Reading Group | Political Ecology Reading Group (2020-2021)

«'Accumulation by corruption': Environmental corruption and land dispossessions in Puerto Rico»

Gustavo García López

Roberto Sciarelli

June 22, 2021, 14h30 (GMT +01:00)


Discussant: Carla Gomes (ICS-UL) | Moderation: Roberto Sciarelli (CES) 


This essay analyzes corruption as a recurrent element in environmental decision-making during the last decade, associated to strategies of capital accumulation of urbanization or so-called ‘development’ in Puerto Rico. Mobilizing theories of “urban growth machines” and “environmental colonialism”, it focuses on the corruption in the process of ‘de-conservation’ of protected areas. It situates the deepening of this corruption in the last decades in the expansion of a colonial neoliberal politics and its model of corporate government and a deepening of the colonial permanent “state of emergency”. This joins a hegemonic but empty speech of 'that equals progress' with construction and corporate ‘investment’, and which presents environmental and human rights as ‘barriers’, or as a strategy of 'greenwashing' where anything counts as green (even a methane gas pipeline). The paper also discusses how the disasters generated by the same mafia, the recession, the debt and hurricane Maria, have opened new opportunities of corruption, increased the pressures on our colonial territory to turn it into a 'paradise' for the rich: paradise of tax benefits and opportunities of investment, of hotels and luxurious housing developments, an economy of (and for) the 'visitor'. The analysis pays particular attention to actors and strategies used in corruption schemes, the structures that facilitate and reproduce these, as well as the resistance movements that counter them.

This seminar is part of the Political Ecology Reading Group series 2020-21 of the Oficina de Ecologia e Sociedade (CES). If you wish to receive a copy of this paper, please contact


This activity will be provided through Zoom platform and doesn’t require registration. It’s limited to the number of places available.
ID da reunião: 812 8318 0680 | Senha de acesso: 790098

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