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Dispossessing the Local Commons by Credit: The Struggle To Reclaim Them
By Ana Isla
This paper takes the mask off credit to show it as an instrument of dispossession of the Commons. The Common debate worth for explanations of new forms of dispossession which are taking place under the banner of reducing poverty and environmental protection. The commons treatment, in this paper, brings a Marxist, World-System, and Feminist subsistence perspective that reveals new gift giving areas for dispossession, these are, rural women's labour, peasant and Indigenous People subsistence production, and Third World nature. In conclusion, credit has legalized nature and social dispossession of people living on indebted countries expanding misery and exclusion. But women, peasants and Indigenous People pushed to the corner are fighting back and reclaiming their Commons.
In general, the Commons are the social (cultural heritage, housing, schools, hospitals, state pension) and natural (land, biodiversity, genetic material, oceans, rivers, mountain) conditions of life which are available for universal access by all members of the community. The notion of the Commons is central to understanding gender, domination and imperialism, and exploitation of humans and nature. The Commons debate is essential in explaining the new forms of social and territorial control that are leading to intensified dispossession – both of human and non-human lives in the indebted periphery. The commons discussion, in this paper, brings a Marxist, World System, feminist subsistence perspective that uncovers new gift giving areas for dispossession. These are; women's household labour, peasant and Indigenous Peoples' subsistence production, and Third World nature. Mies (1986,1996), Mies and Bennholt-Thomsen (1978, 1999), Shiva (1989,1993,1994, 1998) and Salleh (1994, 1997) argue that women activists have no choice but to join the indigenous/subsistence movement because women's and indigenous peoples' situations are similar as a result of the conditions in which they live- poverty- and the physical work they do - protecting life and being in charge of the most highly productive work of society).
To reflect on these Commons, I use the concept "accumulation by dispossession" coined by David Harvey in his book,"The New Imperialism"(2003). He argues that Marx's general theory of capital accumulation was constructed under assumptions which exclude primitive accumulation processes or the living infrastructure of the commons. Marx's assumptions erroneously relegated accumulation backed up by depredation, fraudulence, and violence "outside of" the capitalist system, a matter of the past. Despite this, according to Harvey, Marx's primitive accumulation remains powerful within our present globalized capitalism. Thus, accumulation by dispossession includes the commodification and privatization of land and the forceful expulsion of peasant and indigenous populations; conversion of various forms of property rights (common, collective, state, etc.,) into private property rights; suppression of rights to the commons; commodification of feminized labour and the suppression of indigenous forms of production and consumption; monetarization of exchange and taxation, slave trade and usury. In this way a full circle of violence and war is externalized against the 'other'. Thus, to accumulate by dispossessing means to devalue the 'other' in order to buy local assets and labour cheaply. This is done through the use of the debt and the environmental crises.
Here, I see dispossession of the Commons by credit. I am concerned with how the socially constructed global credit markets (financial system) are systematically subordinating non-human and human environment of the indebted Latin America. Three questions are addressed in this paper. First, how is credit used to dispossess the Nature Commons; Second, how is debt used to dispossess the Social Commons? Third, how have the dispossessed begun to reclaim the Commons?
I begin with a brief treatment of credit, within which I pose these questions. In the 1970s, credit set in motion a capitalist dynamic which brought a situation in which producers were subjected to market imperatives. In 1982, the debt crisis that blew up in Mexico has two origins: the decline in the manufacturing rate of profit across the advanced capitalist economies (Brenner 2002), and the Vietnam War was expensive for the U.S and gave rise to a large deficit (gatt-Fly, 1985) that created a fiscal crisis on the developmental state. As the manufacturing industry and the Vietnam War crises escalated, the U.S. continued to print more dollars. Since the U.S. dollar was linked to gold, it caused global inflation and led to what came to be called the "Euromarket," as international banks dealing in American dollars began to open up shop in Europe. These dollars were recycled to Third World countries at relatively low, but floating, interest rates. At the time that Latin American countries had obtained the credits, the Euromarket operated on the basis of medium- and long-term credit with interest ranging between 2% and 4%. After 1978, these credits were replaced by short-term floating-interest rates which left the borrowers with most of the risk. By 1982, the short term credits were linked with the increase of interest rates up to 16.6 % in the U.S. (Roddick, 1988). Since then, the U.S. interest has been using the International Monetary Fund (IMF) stabilization, and the World Bank (WB) Structural Adjustment Policies (SAP) to reorganize internal social production and reproduction of the indebted world to favor penetration of transnational capital.
Using the debt crisis, by the end of the 1980s, most foreign direct investment in Latin America was the result of debt/equity swaps. Under the Brady's debt-restructuring plan established in 1989 and the Washington Consensus in 1995, Latin American bank loans were transformed into bonds that could be easily traded on the financial market. An active market in trading these bonds quickly developed as a key source of capital. The U.S. Enterprise Americas Initiative (eai), under President George Bush Sr., proposed debt swaps  using public funds to transfer indebted countries' public enterprises to U.S. private corporations. Through debt swaps, countries privatized their public infrastructure and placed the transnational corporation as the main player in their economy/ecology.
