24 de septiembre de 2014

Capitalism with asian values (in Peru)

A little background: during the fifties, Marcona was a mining town at the south of Peru. During these years the mine was administrated by the Marcona Mining Company, an american company which had, according to the workers description, a welfare capitalism type administration. Afterwards, during General Velasco Alvarado's government in the sixties and seventies, the mine was expropiated and it was administrated by a state company, called Hierro Peru. In the eighties, after the decline of the military government, the mine, still under state administration, went into crisis due the corruption of the new democratic governments (Belaunde and García). In the nineties, the government of Alberto Fujimori (a peruvian-japanese president with an authoritarian style) privatized the state companies, following the mandate from the Washington Consensus. In this context, Shougang, a chinese state company, bought the mine for 22 million american dollars in 1993. What follows is a translation of a small extract from "Organizational memory and laboral conflicts. The case of a peruvian mining company" by Omar Manky, from the book "Colonial shadows and globalization in today's Peru" by Gonzalo Portocarrero (Ed.), 2013 (p. 272):
With the arrival of chinese capitals, the mine production raised substantially in regard with 1980's decade. Nonetheless, the workers see this growth in a very different way from the Marcona Mining Company period. For example, the kind of machinery used is perceived as worse: “The Chinese buy disposable machines, they don’t invest… The machines from the fifties still work well, but the chinese machines don’t last more than three years.” Disregarding the veracity of this claim, this affirmation is important, because it puts in evidence the vision of a company that just seeks to make money rapidly.

This becomes clearer if we look at the kind of production that takes place nowadays in Marcona. Despite its improvement, the company hasn't bet for the iron industrialization –something that was started by the Marcona Mining Company- but for the mere extraction and exportation of this material in record time. The production of pellets, something that was usual during past administrations, has stopped and the company now just extracts raw iron for export. A important syndical leader of Marcona, now a trusted company employee, remarks: “The Chinese think fast… they take what they can and leave… they don’t care about anything that happens here… they don’t grow fond with the place… they see a oportunity, exploit it and leave.”

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