FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

How One Safari Nut, the CIA and Neoliberal Environmentalists Plotted to Destroy Mozambique

With the global moral outrage sparked by a demented dentist’s sadistic murder of Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe, one would think this kind of thing was an aberration. But no, these kinds of slaughter trips were actually part of a neocolonial strategy for the “economic salvation” of sub-Saharan Africa. More grotesquely, big “game” hunting in Africa was supported by various “free-market” environmental groups as a way to “monetize” wildlife and other “non-market” resources. Here’s part of a chapter from my book Been Brown So Long It Looked Like Green to Me which describes a bizarre scheme for a theme-park for gun-slinging executive tourist types in Mozambique. Read it and weep…

It’s hard rank these ghastly affairs, but of all the dirty wars of the past 25 years, the U.S.-funded Renamo guerrilla campaign in Mozambique was one of the worst. As a former Portuguese property, decolonized Mozambique was regarded in the late 1970s and 1980s as a Soviet beachhead in Southeast Africa. CIA dollars poured out to a group of thugs created as a mercenary force by the white-settler regime in Rhodesia.

With the white settlers no longer in control, and Rhodesia now known as Zimbabwe, the Renamo leaders turned increasingly to South Africa for local support beneath the overall patronage of Washington. The war was pitiless. At least 800,000 Mozambicans died. More than half the victims were children. Out of the population of 16 million, 6 million were displaced. Renamo gangs put to death as many as 100,000 civilians. In one infamous episode, Renamo attacked a hamlet inhabited mostly by women and children, all 425 of whom were slaughtered, their bodies hacked by machetes.

For the Reagan right, Renamo’s dirty war was one of the last great freedom fights of the era. Among the zealots was Louisiana mutual fund millionaire James U. Blanchard III. He gave money directly to Dhlakama, the military leader of Renamo. A gold bug, Blanchard
beenbrownminted Renamo Freedom coins and sold them in bulk to the likes of Nelson Hunt, General John Singlaub, and Adolf Coors. He set up a radio station in Mozambique. He bankrolled a white mercenary, Bob MacKenzie–who was married to Sybil Cline, daughter of Ray Cline, the former Deputy Director of the CIA for intelligence operations.

Blanchard had big hopes for Mozambique. As he sowed his fundraising sprees round corporate America, he announced grandly that “All agree that Mozambique can easily become the ‘Hong Kong of Africa.’ Mozambique needs business friends NOW–to help reinforce and promote the peace process.” So he wrote in 1988, at the height of the slaughter, going on to add, “It’s the friends of today that will have those groundfloor opportunities of tomorrow.”

The war finally ground to a halt in 1992, leaving the country virtually in ruins. And then along came Blanchard with a scheme to turn 3 million acres of coastal Mozambique into an eco-tourist theme park. His plan was to have planeloads of rich Western tourists make their leisurely and well-guarded way along the coast in a steam train furnished with the plush accoutrements of the Orient Express. Over cocktails the patrons were scheduled to gaze out at white rhinos, zebra, giraffes, elephants, and lions.

All of these animals will have to be imported, since the mercenaries financed by the CIA and Blanchard spent much of their time machine-gunning the existing rhino and elephant stock and selling off their horns and tusks in exchange for cash and guns. It’s not clear from the generally friendly reports of Blanchard’s plans whether he plans to issue big game hunting permits, but it would be in character.

The Mozambique government was embarrassed at the Rio Eco Summit in 1992, when its Maputo Elephant Reserve was designated as one of the 200 most threatened ecosystems on the planet. After the drain of war Mozambique had pathetically few resources and its environmental budget, meager to start with, has now run out. Blanchard is promising to invest $800 million in his theme park.

“Free market” environmental groups have been kind. Donald Beswick of the Endangered Wildlife Trust saw it as the only hope for restoring elephants and rhinos in coastal Mozambique. But those familiar with the creation of eco-reserves such as Serengeti (or earlier, Yosemite) will be able to guess at one inevitable consequence of Blanchard’s plans: the eviction of the resident population. There are 10,000 farming and fishing families now living on that landscape. Now, there’s nothing a first-world enviro loathes more than subsistence farmers, and the plan is to drive them away with the assistance of the Mozambican government and substitute the more ecologically pure bushmen from the Kalahari.

Blanchard’s local manager, John Perrott, who formerly worked on the Alaska pipeline and has been a professional big game hunter, told the New York Times: “People make fun of me for that [i.e., bushmen imports], but I’m not talking about just a tourist attraction. I say let the little guys in and let them hunt.” Absurd as this sounds, it parallels a proposal made by Datus Proper, a writer and “free market” enviro in Montana who has proposed relocation of “landless” Indian tribes to Yellowstone National Park, where they could solve the elk overpopulation problem in their customary manner.

