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July 22, 2013
July 22, 2013

A silent plundering

Author: Gustavo Duch Translator: Eleni Nicolaou
Source: El Periodico  Category: On the crisis
This article is also available in: esel

The media keep us informed about much of what is happening in Greece, which is crucial considering that this country works as a laboratory of -more than worrying- rescue policies. We know that since the outset of the crisis, each worker in Greece, man or woman, has lost an average of 40% of their salary, while the rising prices of commodities such as milk and the tax increase leads households to definitely impossible and unbearable debits and credits. Just like in Spain, unemployment rates grow, subsidies disappear, basic services such as healthcare are cut and labour policies that turn us into low cost countries are enforced. But there is another less known -or rather silenced- reality about these rescue experiments that we should know and analyse, because the results of similar tests in the Spanish State are getting progressively more visible.

I am referring to another one of the troika demands for lessening the Greek debt: the selling of all natural resources or their exploitation with no restrictions. In Greece, the mechanisms used involve the modification of the legal provisions that “would shut out the over-exploitation of natural resources, for better or worse”, as Roxanne Mitralias, militant on agricultural and ecological issues, says. The new regulations come to challenge the Constitution that prevented the private exploitation of coastal and forest areas, says Roxanne. For example, in late January 2013, the lake of Cassiopeia, in Corfu, was sold to NCH Capital and since the spring of 2012 beaches can be granted for 50 years, which will obviously unleash a wave of privatizations resulting in resorts with no respect for the natural environment and exclusively for the wealthiest people.

Moreover, the exploitation of mineral resources scars the Greek map with controversial marks. There is talk about oil deposits in the sea that -if found- would not generate profits but for the foreign companies that exploit the sites. In the north of the country, in Skouries, for more than a year now there is a great social movement -constantly repressed by the police special forces- for the defense of the forests against a gold mining project of two companies, one Greek and one Canadian. A long list, very similar, that we see in our country too, where the same chimeras are repeated: oil in Canary Islands, open pit mines for extracting gold in Galicia, uranium in Catalonia or fracking in many parts of the northern peninsula. As in Greece, we must denounce the two laws that the central government has to its disposal in order to offer the country on a silver platter allowing the looting of our commons.

First, we have the law of protection and sustainable use of the coast which replaces the 1988 Coastal Law and violates basic constitutional principles. If this law were implied, public property would pass into the hands of private investors, high-value areas such as wetlands or marine estuaries would remain unprotected and beaches –that belong to the sea- would be abandoned to urban projects. And second, the law of rationalisation and sustainability of the local administration, the Montoro law, which, lying about aiming at an alleged efficiency, wants to dismantle the governance systems of small towns and villages, in order to sell the mountains and public lands that these municipalities or neighbourhood councils have managed to handle collectively for hundreds of years. Again a law ignoring that we are talking about public property which, according to the Constitution, is inalienable and indefeasible.

CAN WE allow the sale of nature to pay off bank bailouts or facilitate the profit of a handful of investors? If we think of the planet as the system of which we are part, with forests and land as its lungs and mountains and rivers as its arteries, where we coexist with a fantastic diversity of living organisms and which is the only guarantee for the life of our descendants, then putting the private interest above the public is a tremendous shortsightedness and mediocrity. An assault that perhaps to our leaders may seem minor, with everything that is happening no one will care if some forests or sandy grounds are sold or burned, think those who are in charge of this silent plundering. But here again their point of view is old fashioned. Society has become aware of the meaning of even the humblest of the trees, as we have seen in Taksim Square in Istanbul, or a thousand other places.

The land is not sold; it should be taken care of and defended.

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