By the end of the 1980s, the debt (social) crisis was entangled with the environmental crisis. Recognition of the environmental crisis was precipitated with the publication of the 1987 Report of the United Nations' World Commission on the Environment and Development (UNWCED), "Our Common Future," often referred to as the Brundtland Report. In 1992, at the Earth Summit, northern experts of the development agencies and global resource managers (GRMs) encountered each other and merged their differing perspectives into what has been called "sustainable development" . Sustainable development discourse argues that, the tensions between poverty and ecology will be resolved in the indebted countries, by reconciling global economic interests and ecological interests (Asiedu-Akrofi, 1991; UNESCO, 1995) through economic growth. In these frameworks, the solution to the debt and environmental crises is proposed by expanding the market system. One mechanism to expand the market system is using debt-for-nature swap funds, which will be referred to as debt-for-nature investments to highlight their nature. A debt-for-nature investment is a financial mechanism that repays loans held by creditors such as commercial banks or governments in return for natural resources. Debt-for-nature investments are core mechanisms of sustainable development which prevent the entry of new money into the country, since it is the indebted country that pays with local currency for bonds on a foreign debt that was contracted in dollars. The debtor country's "obligation" is to allocate domestic resources for financing ecological projects in exchange for extinguishing a limited portion of the country's foreign debt. Debt-for-nature investments are based on a negative assessment of the debt country, meaning that the debt must be considered unpayable, so the debt titles can be sold at a fraction of their value in the secondary market. Supported by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) program of the World Bank and assistance through AID, debt-for-nature investments insist upon structural adjustment measures to stimulate economic growth.
In the late 1990s, I wrote my doctoral thesis in the rainforest of Costa Rica on one of the first exchange of debt-for-nature between Canada and Costa Rica. Two events were important in this picture: indebtedness pressured Costa Rican local powers to share commercial interests with transnational corporations over its natural richness, and particularly its potential for genetic material; while, at the same time, corporate environmentalism emerged as the new ideology of modernization and environmental protection. The discourse of "protecting" land, air and water through private property for capital accumulation has played a key part in the neo-liberal agenda of private appropriation. In this paper, debt-for-nature is a "new program of common management" that represents the expansion of commodification as a new accumulation by dispossession. This paper shows that the debt crisis and the environmental crisis have become rationales for a continuation of the enclosure of rural women's household work, peasant and Indigenous Peoples' subsistence production and nature Commons.
In what follows, first, I attempt to articulate the Global and the Local Commons argument. Second, I unpack nature dispossession - in Costa Rica, and social dispossession - in the Latin America region, produced by credit. And third, I bring the issue of reclaiming the Commons by Bolivian commoners.
In conclusion, credit has legalized the expansion of commodification and the social and nature dispossession of indebted countries' people. The fight against commodification is unifying the struggle of rural women, peasants and Indigenous People. Pushed to the corner they are fighting back and reclaiming their Commons.
Enclosure: Global Commons vs Local Commons
Commons, in this paper, is the natural, social and political space that provides sustenance, security and independence, yet typically does not produce commodities for profit. They have been subjected to enclosure. Enclosure means physical fencing of land, extinction of common and customary rights of use on which many people depended for their livelihood. Enclosure movements in 18th century England took place by acts of Parliament (Wood 2002). Early enclosure occurred when larger landowners sought to drive commoners off lands that could be profitably used for sheep farming. Locke takes a firm stand that most of the value inherent in land comes not from nature, but from labour and improvement. Instead, Marx (1977) identifies the early enclosure as the process of expropriation of direct producers; once dispossessed they were forced into markets. According to Polanyi (1967), a market is not an act of nature; society creates markets for accumulation purposes. Historically, the market economy fosters enclosures of the land to mobilize and produce rural proletariat for industry. With the expansion of the market the motive of natural action of subsistence was substituted by the motive of profit. The expansion of the market produces a conflict between the market and the subsistence production, as more and more means of direct reproduction are included in the market. Thus, the Commons are what still remains of gift economies when the market is the dominant system.
The Commons debate has become heated since 1968, when Garret Hardin, a biologist put forward the argument that any Commons regime will result in degradation, since an individual user will gain more from overusing the commons than the individual loss he or she will sustain from its resulting ruin. He hopes for the expansion of private property, free market, because freedom of a commons brings ruin to all. According to Goldman (1998:21), Hardin's discourse applied to the local commons is now utilized to the global commons striving to direct supranational decision - making on the Amazon biodiversity and forest, the earth's ozone, deep seas and so on (Goldman 1998:21).
