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Colombia's Integration Into Plan Puebla Panama

Implications Of Colombia's Integration Into Plan Puebla Panama


by Fernando Arellano Ortiz, ALAI, published in Argenpress 21/07/2006
Translation by Tlaxcala

From July onwards, Colombia will form part of the one-sided geopolitical mega-project that seeks to consolidate the neoliberal model in the western Latin America with the aim of privatizing highway infrastructure, public services and natural resources. This economic and political strategy is promoted by Washington via Mexico's President Vicente Fox and counts with the financial support of the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank, while various multinational companies are committed to its implementation. Nonetheless, the impact President Alvaro Uribe's announcement, that in his second period in office Colombia will join Plan Puebla Panama, will have in the country at every level in the immediate future has gone unnoticed by public opinion, probably through ignorance as to Plan Puebla Panama's causes and consequences

Multinationals after the peoples' wealth

But what is Plan Puebla Panama and what are its political and economic objectives? In the first place, Plan Puebla Panama, dreamed up by Washington, was proposed by President Fox in 2000 and accepted by Central American leaders in 2001 in the context of the Tuxtla framework for dialogue (1). It is a fundamental component of the United States' geostrategic plan to complement the free trade treaties it has with Canada, Mexico and Central America and those it is in the course of completing with Andean countries like Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

The aim of the plan is very clear : to help multinational companies privatize ports and airports, highways, electrical energy, water, gas, oil and, above all, to get unrestricted control of the huge resources of biodiversity of the Lacandona forest (2), and the Chimalapas in Oaxaca (3) in Mexico and of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor that reaches all the way to Panama. It has a planned cost of US$25 billion and seeks to open up Central America and Colombia to free trade.

In this way it will create a "development corridor" from the central Mexican state of Puebla across six Central American countries down to Panama, a region of 102 million square kilometres and 63 million people. This area also includes important oil wealth, 34 million hectares of virgin timber, spectacular fresh water reserves, 30 million low wage workers and the "Mesoamerican Biological Corridor" cooked up by the World Bank, a much coveted source of biodiversity.

The importance of Colombia

To all that, one now has to add the immense resources of a South American country like Colombia which according to President Uribe's calculations will very soon join this geopolitical megaproject. In this country the eyes of the multinationals are set on El Choco, (4) not only for its natural diversity but also because it is an important source of fresh water and oil reserves. The Tapon of Darien (5) is also in this department, a forest zone which will join Central and South America once a stretch of the Panamerican Highway is built there. As if the foregoing were not enough, the possibility is also mooted of using nuclear charges to open up an interoceanic canal that would end up being an alternative to the Panama Canal.

As researcher Miguel Pickard of Mexico's Political and Economic Research Centre for Community Action (CIEPAC) points out, "the PPP does not spring from a strategy to eliminate endemic poverty as the Fox government asserts, but as an ingenious conspiracy to channel enormous sums of public money into infrastructure projects that, it is hoped, will induce private investment."

Plan Houston-Puebla-Bogotá

Not for nothing is the Colombian government negotiating a free trade treaty with its counterparts in Central America. What inspires the Uribe Velez administration more than trade with that region is the preparation of the legal and institutional framework to permit Colombia's expeditious entry into Plan Puebla Panama which in future ought to be called the Plan Houston Puebla Bogota since the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and the US State Department seek political and economic control of a Mesoamerican and South American region from Texas though to Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

Although the Bush and Fox governments play an important role in promoting Plan Puebla Panama, its real motor is in the Inter American Development Bank's head office in Washington DC since this bank is the one that designed it and is largely able to finance it. Its president, the Colombian Luis Alberto Moreno, heads Plan Puebla Panama's Financial Committee. Other financial investors are the World Bank, the European Union, the Spanish government and other bilateral agencies. As for the multinational corporations that regard with enthusiasm the profitable business of exploiting the region's land, subsoils and rich biodiversity, one might mention among others: International Paper Company, Boise Cascade, the Mexican conglomerate Pulsar, the Spanish comapny Endesa and the US companies Harken Energy, Applied Energy Services, Duke Energy, Harza, Delasa Prescott and Follet, Tribasa, Caros, GAN, ICA, Imbursa, Texas Connection, International Shipholding Corporation, Monsanto, Shell, Dow Chemical, Exxon, y Hutchinson Holdings.

Rampart against Venezuela

From the political point of view, Plan Puebla Panama is an excellent mechanism for Washington to facilitate geopolitical, economic and operative support to neoliberal governments like those in Central America and Colombia and in that way to oppose and weaken any alternative development model like those being promoted by Presidents like Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia. In other words, the integration of a community of nations under the influence and guidance of Washington and international financial capital will end up consolidating a rampart against the Venezuelan government's obvious growing political influence in South America.

Consequences and resistance

The implementation of this megaproject for multinational businesses puts at risk the survival of thousands of communities because not only will those businesses attack the ecosystem but also pillage the region's natural resouces, exploit plentiful cheap labour and accelerate the displacement of indigenous peoples and rural working families from their lands driving them into the maquiladoras. Likewise, the big biotechnology companies like Monsanto, Syngenta, Diversa and Pulsar have the chance to carry out “biopiracy”.

All this is why many rural working family and indigenous people's organizations, in Mexico and Central America and hundreds of social organizations are organizing mass resistance to Plan Puebla Panama. Meanwhile, in Colombia there is as yet no awareness nor has any debate begun on this neoliberal macroproject which, with great caution, has barely even been sketched out by re-elected President Uribe

Translator's notes.
1. The Tuxtla Framework for Dialogue is a regional consultation and cooperation forum including Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Panama
2. The Lacandona region covers 957,240 hectares in the north east of Chiapas – about 13% of the total area of the State.
3. The forest of Chimalapas is located on the borders of the states of Oaxaca and Chiapas near the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.
4. Choco is a department of Colombia located in the west of the country between the western watershed of the Western Cordillera and the Pacific coastal plain. In the north it borders Panama and the Caribbean, in the east the Colombian departments of Antioquia, Risaralda y Valle del Cauca; in the south the department of Valle del Cauca and in the west with the Pacific Ocean. It is the wettest area in Colombia with rainfall normally between 4000 and 8000 mm per year resulting in stupendous forest vegetation and abundant rivers.
5. The Tapon of Darien is an area of mountainous forest that separates the existing stretches of the Panamerican Highway between the Panama canal and the north east of Colombia.

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Translated from Spanish into English by toni solo, a member of Tlaxcala ( www.tlaxcala.es), the network of translators for linguistic diversity. This translation is Copyleft.

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