Nicaragua: Cocibolca + Cyanide = Ecocide

By Alternativa Anticapitalista

On October 8, Fundación del Río denounced the possible spill of 10 to 25 quintals of cyanide in Lake Cocibolca, that is, 2200 and 5500 pounds of this chemical compound. This could constitute a new ecocide, now within the largest freshwater reserve in Nicaragua, also affecting the population that drinks from its waters. Especially the communities of San Carlos in the vicinity of the shipwreck.

If it contaminates, it is not progress.

The news of the shipwreck with cyanide was known on October 5th, it was the National Army who gave the report: “On October 4th, 2020,… they carried out a search, rescue and salvage of 1 small boat with 3 crew members on board, who were shipwrecked due to bad weather in the lake of Cocibolca, 4 nautical miles northwest of the captaincy of the Port of the Municipality of San Carlos”. To ilustrate, those 4 nautical miles are equivalent to a little more than 7 kilometers, nothing! According to the Army, they only managed to rescue Captain Dioniso Alvarez alive, and then it was learned that “Yabran Francisco Aburto Diaz was found dead, while Juan López Baéz is still missing.

As Fundación del Río reports, the Army has deliberately not reported the dangerous content that the boat was illegally transporting, “nor does it point out the widely known smuggling route in the municipality of San Carlos. The Foundation gives us a clue about the destination of the damaged cargo, indicating that from 2016 to 2019 they have “documented more than 100 gold extraction mills located mainly in the municipalities of San Carlos, El Castillo, Nueva Guinea, Bluefields and within the Indio Maíz Biological Reserve.

One need not go any further to draw conclusions. Behind this crime against nature and the population surrounding Lake Cocibolca, in addition to Dioniso Alvarez, are the interests of mining companies like the Canadian B2Gold (which outsources the area to artisanal miners) and the National Army, which acts as the state guarantor of these extractive, depredatory and contaminating activities. Cyanide compounds are cross-cutting for the extraction industry of metals such as gold. It is worth mentioning that cyanide, at different levels of exposure, is harmful to health and can be deadly. We cannot continue to allow private interests to put our health and nature at risk.

The exit? On the left! Which one?

Marx in The German Ideology states that “in a certain development of the productive forces, a stage is reached in which they are transformed into destructive forces within the framework of existing relations”. This approach, which Marx did not develop, is totally valid. Especially if we see the “forest” fires in biological reserves, the depredation of flora and fauna, the extractive economy throughout Latin America and the global south, and now chemical spills in the precious lake, show the incompatibility of capitalism with the majority of people.

It is also true that the socio-environmental impacts of capitalist society are contemporary, relatively new to the agenda; it is no accident that there have been huge mobilizations around the world, such as “Friday for future” led by Greta Thunberg, or the #SOSIndioMaiz protests that underpinned the 2018 days of struggle in Nicaragua. In the face of this situation, the bourgeoisie, the ruling class, is offering made-up solutions, like the Paris Agreement.

But let us problematize some positions on the spectrum to the left. In this political field on the socio-environmental, there is confusion, and much reformism. The sectors that claim to be progressive in general propose a reformist scheme that is quite typical. They propose that semi-colonial countries (or countries on the “road to development”) like ours in Latin America, have to go through “the stages” that countries with a high level of capitalist development have gone through. An stagist paradigm, like the one proposed by Borón, or García Linera, only that this stage lasts an indeterminate time, a tremendous problem considering the deepening of the world environmental crisis. Characters like these explain that the task of “national-imperialist liberation” is to share the income with the mining industries, large agricultural export estates, big real estate developers, even versions – in the best of cases – of “mixed economy”. Do you remember it?

Another example of this is the Green New Deal (after the crisis of 1930, Roosevelt promoted the New Deal, a series of reforms to save the economy, today they only paint it green). This Green New Deal is promoted by sectors like Bernie Sanders and Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez of the DSA in the Democratic Party, and even the Spanish “socialist” Pedro Sanchez. They talk about reducing greenhouse gases, “decarbonizing” the production system, while paying better wages, and improving health and education. Perfect, right? but how? With some “tax incentives” for those corporations that begin the transition. In other words, paying the same transnationals that have us practically at the point of no return from an environmental grave, without even questioning the role they play on the policies that support their model of production (like  fracking supported by both Republicans and Democrats). Green capitalism.

There are other sectors of the socialist left, such as the Argentine Partido Obrero, a national-Trotskyist and dogmatic party, which give a productivist response, leaving the environmental question in the background. “A solution” only crossed by the class. Thus they propose workers’ control over megamining, fracking, agribusiness, etc… Revolutionary creativity: Zero!

Our proposal: Eco-socialism

For us, in order to find a solution that provides an integral response to the socio-environmental problem, it cannot remain in the middle, nor be anachronistic. Our perspective is solid: If it contaminates, destroys, depreates: IT IS NOT PROGRESS!

Faced with a system that produces values of change, that is, things to sell; we propose the production of values of use, that is, things that are socially necessary. The question then arises: who says it is socially useful? The majority. The working class and the people, in a broad deliberative process on the political, economic and socio-environmental. Thus we wrestle from the market of decision on what and how to produce, and therefore consume. It is then that we take, in the hands of the majority, the main springs/driving forces of the current economy. And in the face of the functional “blue and white” strategy of elections to only get Ortega and Murillo out, we oppose the slogan of a Free, Sovereign, Democratic and Plurinational Constituent Assembly.

In discussions with the Movement for the Decolonization of the Moskitia, MODEM, we were made to see the prevailing need to name not only “the land for those who work it,” but also “for those who care for it and live on it ancestrally” “with a bioethical focus,” which from Alternativa Anticapitalista, we assume completely. That is why our socialist strategy is based on equal rights for all, with a transversal and non-negotiable variable: the protection and preservation of the environment and that “natural resources” be considered subjects of rights, as MODEM demands.

…In our words: Ecological Socialism, Eco-Socialism!

This inexorably implies questioning the privileges of the economic minority in Nicaragua and Central America. It means banning polluting, extractive, and depredatory industries, such as mining, agribusiness, agro-toxins, industrial livestock, anarchic cementation/urbanization, and even consumerist advertising.

In view of this, another question remains, what happens to the working sectors of these industries? Labor reconversion, and that it does not stop there, it is necessary to guarantee full employment by distributing the working hours, which as a consequence would mean the reduction of the working day, supported by the new technologies in order to also guarantee equal and better wages. That is our horizon, our strategic hypothesis. To advance in this way to reduce the volume of what is produced in the capitalist logic. To guarantee sufficient, healthy and accessible food. Substitute the business of capitalist advertising for the social right to free and plural information. Energy system based on clean and renewable energy. Public and state transportation system with social control of its workers and users, in order to discourage the individual use of cars. To guarantee the long-delayed regional autonomy. And internationalist cooperation among peoples, not with their trans-state institutions such as SICA, OAS, UN.
These are some lines to think about a vision (not at all utopian), for the construction of an ecosocialist and anti-capitalist political program, nothing to do with those electoral organizations like the National Coalition and its components. Organizationsles that are being used by the partners of the orteguismo: businessmen and opportunist politicians. We are facing this challenge, a challenge in which the youth, the native peoples and the defenders of environmental rights are the vanguard of this struggle. This is part of our contribution to the construction of an anti-capitalist alternative, to dispute power -real power- for the social majority. Let’s build this perspective together.