Since the Earth Summit, in 1992, a contemporary enclosure is taking place as a result of a policy which relies largely on economic/market-based instruments to achieve environmental protection. This agenda is implemented by professionals developers and environmentalists. For instance, the WB, through the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), initiated a program of financing Global Resource Managers (GRMs), which will be referred to as Corporate Environmental Non-Governmental Organizations (CENGOs) , and defined the entire planet as the Global Commons. In the framework of the World Bank, the Commons are the areas of expansion of natural and social capital. The Global Commons "is a nation's portfolio of assets which includes built infrastructure, natural resources (minerals, energy, agricultural land, forest), human capital, and social capital" (Hamilton, 2001). Smith and Simmard (2001) of Statistics Canada have expanded the concept of Natural Capital into the Global Commons to include: natural resource stocks, the source of raw priced or unpriced materials used in the production of manufactured goods; land, essential for the provision of space for economic activity to take place; and environmental systems or ecosystems necessary for the services that they provide directly and indirectly to the economy, including purifying the air and water, providing biodiversity, stable climate, protection from solar radiation, and provision of stable flows of renewable natural resources. In sum, the Global Commons' rhetoric of universality makes the claim that it is acting in the general interest of 'human kind'. Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS), the Global Commons includes the Local Commons for the purpose of intervention. As a result, the Local Commons (genetic material, land, water, forest, mountains etc) are being handled by global actors and local concerns no longer matter. In effect, the Global Commons framework has revived colonization and dispossession particularly around indebted countries that still conserve their rain forest.
An example of this dispute is provided by the hidden debate on the Amazon. The Felix Varela Center of Germany (Santos 2004) cites a young Brazilian woman, resident in the U.S, informing that a Geography book, used in grade 6, shows the amputation of the Brazilian Amazon and El Pantanal from the Brazilian' map. The book in reference is Introduction to Geography written by David Norman. Page 76 reads that the Amazon is the first international reserve, the most important forest reserve under U.S and the United Nations' responsibility since the 1980s. The reason, according to Norman, is because the Amazon is one of the poorest area of the world and it is surrounded by irresponsible, barbarous, and authoritarian countries. Norman also argues that the Amazon involves 8 different and strange countries in which violence, drug trafficking, ignorance, lack of intelligence and primitivism rule. Another paragraph remarks the Amazon is big in biodiversity, with variety of specimens of animals and vegetable. Such valuables in the hands of primitive population and countries would condemn the world to total disappearance and destruction in few years. Since the Amazon's value is incalculable, the planet should be sure that U.S won't allow these Latinos to exploit and destroy this property of humanity (Calloni 2004; Santos, 2004).
A response from the Local Commons has been articulated by Brazil's Education Minister, Cristovno Buarque, on January 09, 2004. During a debate in a U.S University, a young fellow interrogated the Minister's thoughts surrounding the possible internationalization of the Amazon, declaring the Amazon region as part of the Global Commons. The student introduced the internationalization question conditioning his response as a humanist and not as a Brazilian. Here I summarize Mr. Cristovno Buarque's answer, because of its importance:
In fact, as a Brazilian I would simply speak against the internationalization of the Amazon. Despite the fact that our governments do not take appropriated care to this patrimony, it is ours. As humanist, knowing about the risk of environmental degradation that the Amazon suffers, I can imagine his internationalization, as much as the internationalization of whatever is important to humanity. If the Amazon, from the view of human ethics, must be internationalized, we must also internationalize the world oil reserves. Oil is as important as the Amazon for the welfare of humanity. However, the owners of the oil reserves feel that they have the right to increase or decrease oil prospect and prices. On the same matter, the financial capital of rich countries must be internationalized. If the Amazon is a reserve for all humanity, it cannot be burned by the free will of its owner, or the needs of one country. Burning the Amazonia is as vicious as the provoked unemployment by the arbitrary decisions of global speculators. We cannot allow the financial system to burn out entire countries because of its speculation... During this encounter, the United Nations is having the Millennium Forum, but many presidents had difficulties in assisting due to restrictions in the U.S border. Because of that, I think the New York, as the central location of the United Nations must be internationalized. At least Manhattan should belong to humanity. Also Paris, Venice, Rome, London, Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia, Recife... Every city of the world, with its specific beauty, and history, should belong to humanity. If the U. S wants to internationalize the Amazon, due to risks of leaving it in the hands of Brazilians, we have to internationalize the U.S nuclear arsenal, because it has been provoking destruction a million times more than the regretful burnings done in the Amazon forest. In actual debates, U.S presidential candidates are defending the idea of internationalization of the world forest reserves using debt-for-nature. We should start using that debt to guarantee that every child in the world has the possibility to eat and go to school. Let's internationalize the children, by treating them as a world patrimony that needs care, without importing were they were born. This is more important than the attention to Amazon. When the leaders treat poor children of the world as patrimony of humanity, they won't allow the children to work when they should be studying, to die when they should be living. As a humanist, I accept to defend the internationalization of the world. But until the world treats me as a Brazilian, I will struggle for the Amazon to be ours...ONLY OURS! (Personal communication, January 10,2003).
Global Commons, focuses in a narrow way on the physical of the forest, and evades the web of social relationships and processes in which rain forest and forest's people are embedded. Further the agenda is mobilizing racism and preparing public opinion among its population to support the expropriation of the Amazon territory (Santos, 2004).
