A public-private stitch-up

I came across this interesting piece by Jorge Murga Armas on the always useful albedrío website (I especially acknowledge the power of its ‘mouse-over’ image). Las Tramas de las ‘alianzas público-privadas’ could be translated as The Intrigues of ‘public-private alliances’ though can also give us A public-private stitch-up. The writer uses his usual forensic analysis to note how the members of Guatemala’s Congress are unashamedly selling its workforce, its culture, its sovereignty, and its future, to the interests of international capital to such an extent that even the government institutions are being sidelined in favour of business interests. The beneficiaries of this sale are the interests of the Guatemala business elite represented by CACIF (Co-ordinating Committee of Agricultural, Commercial, Industrial and Financial Associations).


The law in question is 16-2010 Ley de Participación Público Privada en Materia de Infrastructura which, Murga Armas asserts, represents the dream of the nation’s looters. Think about the notion of the national interest being taken out of the hands of the people (or their putative representatives) and being placed in the hands of big business and international financial arbitration.

Murga Armas suggests that through this legislation, Guatemala is condemned to be exploited under the guise of national interest – where the culture is exploited, where labour is exploited, where the land is exploited, where the environment is exploited, and where poor communities are exploited – to provide coin for the business elite in the country.

Guatemala will become a type of container park, used for the transfer of goods from one point to another, and where Guatemalan workers and small farmers become only seasonal workers (without any rights). The indigenous population will serve these interests through the total commodification of their culture.
This legislation is also, the writer highlights, unconstitutional and illegal on several fronts but that seems of little or no concern to the legislature.

By approving outside arbitration (eg US and UK Chambers of Commerce) any notion of appealing decisions by affected populations can be effectively ignored.

“You don’t want this mine in your community? Too bad – it’s in the national interest and, besides, it’s out of our hands”. How about these: “You don’t want this highway through this nature reserve?Too bad – it’s in the national interest and, besides, it’s out of our hands”, “You don’t want to lose this forest? Too bad – it’s in the national interest and, besides, it’s out of our hands”, and “You don’t want to lose your labour or cultural rights? Too bad – it’s in the national interest and, besides, it’s out of our hands”.

Guess who decides what is in the national interest……………

In a time of acute financial crisis, it is probably not surprising that the Guatemalan elites continue to reinforce its neo-liberal environment and continues to squeeze whatever profit it can at the expense of those least able to afford it – the Guatemalan people. Violence indeed takes many forms.

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Categories: Human Rights, Poverty

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