.