In what follow, we will see how credit has been articulating dispossession of rural women household, peasant and Indigenous Peoples and nature of Latin America Commons which provided their material means of subsistence. To address this issue, I will use a feminist understanding of the Commons provided by Maria Mies (1986). She abandons capital vs wage relation as the sole source of capitalist exploitation on the basis of reading of Rosa Luxemburg's theory of exploitation. With Luxemburg, two aspects of capitalist accumulation were linked: one aspect regards surplus value as a purely economic process, between capitalist and wage laborer; the other concerns the relations between capitalism and the non-capitalist modes of production. Mies inferred that the basic pre-condition for economic growth or capital accumulation continued to be the colonies, here treated as Commons. These colonies are women's housework, peasant and Indigenous Peoples' subsistence economies and nature. She argued that the strategy of dividing the economy into "visible" wage-labour and "invisible" non-wage labour allowed the exclusion of the invisible part from the real economy. Mies and Bennholt-Thomsen (1999) stated that the dominant theories about the functioning of the capitalist economy, including Marxism, were only concerned with capital and wage labour relations, the "visible" wage-labour, the tip of the iceberg. This sphere is regulated by law and exploited through wages. Most of the invisible proverbial iceberg, consists of such things as the provenance of life, caring, nurturing, housework, and subsistence production consisting of colonized peoples work, their territories, and nature. Women's household work is unpaid and often not recognized as work; peasant and Indigenous Peoples' subsistence production are subjected to underpayment, discrimination and exploitation, while nature is destroyed. These colonized areas are ruled by violence (Mies, 1999), such as rape, domestic violence, genocide and ecocide, imperialism. Mies and Bennholt-Thomsen (1996; 1999) argued that women and colonies were over-exploited because their exploitation was not based on capitalistic appropriation of surplus labour, but of that which was necessary for their own subsistence production, or, indeed, their very survival. Most women's households and Third World peasants and Indigenous Peoples had combined their income from various sources, one of which was "subsistence" activity. Therefore, according to Mies and Bennholt-Thomsen (1996; 1999), and Salleh (1994) both are producers directly concerned with the production and maintenance of food and life and are exploited by capital, not through wages, but through their product, which was taken from them free or at very low compensation. They are the gift economies and the Commons that provides continuity to capital accumulation.
Dispossessing the Nature Commons
Since the Earth Summit, the extension of the price system was expanded. Using the neoliberal agenda, all non-market structures that placed limits on the accumulation have started to be eliminated in order to commodify every part of nature. In the indebted Costa Rica, expansion of 'natural and human capital' through the market economy was offered as the highest organizing principle for dealing with social (debt) and environment (natural) crises. A partnership between corporations and nation/estates was established to accomplish enclosure, that is, to drive direct producers off the land. This scheme engenders a particular role for corporate environmental NGOs (CENGOs) and national states. On the one hand, CENGOs are engaged in genetic and species research; while at the same time they have become the managers of the IMF, the WB and developed states project of integrating local governments and communities into the global economy. On the other hand, 'national states' are required to exercise a more complex intervention in the affairs of local communities. To fit their economic aspirations and activities into the world-system, states are now directly responsible for oppression and destitution of their citizens. Both CENGOs and 'national states' have created the conditions for material expansion and a technically more intense mode of ecological dispossession in the indebted countries.
Thus, the sustainable development of the Global Commons movement has initiated a state-led management of the Conservation Areas for extraction of genetic material for research purposes, and appropriation of local knowledge for commodification; and communities are losing their natural commons and becoming less able to adapt their local economies to local needs and conditions.
An example of designing Global Commons and partnership can be seen in debt-for-nature swaps between Canada and Costa Rica. The Canada-Costa Rica debt-for nature had 2 stages:
In 1991, a first Canada-Costa Rica debt-for-nature agreement organized the Arenal Project, under the management of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF-C), Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE). They elaborated the first step of a management plan, El Plan General de Uso de la Tierra (hereafter referred to as the Land Plan). The Land Plan regulated land access and use in the Arenal-Tilaran Conservation Area (ACA). The Arenal-Tilaran Conservation Area involves 250,561.5 hectares (ha.) of land. From this total, the Land Plan document recommended the protection of 116,690.2 ha. of which 76,707 ha. (37.54 percent of aca) were selected for a research program and declared "nucleus areas" (area nuclei). The selected research areas function on the basis of inter-institutional agreements (Tremblay and Malenfant, 1996). The Land Plan's biology section identified 4,283 species of flora and fauna in the nucleus area which represent 36% of the natural wealth of Costa Rica (ACA, 1993).
The natural commons of genetic material was privatized and used as the new frontier for capital accumulation. By 1994, INbio (Instituto Nacional de Briodiversidad), a Costa Rican NGO, established a partnership with the Ministry of Environment and Energy (minae) to collect samples for interested industries from the Conservation Areas. It searched for new pharmaceutical and agricultural products from plants, insects and other biological samples in three biological stations of Arenal Conservation Area (ACA). ACA-MINAE, in partnership with INBio, are involved in two research projects: 1) Biodiversity Resources of the aca Development Project, financed jointly by the World Bank and inbio; and, 2) Development Knowledge and Sustainable Use of Costa Rica's Biodiversity, ecomapas, financed by The Netherlands (Mora, 1998).
By 1996, the World Wildlife Fund-Canada (WWF-C), a Canadian NGO, in partnership with the Asociacion Conservacionista Monteverde (ACM) collected material and researched flora and fauna (PROACA, 1996). The partners are bio-prospecting in 10 areas of the aca territory.
