United States: Plan Colombia and water

United States: Plan Colombia and water
Joaquín Rivery Tur

• NATURE is passing the check on to the United States. However, savage depredation of the environment is not charging in dollars but in conditions for survival.

One would be hard pressed to find any of the great rivers and lakes in the United States that are entirely free of virtual total contamination. In Europe, clean water sources are rare. One would have to travel deep into the mountains to find pure currents and that country needs water for drinking, agriculture and industry.

In this context, Latin America is also experiencing the threat of the empire, with the arrival of another stage of Plan Colombia, which has been condemned by President Hugo Chávez. The Venezuelan president perceives the Pentagon’s strategy and its seven new military bases under Bogotá’s consent as having precise targets: first, the Orinoco oil belt; second, Amazonia; and third, the Guaraní Aquifer, one of the largest deposits of subterranean water. The Palanquero base – seemingly the largest – assures an operational range of the yanki forces covering all of South America. It is a genuine risk.

The Guaraní Aquifer is a truly fabulous underground water system and the United States has been very interested in it for a number of years.

The research is being conducted by no less than the World Bank, whose aim is not to supply water to the millions of South Americans in need of it, but to privatize the liquid. Six years ago an agreement was signed for studies on the Guaraní Aquifer System, with funding primarily from the United States (through the World Bank), and some from Germany and Holland. It smelled rotten from the outset.

Paul Wolfowitz, president of the World Bank at the time, stated that funds from his institution could only be used by the private sector for the development of the subterraneous basin.

Sara Grusky, an official from the Water for All NGO in Canada recently declared that international organizations like the World Bank are seeking to create a Guaraní industrial region without concerning themselves with safeguarding the conservation of the aquifer or the real interests of the inhabitants, thus increasing the risks of privatization.

Even more seriously, partial or total concessions have been granted to transnational corporations including the U.S. Monsanto Wells and Bechtel C, the French Suez/ ONDEO division and Vivendi, the Spanish Aguas de Valencia and Unión FENOSA ACEX, and the UK Thames Water, among others.

Thus, it is becoming abundantly clear that the Guaraní Aquifer System is one of the targets of the U.S. military expansion in Colombia.

A journalist once asked if the United States would attack South America for water and the day is not so far off when the survival of many nations, above all the rich ones, will be measured by the liquid that they can conquer for their needs.

The Guaraní Aquifer System, shared by Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay, has no less than 50 billion cubic kilometers of water in its substratum, which extends over almost two million square kilometers with a production capacity of 40-80 square kilometers daily. If the transnational corporations gain control over that wealth, they could industrialize the bottling of good, clean water for export to the North, which is why developed countries have encouraged the countries involved to pass legislation permitting water privatization.

The plan is advancing. The rich countries are on the offensive and exerting pressure to make concrete one of the greatest atrocities of neoliberalism: converting water into a commodity.

Of the surface area covered by the Guaraní  Aquifer System (greater than France, Spain and Portugal combined), 70% belongs to Brazil, 19% to Argentina, 6% to Paraguay and the remaining 5% to Uruguay. However, the exact limits of the system are still unknown and the basin could be the world’s greatest deposit of fresh water.

“The problem is not that water supplies are decreasing, but that their location and quality are changing,” is the opinion of Mexican expert Gian Carlo Delgado, author of the book Agua y seguridad nacional (Water and National Security, Mondadori). According to Delgado, it appears that high biodiversity areas like the one that harbors the Guaraní Aquifer will see an increase or at least the conservation of their precipitation indexes and therefore “are shaping up as strategic on a local, regional, and global level.”

Closely related to U.S. ambitions is another point in a report by the former advisors of Reagan and Bush Sr, which explains why it is a priority that the countries of the Guaraní System should enact legislation to protect water as a heritage of those nations. The document stated that the United States must ensure that “the natural resources of the hemisphere are available in order to respond to our national priorities.”

In a relatively short space of time, those intentions could become a reality. The covetousness of transnational corporations, plus the requirements of an empire that is losing water provide solid supporting evidence for President Chávez’ fear that the proliferation of U.S. military bases in Colombia is directed at conquering the resources of South America, where the Guaraní Aquifer System has so much importance on account of its subterraneous and surface water (between the Paraguay, Paraná and Uruguay Rivers) and the biodiversity that it contains.

The protection of this incalculable source of clean water thus becomes a priority for all governments that are genuinely committed to the defense of national and continental interests because, from the North, the thirsty vulture, driven by the climate change that it itself is imposing, is watching with carrion eyes and ready talons. The bases in Colombia are the nests of these birds of prey. •

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