On Monday, our national media seemed taken aback when Fidel Castro pointed a finger at Canada. Reporters presumed that the former Cuban President was upset that the island nation was not invited to this week’s Summit of the Americas taking place in Cartagena, Colombia.
CBC reporter David Common’s analysis of Castro’s latest newspaper column entitled “Stephen Harper’s Illusions,” was particularly derisive, while other journalists seemed mostly confused. “It isn’t clear,” concluded an article from the Canadian Press, “why [Fidel] seems to be venting his anger on Canada rather than on Cuba’s more customary adversary, the United States.”
But Castro’s tone was more reflective than angry. He also noted that Canada has never embargoed Cuba and has been generally seen there as a friend.
The story Canadian reporters did not care to untangle from the aging revolutionary’s column is how much Canada’s dominant role in the mining sector is not just causing “incredible damage,” but is also giving rise to growing backlash.
Castro spends a third of his article on the subject, describing it as “an issue that has been identified innumerable times as one of the main scourges that affects millions of persons.”
Canadian media reported his mention of these alleged abuses, but stopped short of the analysis.
Citing an article that recently circulated on a progressive Latin American newswire, Fidel points out how Canada dominates the mining sector as the source of capital for 60% of the world’s mining companies. Mining companies invest in Latin America, he says, in order to take advantage of lax rules and tax regimes.
As a result, continues Castro: “Social struggle against mining, particularly metal mining, has been growing… as entire generations are becoming aware of the environmental and social impacts it causes.” The figures, he concludes, “make us meditate very deeply about the seriousness and harshness of the ruthless pillaging that is being carried out… thus mortgaging the future of Latin Americans.”
No longer localized, mining conflicts on rural and indigenous lands have become national news from Argentina to Mexico. Well- known musicians in the Spanish-speaking world, such as Manu Chao and Calle 13, have been joining their voices with the rural poor, environmentalists and human rights advocates.
If there are any illusions that Castro is trying to dispel, it is that Canada’s self-interested agenda in the region is becoming clear. And that once again, Latin Americans are standing up to protect their lands, their lives, and their dignity against further abuse.
This chorus from a song entitled “Latin America” by the group Calle 13 expresses a strong sentiment emerging from environmental conflicts in the region (although it sounds better in Spanish!):
You can’t buy the wind
You can’t buy the sun
You can’t buy the rain
You can’t buy the heat
You can’t buy the clouds
You can’t buy the colours
You can’t buy my happiness
You can’t buy my pain
You can’t buy my life.
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