As research centres are organized in the so-called nucleus areas, these areas are off-limits to rural communities unless they are part of the taxonomist program . The Land Plan (ACA 1993) affected the resources of 108 communities, which were neither informed of nor included in the decision-making that changed their lives and livelihoods. The secretive approach of the Land Plan eliminated the communities' rights to use the land biomass included in the nucleus areas, and undermined local livelihoods. Enclosed reserves of genetic material and forested people are put under pressure by the commercial interests.
Land enclosure has transformed community members into criminal intruders. In ACA, the newly declared private areas land is patrolled by seven park guards who are organized in one Police Control Unit. When the Police Control Unit finds community members breaking regulations specified in the Land Plan (that is, not paying fees or intruding on designated research areas), the park guards confiscate anything the individual may have obtained on the land (eg., fish or game) and whatever tools were used, and then reports the offence to the office of the public prosecutor.
Biodiversity is a relational category, ecologically and culturally embedded, and local communities have worked as the keepers of nature for centuries. However, CENGO's, or large environmental corporations, manipulate the ecosystems to maximize the single component of genetic exploitation has undermined the integrity of nature and the rights of local communities to use their environment, and it has plundered local community members' means of livelihood.
In Biodiversity Prospecting, the only process that adds value is when nature's power and potential are appropriated. It is only when nature is modified in the laboratory that nature's productivity counts or has any value in the sustainable development paradigm. However, CENGOs bioprospecting begins in the conservation areas with the biological samples brought by parataxonomists. They appropriate local knowledge about some of the attributes of the native plants and animals to initiate most of the prospecting work by hiring the daughters and sons in the rural communities as parataxonomists who initiate the collection. It is important to note that a parataxonomist is rural because there are many adverse factors, such as walking at night under heavy downpours to visit the incubator, with the added risk of falling branches and snake-bites. As a rural person, the parataxonomist brings intimate knowledge of the eco-system. In the work process, she/he acquires information about the protected area and becomes an information generator.
In Biodiversity Prospecting, NGOs working with business (pharmaceutical, odour industry) have virtually a monopoly on nature, knowledge and profits. In this framework, peasants and Indigenous People labour has no economic value, while "scientific labour" is perceived to add value.
CENGOs cheapened local community knowledge in order to appropriate it through local parataxonomists. They initiated their collection with local knowledge, through the parataxonomist, and passed it on to the international and national business community. Medicinal plants for instance, sustained the health for all members of the community and forms the common knowledge of rural women. Through centuries of interaction rural women have created a rich and elaborate culture - a culture of the medicinal plants whose biological value is intrinsically linked to social, ethical, and cultural values. There is a social/cultural structure governing its use. Medicinal plants were traditionally produced for a family's consumption, that is, they had use value not exchange value. Rural women were the keepers of medicinal plants and knowledge, and, as such, they prepared cocimientos, which are combinations of plants used for healing purposes. Most rural women grew medicinal plants surrounding their homes as part of the inter-cropping system and having grown medicinal plants for centuries, they acquired the knowledge of seeds and soils and the skills to prepare them. However, the social and cultural significance of the medicinal plants remained unrecognized, because 1) it was linked to women's work -- something seen as non-work and non-knowledge despite the fact that women's work and knowledge has been central to biodiversity conservation and utilization; and 2) it was considered free because it was associated with wilderness and poor countries.
CENGOs devalued local communities as ecological authorities. "Scientific" knowledge undermines customary knowledge on the grounds that living knowledge is linked to sensuous knowledge and experience and thus are unauthoritative. In that way, the knowledge taken from local communities and Indigenous Peoples is unpaid. However, biodiversity is not just product created by nature, the activity of the Indigenous People and peasants has bred and improved traditional plants and medicines throughout the ages. Third World, local agriculturalists through millennia have made changes in genetics and continue to produce genetic material of great value. Genes are selected, improved and developed by agriculturalists which reflect their creativity, inventiveness and genius. Despite the fact that they are the providers and selectors of the biotechnology, their work is not recognized as labour (Cabrera, 1993).
CENGOs also have monopoly of profits. inbio has agreements with Bristol Myers Squibb Company, Recombinant Biocatalysts, Analyticom ag, Merck, INDENA (phyto-pharmaceutical company Milan, Italy), Givaudan-Roure Fragrances of New Jersey (to identify and collect interesting odours from forest organisms), British Technology Group, Strathclyde Institute for Drug Research (Scotland) and many others (Mateo, 1996; Gudynas, 1998). In inbio's first agreement (1991), Merck and Co. awarded inbio a us$1 million dollar research budget to carry out a two-year, non-exclusive collaboration.
According to Goldman (1998), CENGOs
have replaced the barefoot peasants as the 'experts' on the commons; now, within the new discourse, it is their knowledge, rules and sciences and definitions that have become paramount for explaining ecological degradation and sustainability (p. 35).
[...]as long as the commons is perceived as only existing within a particular mode of knowing, called development, with its unacknowledged structures of dominance, this community [CENGOs] will continue to serve the institution of development, whose raison d'Ltre is restructuring Third World capacities and social-natural relations to accommodate transnational capital expansion(p. 47).
