Justice, Peace, Integrity<br /> of Creation
Justice, Peace, Integrity<br /> of Creation
Justice, Peace, Integrity<br /> of Creation
Justice, Peace, Integrity<br /> of Creation
Justice, Peace, Integrity<br /> of Creation

Capitalism in criminal mode

La Jornada en Internet 30.12.2022 Raúl Zibechi Translated by: Jpic-jp.org

Switzerland imports 70% of the world's gold. Like the United States, it buys most of its bullion and jewellery from South America, where, however, the export of the prince of metals has an impressive percentage that takes the route of illegal trafficking: 91% in Venezuela, 80% in Colombia, 77% in Ecuador and 30% in Bolivia and Peru. In these last two states, the export of gold contributes much more to the national economy than drug trafficking and has the same mafia-like characteristics. This is the inevitable consequence of extractivism; legal economies and organised crime are now almost indistinguishable. How is it possible that states that the whole world recognises as democratic, essentially because they hold elections, live - whatever the colour of their governments - essentially from these kinds of economies?

In Latin America, a criminal or mafia capitalism is expanding geometrically, in whose practices the differences between formality, informality and crime are dissolving, as the Peruvian researcher Francisco Durand argues, and as the Argentinean Marcelo Colussi has previously analysed.

More and more data and studies are becoming available that demonstrate the ways in which this predatory and criminal capitalism operates, which is clearly the form taken by the system in this time. The magazine Quehacer, issue 10, of the Desco centre in Lima, highlights in its July edition that illegal gold mining exported no less than 3.9 billion dollars in 2020, surpassing drug trafficking.

At the same time, Bolivian senator Rodrigo Paz points out that his country is under siege by the gold, smuggling and drug trafficking mafias, which add up to a staggering 7.5 billion dollars. Drug trafficking brings in $2.5 billion a year, smuggling $2 billion and gold $3 billion. The government, unable to access external loans, lets these resources flow because they move the national economy, he tweeted.

To get an idea of the importance of these figures, the 7.5 billion dollars of illegal economies should be compared with the country's total exports of 9 billion dollars. An incredible ratio that reveals the importance of the mafia economies. Illegal gold has displaced drug trafficking in both countries, even though Peru is the world's second largest producer of coca and cocaine.

What is more significant, however, is how the illegal gold circuit works until it becomes legal gold. In Peru alone, there are 250,000 informal or artisanal miners who live in appalling conditions, are extorted and abused by middlemen, until the gold reaches the collectors. Legal and illegal miners are involved in the extraction and commercialisation process, and there is a thin line between the two, as often the same collector buys in both markets.

Processing plants often have double accounting, to access both legal and illegal ore. The gold converted into ingots or jewellery goes to the two most important final destinations: Switzerland and the United States. The former imports 70 percent of the world's gold. Bolivia and Peru produce almost 30 percent of the gold illegally, a share that reaches 77 percent in Ecuador, 80 percent in Colombia and 91 percent in Venezuela, according to the book, La minería no formal en el Perú (Non-formal mining in Peru).

The book reproduces an excerpt from the work of Swiss criminologist Mark Pieth, who highlights the situation in La Rinconada, Puno, at an altitude of more than 5,000 metres and temperatures of minus 22 degrees Celsius, where 60,000 gold prospectors are crammed into a village that 25 years ago was home to just 25 families.

An unbearable stench of urine and human faeces pervades the village, and living and working conditions are horrendous. He contrasts this reality with the glamour of gold in Switzerland, where the Swatch watch company "spends 50 million Swiss francs annually just to present its new gold watches, and beautiful models present jewellery for the enjoyment of those who can afford it".

Mafia capitalism causes enormous environmental and social damage, such as pollution and deforestation, homicides and disappearances, rapes and femicides, perpetrated by the mafias. One of its consequences is human trafficking for various purposes: sexual and labour exploitation, sale of children and organ trafficking. In mafia capitalism, people are just another commodity, which can be torn to pieces with impunity, with the complicity of the state.

To conclude, we should answer a question that allows us to complete the picture, one that researchers generally do not ask: what is the state that corresponds to this mafia capitalism, which destroys everything in order to accumulate more and more capital?

It is a war-state for dispossession against those at the bottom. But it has a peculiarity that sets it apart from the dictatorships that have ravaged the region: it paints itself in democratic colours, it calls elections, even though there are fewer and fewer freedoms, since the monopolies block freedom of information and expression. In short: a criminal-electoral state.

Those who claim to be the government must know that they will administer a criminal and predatory capitalism that is impossible to regulate. This is why progressive governments continue with extractivism and large-scale infrastructure projects, and look the other way when social leaders are murdered.

Looking the other way is a form of laissez-faire, as Switzerland does when it imports gold bathed in blood and death. Asked why Switzerland continues to import such gold, Mark Pieth concludes: They want to trade, they make a pirate island.

See, Capitalismo en modo criminal



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