The context of conflict

PIC Oil Sparks in the AmazonOil Sparks in the Amazon: Local Conflicts, Indigenous Populations, and Natural Resources
Patricia I Vásquez
2014, University of Georgia Press
187 pages, paperback,


THE insights Patricia Vásquez, an energy expert who has undertaken a close examination of the sources of conflict over natural resource extraction in the Andean Amazon, offer an interesting contrast to broad-brush theories of commodity extraction in the sub-region, one example of which is reviewed elsewhere on this site, The New Extractivism edited by Henry Veltmeyer and James Petras. Whereas Veltmeyer and Petras would seek to explain the social conflict generated by such extractive practices as oil and gas exploration in indigenous areas through global theories of imperialism and the broader class conflict and dispossession generated by capitalism, Vásquez has undertaken an equally valid – and very valuable – ethnnographic study. Oil Sparks in the Amazon analyses the specific contexts in which conflicts over natural resources take place. The author categorises the causes of oil- and gas-related conflicts into two groups: those that reflect the wider structural institutional and legal flaws of the countries concerned; and those that include stress factors deriving from the group dynamics of the stakeholders themselves. While resolving the structural flaws inherent in these societies – not least the marginalisation of indigenous people and their lack of political and cultural recognition – will take generations, addressing more local and group-specific concerns remains possible in the short to medium term. The author identifies a checklist of practices that could go a long way towards mitigating conflicts within a relatively short time, such as participatory development planning mechanisms, better oil revenue distribution, and social and environmental mapping of the areas to be developed.