CENGOs are more concerned about the expansionary demands of the North industrial base than for the health of the ecology. They will make sure that industry gets what it needs because industrial expansionist projects require more raw materials extracted from the earth, rivers, forests, aquifers and cheap labour.
Dispossessing the Social Commons
Previous to the environmental crisis (1992), even previous to the debt crisis (1982), peasants and Indigenous Peoples were allowed to survive as 'ecosystem people' (Guha and Martinez-Alier 1993), meaning the majority of the rural population lived from non-monetized biodiversity, particularly in the rain forest of Amazon. With the increase in interest rates in 1982, the Mexican crisis marked the beginning of the generalized debt crisis and credit was shaped to become the best instrument for dispossession. How the neoliberal-state dispossesses the social Commons? There are several mechanisms in place with which to conduct this pillage. These are:
- a combination of powers in which Latin American governments (state), in combination with the U.S treasury and the IMF, agreed to socialize the private debt of local and international business, while allowing the private sector to continue accumulating debts;
- to pay these debts, the state privatizes public enterprises in order to generate financial profits for private corporations and corrupt international organizations and local politicians;
- to intimidate and accept salary reduction, cut backs in services and social investment to produce financial surplus, the powers use military enforcement (read killing, disappearances).
Between the IMF and the WB, governments are swamped with policy conditions that devalue the whole region in order to accumulate by dispossessing, this is, to buy local assets and labour cheaply. Cheapening assets and labour has been the result of reorganizing Latin American economies around the priority of regularly servicing their commercial debts. During the 1990s, increasingly, the WB policy of privatization was taking precedence over other principles and other claims to property in order to promote economic "growth." In the 1990s, the U.S direct investment of its transnational corporations obtained 14% , the highest rate of profit in the world.
The growth proclaimed by the WB increases the monetary transactions while it destroys life systems and dispossess millions. The imposition of the export-oriented growth of neoliberalism shifted the peasant and Indigenous People from:
- subsistence agriculture to export oriented agriculture with a focus on exports of meat, marine products (eg., shrimp), flowers, medicinal plants and vegetables. This has diverted land and water from production of staple foods for local consumption;
- control over resources from small farmers to agribusiness corporations. This has destroyed the natural resource base and people's livelihoods; and,
- agriculture from a peasant occupation of millions to a handful of agribusiness corporations, creating an industrial reserve army of unemployed worker directly.
In this environment of land dispossession, the sexual division of labour in the family provides a pool of cheap labour. The pattern of gender relations, in this context, is constituted by an articulation of capitalism with patriarchy, in which women are socially constructed as cheap labour. In cases where poor peasants get to maintain their lands, their daughters are tangled in micro-enterprises. Rural women became the preferred work force in organic agriculture for a number of reasons: their mothers and grandmothers have the knowledge of traditional ecological agriculture methods; they are located in strategic zones; and, the devaluation of women's work provides cheap labour.
When peasants families are evicted, women become the wage labour in order to find resources to assure subsistence and emotional support to the dispossessed family members. At the AWID  conference, in Guadalajara 2002, the consequences of the change of production from subsistence agriculture to export oriented agriculture was seen as responsible for converting peasant's daughters into maquiladoras workers. A new social structure of exploitation of wage labour has been layered in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Panama using women's labour, first, since the debt crisis and later the North American Free Trade Agreement. TNCs are allowed to send products to the maquiladoras for assembly where costs are lowest and then to be sent to the U.S while exploiting the country and its people. At AWID (2002, a), women denounced that their low wages in maquiladoras and tax exemptions in the export manufacture zones are considered another advantage that the elites of Latin Americans can offer to the global economy. 85% of the workers in maquiladoras are young rural women. Integration into the global system underlies the breakup of the rural families and forced mobility of women while their labour power is threatened with physical disintegration. Girls from rural areas are faster becoming adults in order to get jobs in maquiladoras. As these women are from rural areas, they rent small apartments together, close to the factories, for sleeping and cooking. These places usually have no running water or electricity. The room usually has space only for four bodies. Their living and working conditions in the factory are not much different. In the maquiladoras, humiliating sexual exploitation begins with the hiring process. Applicants are required to submit information about the type of birth control they use, as well as if they are sexually active or not; further, employers ensure through pregnancy test that the applicants are not pregnant. Women work an average of 14 hours a day, in slave labour conditions. Regularly, workers are forced by the managers to take amphetamines to work longer schedules with wages that average only $100.00 monthly. They do not receive overtime payments. In the factory, there is no air circulation in the room and no time allowed for going to the bathroom. These conditions are producing countless occupational illnesses among women that are not recognized in the legislation of any of these countries. Generations of women are becoming ill due to repetitive movements in the work. Operations that take 10 seconds are forced to be done in 5 seconds. But the most affected are women producing computer chips for the electronics industry. There are chemical hazards that affect the health of these women. In general, after a period of 10 years of work, these women become blind. When rural women return to their homes, they usually go with health problems, as single mothers and poorer than they were before. In addition, women workers are surrounded by armed guards patrolling the Free Trade Zone, and women advocates are seen by these governments as interfering with corporate matters.
