David T. Rowlands

In the aftermath of the April 24 Rana Plaza collapse, the plight of Bangladeshi garment workers occupied global media attention in a way it never had before. The inconvenient thing about Rana Plaza, as far as the fashion brands that rely on outsourced sweatshop labour were concerned, was that so many workers — more than 1100 — died in one spectacular incident.
The Conga gold and copper mining project is becoming one of Latin America’s most significant environmental battlefronts. It is pitting almost the entire population of the northern Cajamarca region of Peru against the invasive forces of the multinational mining industry and its governmental puppets in Lima. In recent years, there have been many strikes and protests. This has led to hundreds of arrests, scores of injuries and several protester deaths.
Nearly 60 years have passed since Totem 1, a British nuclear test in the Australian desert, was recklessly conducted in unfavourable meteorological conditions. Nuclear testing of any sort, even in the most “controlled” of circumstances, is inherently abusive, a crime against the environment and humanity for countless generations to come. Yet the effects of Totem 1 were particularly bad, even by the warped standards of the era.
Hundreds of protesters from the indigenous advocacy NGO Survival International gathered outside Peruvian consulates and embassies in London, Paris, Madrid and San Francisco on April 23. They had gathered to urge the Peruvian government to reconsider expanding the Camisea gas mega-project. Camisea’s Bloc 88, deep in the Amazonian jungles of south-eastern Peru, is thought to contain over 10 trillion cubic feet of gas.
The truth about Anzac Day is that it is as much about denial as it is about remembrance. It is a denial that functions for both sides of the original conflict. The two countries that have invested much energy into sustaining the Gallipoli industry — Australia and Turkey — also have a genocidal past. Not coincidentally, both countries have used the device of “Gallipoli, Inc” to blot out shameful historical memories that they would rather not address. See also:
Chinese leaders are aware that visiting Western leaders will be under some pressure from their domestic constituencies to raise Tibet, human rights and other “sensitive” issues. So a mechanism has been considerately created to cater for this need. It consists of a meaningless piece of theatre otherwise known as the “obligatory-behind-closed-doors-human-rights-discussion”. According to the well-worn script, the elected foreign official heads to China on a trade mission, accompanied by a media circus and some high-level trough-snouting capitalists (like Andrew Forrest).
In a move that shows how little has changed since Ernesto “Che” Guevara famously observed the maltreatment of Chile’s copper miners by foreign capitalists in The Motorcycle Diaries, more than 500 mineworkers have been summarily sacked by the Anglo-Australian mining giant BHP Billiton. Their offence was to participate in strike action for improved pay and conditions at Escondida, an open-cut mine located in the arid Antofagasta region of northern Chile.
Chile may have dispensed with military dictatorship, but agitating for workers’ rights can still get you assassinated. Juan Pablo Jimenez, 35, was the president of the union representing workers at Azeta, one of Chile’s largest electrical engineering companies. On February 21, he was found dead in a pool of blood at his workplace, minutes after finishing a shift, a bullet lodged in his cranium. The initial police report said it was a “bala loca” that killed Jimenez — a random stray bullet that supposedly made its way into Jimenez’s enclosed workshop.
This year marks the bicentenary of the first European crossing of the Blue Mountains in NSW. For white Australia it was a great triumph and a significant step forward in the process of colonising the entire continent. For the Aboriginal people of this area, however, it was a disturbing development that heralded the most significant challenge they had ever faced.
The gold shall not be sold For thirty pieces of silver No to the mine that contaminates No to the mine that kills ya! The copper shall not be sold For thirty pieces of silver No to the mine that contaminates No to the mine that kills ya! Conga no way… Conga’s just not happening… That’s the verdict of the people And there’s no reversing The NEWMONT conquistadors Come not with cross and sword They come with five billion dollars And they leave you with nothing The NEWMONT conquistadors Come not with bibles and diseases They come with their heavy machinery
In occupied Tibet, the once-isolated “Land of Snow” that has been converted into a hell on Earth for its indigenous inhabitants, the oppressed are literally setting themselves alight in protest against Chinese policies. At least six Tibetans have self-immolated since the start of the year, bringing the total number of such incidents to 100. The first reported case occurred in February 2009, but all other reported burnings have taken place since March 2011. At least 82 of the cases have been fatal. Survivors are subjected to harsh punitive measures by Chinese authorities.
One year has passed since the community of Cajamarc, in Peru's northern highlands, rose up against the “Conga” copper and gold mine, a US$5 billion mega-project proposed by the World Bank-backed Newmont-Buenaventura consortium. The unified cry of the protesters is still: “Conga no way!” The region bordering the mine site is home to an agricultural population that relies on the natural highland water system. Destroying this precious and fragile asset would end the viability of their existence.
Wasn’t it somewhere in Switzerland where a mad scheme was hatched to join disparate parts together to create a new composite monster? In Mary Shelley’s 1818 gothic novel, the resulting creature has become popularly known as Frankenstein (actually the name of the monster’s creator). Today another Swiss monster has come into being: Frankencorp (a.k.a. “Glenstrata”). Swiss-based Glencore, the world’s largest commodities trading firm, and Swiss-based Xstrata, one of the largest mining companies, merged after shareholders voted overwhelmingly in favour on November 20.
I deplore his politics, yet cannot help admiring his fiction. Are there two Mario Vargas Llosas out there? Will the real one please stand up? Like the conflicted characters who populate his novels, the Peruvian novelist, 2010 Nobel laureate and one-time Peruvian presidential candidate Mario Vargas Llosa embodies contradictory tendencies that make him difficult to dismiss entirely as a rightist reactionary (though it is certainly tempting at times).
The reality of the Vietnam War as a brutal, imperialist adventure has been carefully omitted from official ceremonies in the United States held to mark the 50th anniversary of the war’s beginning in 1962. Starting this year, the government will implement “a 13-year program to honor and give thanks to a generation of proud Americans who saw our country through one of the most challenging missions we have ever faced”.
SNSD/Girls’ Generation, 2NE1, 4Minute, Shinee, BigBang — just a few South Korean band names with global hip cachet to burn. Their cult-like following has led some forecasters to predict that the centres of cultural power may well be shifting eastward, challenging the traditional dominance of US-based music companies.

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