Corporate strategies to seize natural resources in Latin America

Publish Date: 
Wednesday, September 4, 2019

In a newly released report Manipulative Ways, ESCR-Net member, The Democracy Center, outlines several strategies used by global corporations to dispossess local communities and take over natural resources in Latin American countries in order to maximize their own profits.

The report identifies three main strategies used by corporations to seize natural resources:

  1. Public Relations: In order to gain access to natural resources, corporations often try to spin a story to present their business operations as being beneficial to local communities by bringing prosperity and jobs. In reality, the results are usually much different and include increased impoverishment and destruction of the natural environment.
  2. Corporate Capture: In order to promote their profit seeking agenda, corporations exercise an undue influence over domestic and international decision makers and public institutions. By leveraging power over national governments, corporations are often able to influence legislation to favor their interests and operations. By charading consultations with local communities, corporations are able to create the impression that they live up to their responsibilities. Finally, by enlisting the support of the military and the police, corporations are able to ensure the repression of opposition to their projects. As a result, HRDs opposing corporations are often threatened, criminalized or even killed for their human rights work.
  3. Legal actions through international tribunals: corporations operate in a complex environment of international trade agreements. Most of these agreements are developed to protect corporate interests. Recent decades have seen an explosive increase in cases of corporations taking legal action against governments for hindering their profit making activities for instance by halting a megaproject or imposing environmental regulations. Most of these cases are taken to the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), which is heavily biased in favor of corporations.

The report also identifies how communities resist the growing power of corporations. By mobilizing together, communities build solidarity and political power to challenge corporations. Building effective counternarratives is a way for communities to show the actual effects of the corporate power on the ground rather than letting corporations write the story. Communities use leverage from the political and legal systems to resist corporate capture, by identifying allies among legislators or local officials as well as going to court. Another effective strategy has been to directly engage with decision makers within corporations, by for instance targeting their social media accounts with community demands, in order to make the cost of the corporate operations outweigh the potential gains. Finally, the report identifies global solidarity that supports local communities in strengthening their fights locally, as a key element. While affected communities take action locally against corporations, activists in the corporations’ home countries call them out on their home turf.

For more information and to download the full report, please see this link:

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