To expropriate the social Commons, the neoliberal policies of the state means organized violence from which no one can hide. Those governments persecute peasant and indigenous communities, sometimes with armed helicopters, paramilitaries, bomber planes, tanks, soldiers, police, sometimes with strident declarations, expectant silences, impotent silences. During 1970s-1990s, when communities organize themselves to defend themselves from the neoliberal agenda's attack were called "subversive." In the 2000s, despite United Nations recognition of Peoples human rights, when communities defend their rights and do not want to be submitted to dispossession, paramilitary  organizations are built in alliance with rich land owners, narcotrafico (Sandoval and Salazar 2002) and the regular army. In Colombia, important members of society have been implicated in counter-insurgence practices, stirring up paramilitaries; in Mexico, armed civilians have attacked the Zapatistas municipalities and rural women; in Guatemala, assault and murder has been vicious and, in Bolivia, repression is genocidal. At the AWID conference (2002, b), Indigenous women from Chiapas and Oaxaca reported that women are now unable to work and are forced to be inside the household and/or leave the land in order to avoid rape by the soldiers who are allowed to use it as weapon; they also reported that fifty per cent of rural women suffer depression due to the low intensity war against women, men and children. Mexican women also raised issue of the massive female assassination of women in Ciudad Juarez, Mexican- U.S borders (AWID 2002, c). Over 800 female maquiladora workers have been kidnapped, raped and murdered with seeming impunity. These women were from rural areas, without family members, earning low wages and already suffering rampant sexual violence in the work place. A documentary video, Senorita Extraviada, by Lourdes Portillo, record in detail the disappearance of the first 200 women.
Hand in hand with violence against women, violence against their children has multiplied. Millions of children have taken to living on the streets ("The Madrid Declaration," 1994). Street children are at the mercy of police actions that are heavily implicated in the disappearances, tortures, and deaths of suspected "subversives." These children are the children of impoverished and often single or abandoned women. The boys who live on the streets usually die on the street, while the girls live and die in violence selling the only valuable thing they possess: their bodies (Scheper and Hoffman, 1994). Furthermore, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO), in 1996, there were 17.5 million working children between the ages of 5 and 14. Most child workers operate in the urban informal sector or in agriculture, especially on peasant farms.
"The informal sector's most visible child members are the street workers, but those most at risk are household workers—the invisible multitudes, mainly girls, shut away from scrutiny behind the front doors of Latin America's family homes. Many more millions of girls work in their homes, caring for younger siblings, or maintaining the household so that their mothers can go out to work." (Green, 1999: 22).
In sum, before 1970s, the majority of Latin America population was still rural and outside the market, but with means of life infrastructure, these are land/game, water/fish, local education, health care and housing systems in place. But, Since the 1980s, the unwaged subsistence poor have been joined by an outpouring of urban population victimized by privatization and growing unemployment, devaluation of currency/inflation, drops in real wages and loss of purchasing power, budget austerity, reduction of social expenditures and user fees in education, health care, housing, erosion of retirement pensions and basic justice, trade liberalization, removal of state subsidies, deregulation of grain markets, elimination of minimum wage legislation, further erosion of wages and salaries, liberalization of prices, and further polarization of income. This loss of control of means of survival and the pricing of their productive capacity have brought dispossession to masses of people (Debt Treaty , 1992; The Madrid Declaration, 1994; UNESCO, 1995, 1999). In 1990, in Latin American countries, the number of poor people living with $1.08 a day were 48.4 millions; by 2000, the entire region has been devalued and wages have dropped significantly, and the number of the poor increased to 55.6 millions. Those living with 2.15 a day also increased from 121.1 millions, in 1990, to 135.7 millions, in 2000 (WB, 2003). As a result of the continual increase, poverty in 2002 affects 62.1% of the population.
Francisco de Oliveira, at the opening of a Conferencia General del Consejo Latinamericano in Cuba, described how that neo-liberalism has transformed the nation/states in exceptional states, in double ways, to protect the financial capital while condemning entire populations to impoverishment in the name of capital accumulation (CLACSO, 2003).
Reclaiming the Commons: Views of autonomy
A theoretical categorisation of the centrality of the Local Commons in emancipation from exploitation is crucial. Autonomy is only possible within a gift and Common-centered political economy. Ancestral communities are united in their opposition to commodification of their lives. In October 2003, a celebrated example of defending the Local Commons took place, in Bolivia. A revolution involving Indigenous People, peasant cocaleros, the central union (Central Obrera Boliviana), and civil society up-rose. This uprising intended to defend existing Commons against enclosure of hydrocarburo and natural resources which are in the hands of Transnational Corporations and the U.S respectively. From the beginning, the popular movement clarified their rejection of the neo-liberal policies [that have impoverished them] and the Free Trade of the Americas. Pedro Fuentes (2003) argues that Bolivia is a country where historically the biggest contradictions are connected. Robbed first by Spain, British and U.S imperialism, Bolivians now refused to sell gas to U.S and Mexico, based on the argument that they themselves have been deprived of gas in order to export. According to Mamani (2003) Indigenous People identity politics paralysed Bolivia. Their identity is based on daily experiences such as family kinship, language (Aimara), and cultural links. The Indigenous People of Bolivia have constructed collective social and cultural forms of self-affirmation that allow them to take social and territorial space to defend themselves against government aggression. A peaceful demonstration was followed by a massacre of 6 adults protesters and a child. This terrible crime encouraged their self-determination to defend themselves, which was manifested in collective actions, such as a blocking avenues, street closures, clashing with the army, in addition to massive manifestations, hunger strikes and political discourses. As the killings of Indigenous People and mine workers continued, the gas struggle was transformed from a struggle for gas into a battle to vanquish the government. At the end, the popular movement, guided by mining workers ousted president Sanchez de Lozada.