Blanchard’s plans for Mozambique are unusually disgusting, but in basic shape they resemble many such enterprises round the world, which send rich people with cameras and guns into “natural” reserves seeking thrills and trophies. The baroque horror of Blanchard’s scheme should not conceal the fact that it represents the probable future of global environmentalism in a neo-liberal world, where the prevailing ethos is premised on what money can buy. Blanchard purchased one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world. All the creatures there will have to pay their way.

This essay is excerpted from Been Brown So Long It Looked Like Green to Me: the Politics of Nature.

 

More articles by:

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book is Bernie and the Sandernistas: Field Notes From a Failed Revolution. He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net or on Twitter  @JSCCounterPunch

February 19, 2019
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Troublesome Possibilities: The Left and Tulsi Gabbard
Patrick Cockburn
She Didn’t Start the Fire: Why Attack the ISIS Bride?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Literature and Theater During War: Why Euripides Still Matters
Maximilian Werner
The Night of Terror: Wyoming Game and Fish’s Latest Attempt to Close the Book on the Mark Uptain Tragedy
Conn Hallinan
Erdogan is Destined for Another Rebuke in Turkey
Nyla Ali Khan
Politics of Jammu and Kashmir: The Only Viable Way is Forward
Mark Ashwill
On the Outside Looking In: an American in Vietnam
Joyce Nelson
Sir Richard Branson’s Venezuelan-Border PR Stunt
Ron Jacobs
Day of Remembrance and the Music of Anthony Brown        
Cesar Chelala
Women’s Critical Role in Saving the Environment
February 18, 2019
Paul Street
31 Actual National Emergencies
Robert Fisk
What Happened to the Remains of Khashoggi’s Predecessor?
David Mattson
When Grizzly Bears Go Bad: Constructions of Victimhood and Blame
Julian Vigo
USMCA’s Outsourcing of Free Speech to Big Tech
George Wuerthner
How the BLM Serves the West’s Welfare Ranchers
Christopher Fons
The Crimes of Elliot Abrams
Thomas Knapp
The First Rule of AIPAC Is: You Do Not Talk about AIPAC
Mitchel Cohen
A Tale of Two Citations: Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” and Michael Harrington’s “The Other America”
Jake Johnston
Haiti and the Collapse of a Political and Economic System
Dave Lindorff
It’s Not Just Trump and the Republicans
Laura Flanders
An End to Amazon’s Two-Bit Romance. No Low-Rent Rendezvous.
Patrick Walker
Venezuelan Coup Democrats Vomit on Green New Deal
Natalie Dowzicky
The Millennial Generation Will Tear Down Trump’s Wall
Nick Licata
Of Stress and Inequality
Joseph G. Ramsey
Waking Up on President’s Day During the Reign of Donald Trump
Elliot Sperber
Greater Than Food
Weekend Edition
February 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Matthew Hoh
Time for Peace in Afghanistan and an End to the Lies
Chris Floyd
Pence and the Benjamins: An Eternity of Anti-Semitism
Rob Urie
The Green New Deal, Capitalism and the State
Jim Kavanagh
The Siege of Venezuela and the Travails of Empire
Paul Street
Someone Needs to Teach These As$#oles a Lesson
Andrew Levine
World Historical Donald: Unwitting and Unwilling Author of The Green New Deal
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Third Rail-Roaded
Eric Draitser
Impacts of Exploding US Oil Production on Climate and Foreign Policy
Ron Jacobs
Maduro, Guaidó and American Exceptionalism
John Laforge
Nuclear Power Can’t Survive, Much Less Slow Climate Disruption
Joyce Nelson
Venezuela & The Mighty Wurlitzer
Jonathan Cook
In Hebron, Israel Removes the Last Restraint on Its Settlers’ Reign of Terror
Ramzy Baroud
Enough Western Meddling and Interventions: Let the Venezuelan People Decide
Robert Fantina
Congress, Israel and the Politics of “Righteous Indignation”
Dave Lindorff
Using Students, Teachers, Journalists and other Professionals as Spies Puts Everyone in Jeopardy
Kathy Kelly
What it Really Takes to Secure Peace in Afghanistan
Brian Cloughley
In Libya, “We Came, We Saw, He Died.” Now, Maduro?
Nicky Reid
The Councils Before Maduro!
Gary Leupp
“It’s All About the Benjamins, Baby”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail