Venezuelan officials investigating a reported mass killing of Yanomami indigenous people say the have found no evidence of the attack. Minister of Indigenous Peoples Nicia Maldonado said a team travelled to the area by helicopter and failed to locate the bodies witnesses had described finding. "No evidence of any death was found," Maldonado said on state TV. "There is no evidence of murder or fire in either houses or shabonos [communal dwellings] in the communities where the alleged crime took place." Gen. José Eliecer Pinto of the National Guard told Ultimas Noticias newspaper that he had visited four indigenous communities along with other officials and that "everything is fine there." Officials expressed skepticism at claims that outlaw gold miners came across the border from Brazil to attack the settlemet from the air by helicopter. "It would be extremely hard to do," said Gen. Rafael Zambrano, commander of the Venezuelan army unit responsible for the region.
Bolivia's lower house Chamber of Deputies on Sept. 4 voted to extend until Dec. 7 the process of consultation with impacted indigenous communities on the controversial highway through the Isiboro-Sécure Indigenous Territory and National Park (TIPNIS), days after the deadline for the consultation process ran out. The Aug. 26 deadline was set by Law 222, passed in February to establish a framework for the consultation—above the protests of indigenous communities opposed to the project.
Amnesty International reports that 45 families from the Quilombo Pontes community in Pirapemas municipality, in Brazil's northeastern Maranhão state, are being systematically threatened and intimidated by gunmen who are patrolling the area. The gunmen are employed by local ranchers who are trying to push the community off the land. Crops and property belonging to the community have been destroyed, and its members are now struggling to provide food for their families. The Pontes community was officially recognised as a quilombo territory—communities of descendants of escaped slaves—in December 2011, but the authorities have not intervened to guarantee the integrity of their land.
Authorities in Venezuela pledge to investigate breaking reports that illegal gold miners in southern Amazonas state carried out a "massacre" of an isolated Yanomami indigenous community. Witnesses of the aftermath described finding "burnt bodies and bones" at the community of Irotatheri, Alto Orinoco municipality, near the Brazilian border in the headwaters of the Río Ocamo, an Orinoco tributary. (See iTouch Map; Venezuela political map) Blame is being placed on illegal miners, known as garimpeiros, who cross the border from Brazil to prospect for gold and have attacked indigenous peoples before.
Brazil's Supreme Court on Aug. 22 ordered the release of Amazon rancher Regivaldo Galvão, convicted in the 2005 killing of US nun and rainforest activist Dorothy Stang. In 2010, Galvão was convicted by a court in Belém, Pará state, of ordering Stang's death, and sentenced to 30 years. The following year, the Pará court ordered that he start serving his term immediately, even while pursuing an appeal of his conviction. But the Supreme Court ruled that Galvão had the right to remain free pending the outcome of his appeal.
Five soldiers were killed in an attack by presumed Shining Path guerrillas Aug. 15 on a military base in Mazangaro, Junin region, in Peru's Apurimac-Ene River Valley (VRAE). According to La Republica, the attack could be in response to the army's seizure three days prior to the assault of 800 kilos of precursor chemicals used in the production of cocaine. (InSight Crime, Aug. 16) Two days after the attack, Peru's special anti-terrorism prosecutor, Julio Galindo, asserted that the Shining Path column in the coca-growing region was financed not only by the narco traffic, but by illegal gold-mining and logging. He said the state is attempting to crack down on the guerilla column's money laundering networks, which he characterized as "very technical." He also referred to the area of guerilla operations as the VRAEM—including the Mantaro River in the acronym, a western tributary of the Apurimac-Ene, in an implicit acknowledgement that the insurgency is spreading. (Perú21, Aug. 18; El Comercio, Aug. 17)
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) ruling in Sarayaku v. Ecuador on July 25, found in favor of a Kichwa community's right to consultation prior to industrial projects on their land—a decision that could have implications for many indigenous peoples across the Americas. The court found that the government of Ecuador violated the indigenous community's rights by allowing an Argentine oil company, Compania General de Combustibles (CGC), on their land without proper consultation. The community of Sarayaku filed the suit in 2006, after CGC, partnering with ConocoPhillips, felled forests, destroyed a cultural site, and drilled hundreds of boreholes for seismic surveying on tribal lands despite never gaining permission to do so from the community. As tensions rose, the Ecuadorian government set up military camps on indigenous land.
Bolivia's Plurinational Constitutional Tribunal (TCP), the nation's highest court, has called as a body for a sitting justice to resign following his statements accusing the executive branch of interfering in a case concerning prior consultation with indigenous peoples on the disputed highway to be built through the Isiboro Sécure National Park Indigenous Territory (TIPNIS). TCP president Ruddy Flores issued the statement calling for resignation of magistrate Gualberto Cusi, a traditional Aymara leader from Ingavi province, La Paz department. The TCP officially refuted statements by Cusi that Justice Minister Cecilia Ayllón and ruling-party lawmaker Héctor Arce had put pressure on the court. The statement warned that charges could be brought against Cusi over his "defamations." (Los Tiempos, Cochabamba, Aug. 15; La Razón, La Paz, Los Tiempos, Aug. 14; Gualberto Cusi Mamani website)