Photo: Painted mural in the Perish of El Goaltal reading, “Committee of Poor Peasants of the Mira River Basin, Land for those who work it! Land for the farmers, not for the large mining companies! No to mining exploitation!”
By Ed Dalton
The Committee of Poor Peasants in Ecuador has declared the Perish of El Goaltal, in the Mira River Basin along the border with Colombia, a mining-free zone in response to the state selling thousands of acres to an imperialist mining company.
According to the peasants, the mining company seeks to deceive the masses with the idea that mining will bring the people out of poverty. In reality the development will only hoard peasant and indigenous lands in the interests of foreign imperialism, by buying up politicians and elected officials.
The peasants state that, “First they divide us, then they want to buy us. We don’t doubt that if we don’t stay together, they will kill us. But they will not find us crestfallen, without honor, without the will to defend that land we have been working on for over 60 years, for that land that even in the midst of difficulties has allowed us to grant cities basic agricultural products like corn, beans, naranjilla, sugar cane, but also the air and water that we all need to live. ”
Small landholders have also vowed not to relinquish their lands, no matter how small or how poor. They determined that no gold or minerals shall be removed, because the land itself is their source of life.
“We are not willing to acknowledge the decisions of the authorities,” remarked one peasant “they only think of how to finance expenses that do not serve the people, the poor peasants.” They continued, “They are already bought by the transnational corporations, by the businessmen who do not care about leaving a trail of destruction, contamination, desolation in our territories, much less conflict and violence.”
The peasants stated that they only recognize the authority of the peoples organizations, of workers and peasants throughout Ecuador.
“We know that they will eventually accuse us of being rebels, guerrillas, drug dealers, because only then will they believe that they have the legal arguments to harass, repress, arrest, or kill us.” Due to this fact the peasants led by the Committee of Poor Peasants have taken to wearing masks.
The small farmers insist that their quality of life will decrease from mining due to the fact that it poisons the earth. Against the claims of the mining corporations which insist that mining will increase the quality of life in the area, the poor peasants assert that their interests are irreconcilable with that of the mines, “we want the earth, we don’t want jobs in mining,” remarked one poor peasant. “Victories will not come from heaven, much less by executive decree. The victories will be the product of our organization’s strength, the right ideological direction it has, but above all, our willingness to give our all to achieve our goals. ”
With the declaration of the Committee of Poor Peasants, the small landholders begin the long fight to uphold their decree—to keep the area free of all mining in the interests of the land, survival, and persistence.