For Indigenous People and Campesinos of Bolivia the immediate issue, after expelling 'their president', was reclaiming the Commons that had been enclosed by the elite and the U.S corporations. Led by Mallka, leader of Confederacion Sindical Unica de Trabajadores Campesinos de Bolivia (CSUTCB), they organized direct land occupation to ensure people's control over their own lives, to rebuild what has worked in the past(Correspondencia de Prensa 79). They are looking toward their traditional practices for inspiration in restoring their ancient system: "El Qullasuyu"(Ortuzar, 2003). Firmly grounded in the culture of the Commons, Indigenous People are taken up against the historical racism and ethnic domination that has encouraged extreme violence against them. Following the defeat of the government, around 100 landless families occupied the 'property' of the ex-minister of defence while others reclaimed 2,000 hectares property of the ex-president (both of them fugitives, now living in the U.S) (Econoticias 2003). They vindicated this action as a 'community justice' against two criminals, the first commanded the recent massacres (80 were killed and 400 were injured) and second, supported U.S neo-liberal policies to dispossess the population. Bolivia is calling now for a new threshold of democracy, and a redefinition of the Commons and in defence of livelihood (Correspondencia de Prensa Nos, 66 and 85).
Since the debt crisis, 1982, indebtedness has created the conditions for massive dispossession through homogenized policies of the financial institutions, particularly stabilization (IMF) and structural adjustments (WB). Since the Earth Summit, 1992, indebtedness has been used as the framework to fulfill the Global Commons in opposition to Local Commons. In this paper, I have evidenced that the credit system (finance capital), in Latin America, exhibits all the features of primitive accumulation that Marx mentions in The Capital: fraudulence, thievery and dispossession. I have also dug into, Marxist feminists arguments that capitalism depends on the free or cheaply paid work of rural women, on the un-paid peasant and Indigenous People's assets and work, as well as the gifts of nature. As a result of these approaches, three winners have been identified: commercial banks that have made record profits on their loans; transnational corporations that took control of Latin American cheap labour and privatized the social Commons; and large environmental NGOs that enclosed the nature Commons in the name of conservation.
However, dispossession and the creation of social exclusion are serious problems even for international finance, as a result they have determined to militarize its treatment. Since September 11, 2001, U.S and the Latin American elites started to criminalize the acts of reclaiming justice and protesting intimidation. When communities defend themselves, they are called 'terrorists' and genocidal policies are utilized. But, accumulation by dispossession produces radicalization among Commoners.
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 Debt swaps are financial mechanisms which exchange debt for ownership in national industries, public enterprises, bank assets, and nature.
 What is sustainable development? For UNWCED , it is development that meets the needs and aspirations of the present without compromising the ability to meet those of the future.
 CENGOs refer to the large environmental organizations that manage and supervise the process of socialization of capital. They are a special category of functionaries subordinated to the ruling class in which the managers are involved in the process of corporate globalization, economic restructuring and colonial practices. In the past, the main objectives of the corporate environmental organizations have been to identify and gain access to ecologically sensitive areas for use as sites for research and scientific data collection (Dawkins, 1992).
 Non-government Organization (NGO) initiates its collection with local knowledge, through the parataxonomist, and it passes it on to the international and national business community. In their conservation schemes, a parataxonomist's work does not add value. Parataxonomists are considered non-specialists because they have no formal degree, although they use the parataxonomist's knowledge to initiate every process.
 Survey of Current Business, various issues from Doug Henwood in the Free Flow of Money, in NACLA Report on the Americas, 1996:15.
 For a case study of the Abanico Medicinal Plant and Organic Agriculture please refer to Isla, Ana (2003) "Women and Biodiversity as Capital Accumulation: En Eco-feminist View, Socialist Studies Bulletin. No. 69, Winter.
 What is AWID? Association for Women's Rights in Development is an international membership organization connecting, informing and mobilizing people and organizations committed to achieving gender equality, sustainable development and women's human rights. AWID's goal is to cause policy, institutional and individual change that will improve the lives of women and girls everywhere.
 The maquiladora industry produces clothing and textiles, electronics, car parts, furniture, chemical products, processed food, toys and leather goods (Abell, Hilary (1999) "Endangering women's health for profit: health and safety in Mexico's maquiladoras." Development in Practice, 9 (5). P 595).
 Paramilitary organizations are designated to break the protests coming from social exclusion
 Debt Treaty was elaborated and signed during the Global Forum of the Earth Summit, in 1992.