Eco-socialism is just a facade

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Coal mining in Perija: The government believes it will bring benefits, but opponents think it will bring death.

What is “eco-socialism”?

It’s basically the central government’s term for both its environmental policy and for the ministry in charge of it (which just changed its denomination to Environment and Waters, as Audrey has pointed out).

But what does “eco-socialism” really stand for?

Mostly, it’s for using environmental issues as political taglines.

For example, the government’s PR campaign against “fracking”. Nicolas Maduro hates fracking so much, he wants to amend the Constitution to explicitly ban this oil-extraction technique nationwide.

Of course he’s not doing this for the environment, but because he sees it as part of a U.S. conspiracy targeted against oil producers such as Venezuela and its geo-political ally, Russia.

But in the last few weeks, a new controversy has put the entire concept of “eco-socialism” into question, in spite of not making the headlines in our media outlets. It involves the possible mining of coal in the Sierra de Perijá, a mountain range that we share with our Colombian neighbors.

Back in February, Maduro signed Decree 1.606, which gives the Oil & Mining Ministry full control of coal mining. Its main focus is in 24.192 hectares located in Western Zulia State, which were previously licensed (but now expired).

PDVSA’s subsidiary Carbones del Zulia (CarboZulia) will be in charge of exploring and exploiting the area, in order to increase production and diversify the country’s income. The coal would either go towards exports or be used for electricity generation.

But the decree has found strong opposition from some of the locals, which have organized street protests and public meetings to reject the idea of exploiting coal in the Perijá mountain range. Some environmental groups are also opposing this decision and they even requested Maduro to repeal his decree by starting a public campaign. (Sound familiar?)

In their view, the entire area’s biodiversity (including a national park) would suffer, as would the nearby rivers, which are the main source of drinkable water for the region. There would be negative health effects for the local inhabitants as well.

Some think it’s a good idea. Others think it’s a disaster-in the-making. Then, there’s WWCD: “What would Chavez do?”

Several years ago, the late comandante presidente was clearly opposed to this particular project, and was very vocal about it. He even dared to say said that if he had to choose between the coal and the forest, he would take the latter.

However, his last electoral platform (Plan de la Patria) mentioned an openness to coal mining in general and, more specifically, to exploiting possible deposits in the Sierra de Perija. Mixed partnerships between private companies and the State (which would have at least 55% of participation) would be in charge. Decree 1.606 justifies itself by using this argument.

Some have laid the blame in the feet of Zulia Governor Francisco Arias Cardenas, who believes that coal-powered plants could help to solve the electricity crisis, but he expressed his opposition to coal extraction in Perijá last year. He remains silent now.

As World Bank President Jim Yong Kim has called nations to take action to reduce fossil fuel dependence, it looks like we’re going the other way around. That’s “eco-socialism” for you: policies where the “socialism” comes first, and the “eco” comes last.

1 COMMENT

  1. Few people know this but a mayor portion of the USA’s huge coal production comes from Western Open Sky mines , which are subject to strict enviromental guidelines to operate and which to my knowldge are doing their job without any harm to the environment where they operate. After the coal is extracted the practice is to cover the land up with grasses and plants and trees and return it to its original condition . Probably it isnt perfect , but the US govt and public have lived with these mines for decades now with little cause for complaint.

    Im not talking now of the pollution which coal can cause when used in power generation , but which can be substantially contained if the proper filters and other pollution prevention installations are used . Shame that sometimes the govts or rather the lawmakers are sometimes lax in not imposing the prequisite pollution control requirements to coal fired powerhouses.

    Some people take the position that all coal extracting activity should be stopped altogether because of the potential damage which these operations can cause or which they like to imagine can cause. to the environment . The thing is to have experts not linked either to any business concern or to any militant sometimes overzealous enviromental group assess the enviromental risks and determine whether the operation is feasible and under what conditions .

    My own fear is that the regime takes position which are either histrionically hostile to these activities for propaganda purposes ( show of to the world how much they care about the environment) or because the people in the ministries are fanatized by their ultra enviromentalist convictions or just feels there is money to be made from the activity regardless of the cost to the environment and then just ride rough shot over any opposition .

    In the past i ve been witness to cases where enviromental retrictions where so irrational and misguided that they ended up in causing worse damage to the environment than it a more moderate stance had been adopted .

