In its new annual report, Amnesty International charges that Ecuador is not respecting the right of indigenous peoples to prior consultation on development decisions impacting their territories, and that the government has used "unfounded charges of terrorism, sabotage and homicide" against indigenous and campesino leaders to "restrict freedom of assembly." The report on the state of human rights around the world in 2012 finds that Ecuador has not complied with UN recommendations to "guarantee the right of indigenous peoples to free, prior and informed consent." (EFE, May 22)
On June 5, the Governing Counil of Ayllus of Cochabamba, a coordinating body of traditional indigenous authorities, met in the Bolivian city of Cochabamba to denounce what they charged are plans by Vice President Álvaro García Linera to open the country's protected areas to oil and mineral interests. The statement said the government is preparing "new incentives for companies to begin intense exploration in oil areas that are superimposed on the national parks and on our ancestral territories and titled TCOs," or Original Communal Lands.
Osiel Gabriel, an indigenous Terena, was killed on May 30 when Brazilian federal police violently removed a group of Terena protesters who had been occupying the Buriti estate in Sidrolandia, in the southern state of Mato Grosso do Sul, since May 15. At least three indigenous people and one police agent were treated at a local hospital with light injuries; eight protesters were arrested. The occupiers reportedly fought back with wooden clubs and bows and arrows and set some of the estate's buildings on fire. The authorities claimed police agents only used rubber bullet and tear gas; according to state police superintendent Edgar Paulo Marcon, the protesters fired on the agents.
On the night of May 9 some 150 mostly indigenous protesters left the construction site which they had occupied for a week at the Belo Monte dam, in Vitória do Xingu municipality in the northern Brazilian state of Pará. (We previously reported 200 occupiers, following our sources.) The decision to end the protest came after Judge Sérgio Wolney Guedes of the Region 1 Federal Regional Court responded to a request from Norte Energia S.A., the consortium in charge of the dam, by ordering the activists to leave and authorizing the use of force by the police. "We went out the same way we entered, peacefully, without causing damage to public property or any type of aggression," Valdenir Munduruku, a spokesperson for the protesters, told the official Agência Brasil by phone. But he said the activists were unhappy with the court's decision, "because we think that our rights are being violated."
About 200 protesters occupied the main construction site for the giant Belo Monte dam, in Vitória do Xingu municipality in the northern Brazilian state of Pará, on May 2 to demand the immediate suspension of work on the project until the government has respected the indigenous communities' right to prior consultation on the project. The occupiers—who included members of the Munduruku, Juruna, Kayapó, Xipaya, Kuruaya, Asurini, Parakanã and Arara indigenous groups as well as fishing people and other residents in the area that will be affected by the dam—were also protesting the presence of soldiers and military vehicles in the region. They said they would maintain the occupation and block construction "until the federal government responds to the demands we've presented."
On April 16, when Brazil commemorates Indigenous Peoples Day, some 700 indigenous representatives occupied the lower-house Chamber of Deupites in a final effort to stop attempts to change the law concerning their territorial rights. They pledged to maintain their protests until the National Congress drops Constitutional Amendment Proposal 215 (PEC 215), now making its way through the lower house, which would transfer the power to demarcate indigenous lands from the executive to the legislative branch. Indigenous leaders call the move a stratagem by Brazil's powerful Rural Lobby, which includes many politicians who own ranches on indigenous land. Police used tasers in an attempt to stop the occupation.
Ecuador's second-largest oil pipeline burst on April 8, but exports will not be affected, the Energy Ministry emphasized. The 475-kilometer Heavy Crude Oil Pipeline has a capacity of up to 450,000 barrels per day, linking oil fields in the eastern Sucumbios province to the Pacific coast. The Energy Ministry said that around 5,500 barrels of crude were spilled when the OCP broke, and that the pipeline suspended operations following the incident. The rupture occurred in Esmeraldas province, near where the pipeline meets the Pacific. Several local campesino plots were fouled. The OCP is controlled by a consortium including Spain's Repsol-YPF, the French Perenco and Brazil's Petrobras. The country's largest pipeline, the SOTE, transports crude for paratstatal Petroamazonas, which aims to produce an average 325,000 bpd this year. (Reuters, El Comercio, Quito, April 8) Ecuador has just announced plans for a major new thrust of oil development in the Amazon, with Chinese companies in the lead.
The Brazilian state of Acre declared a state of "social emergency" April 10 in response to a surge of undocumented migrants from neighboring Bolivia and Peru—originating in countries from Haiti and the Dominican Republic to Bangladesh to Senegal and Nigeria. Officials said some 1,700 migrants had arrived during the past two weeks. The state "has been turned into an international travel route controlled by coyotes," said Nilson Moura, Acre's secretary for Justice and Human Rights., referring to the smugglers who guide the migrants into Brazil, often in exchange for exorbitant fees. The jungle town of Brasileia has become a key transport point for migrants bound for Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Brazilian police last year raided a number of sweatshops in Sao Paulo and the capital, Brasilia, where undocumented immigrants from Bolivia and Pakistan were found working in unsafe conditions for very little or no pay. (BBC, April 11; AFP, April 10)