The HidroAysén Hydro Powered Dams Project

The Baker River will be dammed by the HidroAysen project. Photo courtesy of Vera and Jean-Christophe via Flickr.

The press coverage of the approved HidroAysén hydro powered dams project last week reminded me of why I enjoy learning the Spanish language. Spanish speakers often understand the meaning of words better than English speakers. For instance, an escuela de derechos, or school of rights, is in English called a school of law. The Spanish clearly state that governments exist to protect rights rather than make laws, so a law is legitimate only when it protects rights. Laws are a means to an end, and too often are used in massive quantity to deny rights and ensnare people in a complex web of tyranny, especially in the USA and Europe.

Aysen area of Patagonia near Punta Arenas courtesy of Douglas Fernandes via Flickr.

The Chilean press coverage of the HidroAysén hydro powered dams project is atrocious. In the view of El Mercurio, La Tercera, Santiago Times, and other media, property rights aren’t worth mentioning. Instead, they focus on the socialist majority demonstrating in the streets that wants to steal the property of the capitalist shareholders of the electric company, and on Robert Kennedy’s whitewater kayaking hobby. In their view, the property of the minority should not be secured from the predations of the majority.

The Associated Press made a much better analysis clearly stating that HidroAysén owns the water rights and that the transmission lines that bring the power to Santiago will not cross the nearby property in Patagonia of Douglas Tompkins. Even that article could use improvement, as it states that three dozen families will be displaced, but leaves ambiguous the question of their rights. Are they renters? Are they property owners whose land is being stolen by the government for the benefit of the electric company? Why won’t journalists care and write clear articles on the rights of property owners?

The city of Coyhaique near the dam sites of the Baker and Pascua rivers. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

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2 Responses to The HidroAysén Hydro Powered Dams Project

  1. Nice Blog .. It’s really a shame they are planning to dam some of the most sublime and impressive rivers in the world. If you are kayakers these rivers really are wonders of nature.

    Tourism what makes southern Chile function and if you have even been to Ralco where they put the Bio Bio Damns only sadness and alcoholism remain in the wake of what was a beautiful place.

    Chile wants to be like the USA but they are going overboard with giving all their natural resources away to Spanish / Italian companies like Endesa.

    • Mark says:

      When the right to dam the rivers was granted by the Pinochet government in 1981, Chile was still a Third World country, and needed to show that it was serious about attracting foreign investment. Only a few years earlier, the Allende government had stolen the Teniente copper mine from Kennecott, so it was a serious problem. Transforming a Latin American country into a rich one is an amazing feat that no others have matched.

      The dam probably won’t be constructed because Endesa doesn’t own a transmission path to transport electricity to their customers, and the Mapuche tribes, whose land is necessary to create a path, don’t want to sell.