Costs and Benefits

There really are no real benefits to indigenous peoples as a result of the deforestation of the land in which they live. Often, they are paid small sums of cash by the government or by the corporations that take their land, but, soon afterward, both the forests and the money are gone. Sometimes the tribes are moved to another area, but almost always their situation will deteriorate, either because they are not familiar with the environmental situation or because they come into conflict with other groups that are already there. In some cases, the people migrate to cities where they live in urban slums, because they do not have the skills to compete in the modern economy, or because the cities are not prepared to absorb the extra manpower or to provide adequate living conditions for the migrants.

In recent years, some indigenous groups have learned to use the tactics of the antiglobalization movement to agitate against national policies that they see as destructive to their environment and culture. For example, in the south of Chile, the Mapuche Indians have become major political players fighting timber companies who want to exploit the ancient forests that constitute their tribal homelands. In Bolivia, radical Indian leaders seized upon a dispute over tribal justice to mobilize thousands of protestors. They blocked roads and laid siege to La Paz. As a result, the president, Sanchez de Losada, fled into exile in the USA (de Cordoba 2004) and on 17 October 2003, Carlos Mesa assumed the presidency of Bolivia.

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