    • Strip mining is common practice in the US, and the mined land is returned to nearly its exact original condition. The process, however, is executed with strict environmental planning and controls, particularly with regards to runoff and surface water contamination. Without such procedures and effective oversight, surface water, and possibly ground water, will be contaminated. Without a restoration plan the site will be left as a gnashing wound on the face of the earth. The locals are right to fear strip mining, given the demonstrated incompetency of the government.

      • I share your fears that even though the rational exploitation of these coal veins is possible , neither the govt nor the company entrusted with their exploitation will be capable of meeting the required enviromental standards or even much concerned with meeting them.

        On the oher hand I also fear that even if the govt and company were capable and willing to applyithe appropiate standards fo a safe exploitation , you would have fanatized bureaucrats , corrupt bureaucrats and a heap of proudly incensed indians and other envromentalist groups passionately opposed to any such exploitation for largely ‘morally recreational’ reasons .

    • This is the kind of Barbarism that goes wildly unnoticed in Vzla.

      In any somewhat-educated country, it just wouldn’t fly, and would immediately create Massive windstorms everywhere, from the streets, to the media.

      To even pretend that “dollars” and people’s own money is not a right, but a privilege, like a Drivers licence, or a trip to Mars.

      Sadly, the vast majority of our crippled, uneducated populace do not even comprehend what such declarations mean. Much less the historic or geographical contexts, even less in International Jurisdiction terms. Zero clue, so whatever Masburrismo barks, they buy.

      Which is why lack of education is always a common denominator along with corruption in Vzla.

    • Fukuyama points out that in the most primitive political systems the ruler regards the resources of govt not as belonging to the community over which he rules but as part of his own personal patrimony , which he can arbitrarily dispose of in his own interest or in that of his followers while ignoring the overall interest of the community which he rules. He calls this type of State a Patrimonial State, in this kind of state there is no true public sphere which represents the interests of the country as a whole only the agrandized power of the ruler..

      In more mature political systems , in a liberal democracy for example , the resources of the state belong to the community of the citizens as a whole and can only be used to sattisfy their overall needs and demands , without discrimination . In this latter type of state the functions of government are institutionalized and do not serve the interest of the ruler or any particular political faction .

      Maduros statement ‘the quota is not a right its a privilege’ (which only he and his coterie can enjoy) reveals the proprietarial way he views the resources of the State , as belonging exclusively to him so that if he chooses to allow anyone access to them they must thank him for his generosity . He is not a servant of the state because he owns the state and all that it recieves from the exploitation of the countrys natural wealth.
      His is a primitive patrimonial view of the state .

      Changing the regime means changing this way of looking at the state , its bringing forth a modern effective state whose purpose is to ensure the maximum welfare and freedoms of its people through the work of un partisan institutions .

  2. “Carbon is death.”

    Great sign for a country whose export income is about 95% hydrocarbons. Or, maybe they sign makers meant to say that “The Devil’s Excrement/Carbon Kills the Economy.” It certainly has in the hands of Chavismo.

  3. The “environmental movement” has always been in large part funded by groups and countries that are ideologically or pragmatically opposed to free-market capitalism. While I do not doubt that many, or even most, of the grass-roots members and activists are sincere in their motivations, their goals have long since been high-jacked by those who fund them. Ironically, the worst ecological disasters ever perpetrated in the world, have occurred in and by the very countries that decry capitalism.

  4. Carbon emissions in the US have flat-lined or even decreased in recent years because cleaner burning natural gas is replacing coal like crazy. Why? Because it has become cheap. Why is it cheap? You guessed it! Fracking!

  5. In Corruptzuela, everything is related to Grand Theft.

    Every one of our 32 catastrophic “ministerios” used as an abysmal, polluting, embezzlement, putrid coal mine.

    This dictatorship couldn’t possible care less, obviously, about anything “social” or “environmental”. It just has a nice ring to it, great for bogus “multas”, extortion, bribes, fake penalties, costly land “permits”, etc, etc.

    Under the guise of “$ocialism”, and/or “ecological” or “ambiente”, Grand Theft is disguised, easily channeled and happily swallowed by our naive, ignorant populace.

    This one takes the cake:

    “El presidente de la República, Nicolás Maduro, anunció la creación de un nuevo despacho que se encargará directamente de las más de 30 misiones sociales que se han creado en 14 años del chavismo: el Viceministerio para la Suprema Felicidad Social del pueblo venezolano.”

    A go$ar!!

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