Amazon Theater

Brazil: Guarani threaten mass suicide?

The UK's Daily Mail this week, citing a letter from indigenous leaders obtained via Brazil's Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI), reported that en entire tribe of the Guarani people—consisting of 50 men, 50 women and 70 children—have threatened to commit collective suicide if they are evicted from their traditional lands. The Guarani-Kaiowa tribe are currently camped on lands claimed by a rancher in Brazil's southern state of Mato Grosso do Sul, and local Judge Henrique Bonachela upheld a petition by the rancher to have the Guarani evicted—dimsissing their claim that they have lived on the land for centuries and it includes ancient burial grounds. Bonachela reportedly imposed a fine equivalent to $240 for every day that the tribe remains on the land, on the banks of the Rio Joguico. The Spanish news agency EFE later cited both CIMI and the Brazilian indigenous affairs agency FUNAI as denying that the Guarani-Kaiowa had threatened mass suicide. A statement on the CIMI website says there are "different interpretations" of the letter issued by the Guarani-Kaiowa community, called  Kue Pyelito, in which they denounced the eviction as tantamount to their "collective death." (EFE, CIMI, Oct. 25; Daily Mail, Oct. 24; Combate ao Racismo Ambiental, Oct. 10)

Peru: will land titling undercut Sendero?

Peru's President Ollanta Humala on Oct 25 announced the creation of a new multi-million dollar fund for development projects in the Upper Huallaga Valley and the Apurímac-Ene River Valley (VRAE)—the last two remaining areas of the country where the Shining Path insurgency remains active. The initiative is aimed at undermining the insurgency and providing economic alternatives to coca cultivation. (La Republica, Oct. 25) The government's Organism for the Formalization of Informal Property (COFOPRI) also announced that land titles would be granted to 784 campesino families in San Martín region's provinces of Huallaga and Lamas, both in the Huallaga Valley. Since August 2011, a total of 3,513 land parcels have been titled to peasant families in San Martín, in a bid to pacify the restive region. (Andina, Oct. 25)

Peru: indigenous development plan for Amazon

The Inter-ethnic Association for Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (AIDESEP) on Oct. 17 issued a "Plan for the Full Life of the Amazon," calling for indigenous-directed development projects, with the necessary funds to be provided by companies that exploit resources in the Amazonian regions. But the document, which was presented to the executive and legislative branches of the Peruvian government, draws a hard line against numerous existing and planned exploitation projects. It states that forests are threatened by 26 hydro-electric projects, particularly naming the Inambari project in Madre de Dios region and the Tambo 40 project in the Apurímac-Ene River Valley (VRAE); that hydrocarbon blocs cover 70% of the Peruvian Amazon, with mineral blocs of an additional 10 million hectares; and that an "inundation" of new roads into indigenous territory constitutes a "grave threat to the autonomous peoples," especially naming the controversial Purús-Iñapari highway in Madre de Dios. The statement called upon Peru's government to comply with International Labor Organization Convention 169 and halt projects that have not been approved in prior consultation with impacted indigenous peoples. (AIDESEP, Oct. 17)

High court rejects Chevron appeal in Ecuador case

On Oct. 9, the US Supreme Court declined to hear Chevron corporation's bid to block global enforcement of a $19 billion judgment by a court in Ecuador, a victory for 30,000 rainforest dwellers who brought litigation over the pollution of their lands. Chevron had asked the high court to uphold an injunction imposed in March 2010 by US Judge Lewis Kaplan in New York that would have barred worldwide enforcement of Ecuador's judgment. That injunction was overturned in January by the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that the oil company could challenge the Ecuadoran judgement "only defensively, in response to attempted enforcement," which the rainforest dwellers had not attempted and might never attempt in New York. The Supreme Court's rejection of the case lets the Second Circuit decision stand.

Colombia apologizes for Amazon genocide

Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos on Oct. 12—recognized in Latin America as Día de La Raza—issued an official apology to indigenous communities in the Amazon for deaths and destruction caused by the rubber boom beginning a century ago. From 1912 to 1929 the Peruvian firm Casa Arana, led by rubber baron Julio César Arana with British backing, exploited rubber near La Chorrera in what is now Colombia's Amazonas department. Up 100,000 people were killed and communities devastated in the operations, with indigenous rainforest dwellers forced into slave labor and slain or displaced if they resisted. The situation was brought to the world's attention following an investigation by British diplomat Roger Casement, who had previously documented similar atrocities in the Belgian Congo.

Peru: jungle shoot-out as narco-flight intercepted

Peru's National Police Anti-Drug Directorate (DIRANDRO) claimed a blow against the resurgent Sendero Luminoso guerillas after intercepting a plane loaded with 350 kilograms (770 pounds) of cocaine in plastic-wrapped bricks when it landed at a clandestine airstrip in a jungle area of Oxapampa province, Pasco region, Sept. 18. The crew of the Bolivian-registered Cessna put up armed resistance before fleeing into the jungle. A manhunt to apprehend them is now underway. DIRANDRO said the cocaine  originated in the Apurímac-Ene-Mantaro River Valley (VRAEM), a jungle zone just south of Oxapampa where the "narcosenderista" brothers Víctor, Jorge and Martín Quispe Palomino—known by the respective code-names  "José," "'Raúl" and "Gabriel"—are said to control coca production. The cocaine was believed to have been brought to Oxapampa by back-pack along jungle trails, and was to be flown to Bolivia for re-export to Brazil in an operation overseen by wanted Bolivian kingpin William Rosales. (RIA-Novosti, La Republica, InfoSur Hoy, Peruvian TimesReuters, Sept. 18)

Peru: first 'prior consultations' on Amazon oil development

Peru's official human rights ombudsman, Defender of the People Eduardo Vega, is set to convene the first "prior consultation" with Amazonian indigenous peoples on oil development in their territory, under terms of a new law passed earlier this year establishing protocols for the process. The consultation concerns a planned new round of oil contracts planned for Bloc 1AB, currently held by Argentine firm Pluspetrol, in the watersheds of the Pastaza, Corrientes and Tigre rivers in the northeast of Loreto region. The Regional Organization of Indigenous Peoples of the East (ORPIO), with an office in the city of Iquitos, it to represent the impacted indigenous peoples. Vega pledged the process will be executed "with the utmost clarity so that rights of the indigenous peoples will be respected and the same process can serve for other consultations that will subsequently be carried out."

OAS rights body presses for truth in Yanomami massacre claims

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish), a body of the Organization of American States (OAS), issued a statement Sept. 5 urging Venezuelan authorities "to conduct a thorough investigation" into assertions made by representatives of the Horonami Yanomami organization that an isolated Yanomami  community in southern Amazonas state was massacred by outlaw gold-miners who came across the Brazilian border. The statement came days after Venezuela's Minister for Indigenous People Nicia Maldonado and Justice Minister Tareck el Aissami both said that teams sent to the region had found no evidence of a massacre. The IACHR called on both Venezuela and Brazil to pursue a deeper investigation, and report back their findings to the international body.

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