Originally published in the Los Angeles Review of Books
VICTORIA DEL PORTETE, an Ecuadorian town, had decided the time had come for a vote.
Residents of the marshy Andean village came to the parish council building in 2011 to vote “yes” or “no” on the following question: are you in agreement with mining activity in the wetlands and watershed of Kimsacocha? The results, counted by hand, became undeniable by day’s end. Ninety-three percent of the participants said they didn’t want foreign gold extraction in the vicinity of their watershed. “No one and nothing will stop our fight in defense of water and in defense of our territories,” one organizer said afterward, “to construct a better Ecuador, without mining in our territories.”
Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa arrived at the village not long after with an entourage of apparatchiks and pro-government reporters. Correa reprimanded the anti-mining activists for their “lies,” painting the electoral outcome as the result of rural zealotry. Those who voted no, he said, suffered from “mental fundamentalisms.”