TO: All Activists
FROM: WAFC Report From Washington
DATE: April 7, 1997
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal reports on the growth of citizen opposition in Chile to more logging by transnational corporations. "Chile, which led Latin America in the adoption of free-market policies nearly 25 years ago, is now leading the region in another way," the Journal says. "A broad-based environmental movement is emerging to challenge the export-oriented development model pioneered by Chile and now widely accepted by governments across Central America."
"The movement has begun to affect U.S. resource companies that have made Latin America their top destination. During the l990s, they have invested billions of dollars in the region as country after country has dropped barriers to foreign participation in the mining, forestry and petroleum industries. Environmental movements are cropping up from Argentina to Venezuela to challenge what they consider inadequate laws and scant enforcement."
"Last week, environmentalists in Chile won a big victory when the country's Supreme Court invalidated the government's approval of a controversial logging project in Terra del Fuego. The environmental agency's endorsement of a $350 million plan by Trillium Corp. of Bellingham WA to harvest an ancient beech forest was 'illegal and arbitrary',' the court said, and failed to protect Chilean's right to live in a 'contamination-free' environment."
"Chile's pursuit of rapid economic growth, some people now argue, needs to be tempered. 'The ideology that growth will solve all our problems just isn't credible anymore,' says Marcel Claude, a former central bank economist who is now a Ford Foundation consultant. 'There's been too much damage to the environment and human welfare.'"
"'Our environmental problems are diverse, multiplying and have affected every community in the country,' says Miguel Stuzin, president of Codeff, Chile's oldest environmental group."
"The result has been upsurge in grass-roots activism, says Sara Larrain, coordinator of the National Network for Ecological Action. Her organization includes 150 groups from the blazing deserts of the north to the antarctic fjords of the south of this 3,000 mile long country. The environmental movement is now so popular, she says, that in a poll commissioned by the newspaper La Segunda last year, it rated first as a force for positive change, higher even than the powerful Catholic Church.
"The movement is also starting to have an impact on the economy. Billions of dollars in new investments, involving major foreign companies, are now hung up by administrative, legal and even physical challenges mounted by local citizen groups, environmental groups or a combination of the two."
I have met Sara Larrain who is referenced in the article and she relayed to me information from a study done by Chile's central bank predicting that at the current rate of logging, Chile's native forests will be gone in 30 years. This article clearly outlines the threat of investments from transnational (including U.S.) corporations to Chile's forests and other natural resources, and the active opposition of environmentalists in Chile to these projects. The article doesn't explain that the proposed expansion of NAFTA to Chile would make it harder for Chileans to secure additional protections for their forests, because of the protections NAFTA would give corporations and their investments.
We are joining Sara Larrain and the Chilean National Network for Ecological Action in opposing NAFTA expansion not just because of its impact on Chilean forests, but because it would encourage a model of development that sacrifices forests everywhere for corporate interests, and encourages a race to the bottom (witness the Logging Rider) in all countries, including the U.S. It is possible that the issue of NAFTA expansion to Chile (and other Latin American nations) will be on the floor of the House later this spring, in the form of "Fast Track" authority for the Clinton Administration to negotiate NAFTA expansion. We will keep you informed.
Western Ancient Forest Campaign
1025 Vermont Ave, NW, 3rd Floor
Washington, D.C. 20005