When I visited the folks of Colectivo Reexistencia in San Félix (in Alto del Carmen of the III Region of Chile), they asked me to undertake the lovely mission of hand-carrying a letter directed to the people of the other side of the Andes, on the Argentine side, also affected by the Barrick Gold's mega-mining project, Pascua Lama. In these times of internet, telecommunications and miniature telephones, a handwritten card, in a sealed envelope, may appear to be a tiny act against a great storm. But it had so much meaning for us! To unite both sides of the border in a symbolic manner, with a handwritten letter. We were seeking to stimulate the union and solidarity of both peoples in the face of the transnational Barrick Gold. A small action, a simple letter, but, at least to us, with global implications.
When I arrived in San Juan, I didn't know to who the card was to be delivered. We'll see, I thought. In Rodeo, in the northern San Juan department of Iglesia, finally, we visited FM Radio La Cumbre, and opened the card and journalist Jorge Sotomayor read it on the air. It was an unforgettable moment: We chatted for more than an hour on the air, that Saturday morning, about the letter, Pascua Lama project, Barrick Gold and the communities of Chile and Argentina.
We left the letter at the radio station. "It will remain here for all to see," Sotomayor told us. Before leaving, we went to make some photocopies of the letter in a nearby store. The owner had been listening to the radio while he attended to his few customers. He didn't charge us for the copies. A small act of resistance? For us, this instantly confirmed that the trip had not been in vain. We read the card as well in Tudcum and Jáchal, also in Santa María, Catamarca. We hope it continues its journey, round and round, arriving at unexpected places. There will be other cards, perhaps thousands.
Luis Claps, Patagonia, Argentina
Chile, July 2006
Dear friends of the Province of San Juan, Argentina:
We salute you from the other side of the Andes. We manifest our support in your struggle, which is also our struggle, against the transnational plunderers and for the defense of our natural resources and for a life with dignity in a healthy environment.
We live in the Huasco Valley, a fertile valley, free of contamination, the last of its kind in the north of Chile, located in the same latitude as the Province of San Juan. Just like you all, our lives and our environment depend upon the precious pure water, born in the heights of our Andes, a scarce and vital element which is constantly threatened by the mafias of the transnational mining projects, with the complicity of corrupt politicians who claim to represent us.
Until now, the mining companies have acted with absolute impunity, plundering resources and riches, contaminating the environment, profiting without scruples and generating poverty and desolation in our people. Now we have become conscious of the web of lies, fraud and coercion with which these rogues operate, and, just like you all, we are not willing to let them continue robbing and polluting.
The victories against the mining companies won by the people of Esquel and Ingeniero Jacobacci in Argentina have inspired our resistance. Here in Chile, the people have also organized to win important triumphs against the thieving companies. Now we are coming together, to resist and work together, Chileans and Argentinians, against the mining company Barrick Gold, which has shown itself to be a mining firm irresponsible, exploitative and destructive on both sides of the borders of which it operates.
The struggle unites us, and we must struggle together as brothers and sisters. Since the year 2000, we of the Huasco Valley have been on alert and resisting the maligned mining project Pascua Lama, with massive demonstrations, legal actions and community work. Thanks to this, the conflict has gained notoriety on a national level, building consciousness to our struggle for dignity. However, the Chilean government has turned a deaf ear towards the popular outcry, and instead of defending the rights of the citizens, they gave the go-ahead to the contamination and destruction, putting the lives of 70,000 directly affected inhabitants of the valley into certain risk, and handing over riches in exchange for the environmental, social, cultural and economic destruction of the region.
This bleak prospect rapidly approaching us is a product of the tactics of fraud and cheating practiced by Barrick Gold. They acquired the land where their sinister project is to be located in a fraudulant manner. As a result of this, the company faces a halting of their operations for up to two years because of a judicial case against them. This shows, once again, that this company, and others, who openly operate illegally and fraudulently cannot always count on the system of justice to continue favoring and supporting their actions, that the complicity of state power with their plunder does have its limits.
Despute this unfolding new situation, we, the defenders of life and dignity, common people with nothing more than the strength of our convictions, cannot rest. We are confronting colossal powers, and we have to remain alert and mobilized, against death and those who profit from it. Now more than ever, we must continue fighting in order to stop them.
Ever since the sell-out governments of Frei and Menem signed the "Binational Mining Treaty" written by the mining companies in order to expand their unconcrolled wealth, the transnational mining companies have not known borders to their plunder and destruction. But we also do not need borders to defend our land and our lives. We will organize to liberate ourselves from those who wish to destroy us. We will defend life with our lives if necessary. Now more than ever, they will not pass. Out with the transnationals! The Andes is Ours! AMERICA IS OURS!
Fraternal greetings from your friends in the Huasco Valley and throughout all of Chile,
Collective Resistance House/Centre La Lucha
Barbara, Silvia, Paulina, Cristóbal, Papo and many others...
Casa Taller La Lucha
San Félix, Comuna de Alto del Carmen
III Región, Chile