A judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York on March 4 ruled (PDF) that US courts may not be used to collect $9.51 billion in fines and legal fees from an Ecuadoran court's judgment against Chevron. Judge Lewis Kaplan wrote in his near 500-page ruling that the punishment inflicted against Chevron was not justified, and that the Ecuadoran court's judgement "was obtained by corrupt means." Kaplan asserted that fraudulent evidence had been introduced in the case, and that lawyers arranged to write the opinion against Chevron themselves by coercing a judge. Hewitt Pate, Chevron vice president, stated regarding the judgment, "We are confident that any court that respects the rule of law will likewise find the Ecuadorian judgment to be illegitimate and unenforceable." Lawyers for Ecuadoreans reported that they will be filing an appeal, saying the decision "constitutes a mockery of the rule of law and will not serve to reduce the risk the oil company faces in the imminent collection of the sentence dictated against it by the Ecuadorean justice system."
Peru seems poised to move forward with the controversial expansion of the Camisea gas project in the lowland rainforest of Cuzco region, following the Jan. 7 release of a new document by the Vice-Ministry for Interculturality. The document is an official response to consortium leader Pluspetrol's own response issued a week earlier to the Vice-Ministry's objections to the Environmental Impact Assessment for the project. The new response says the Vice-Ministry is lifting 34 of its 37 objections to the impact study. The remaining three points concern protection of the watershed of the Río Paquiría, which could impact where the consortium conducts seismic tests. But the statement apparently raised no concerns about isolated indigenous bands living in the concession area, which overlaps with the buffer zone of Manu National Park, hailed by UNSECO as having a level of biological diversity that "exceeds that of any other place on Earth."
Achuar indigenous leader Segundo García Sandi began a hunger strike Jan. 7 to demand his freedom at Huayabamba prison in Iquitos, Peru. García Sandi was arrested Dec. 5, on charges of tampering with an oil pipeline run by Argentine company Pluspetrol through his people's territory in the remote north of Loreto department. He claims he is being held illegally without evidence, but a habeas corpus action filed by his supporters has met with no response by Peru's judicial authorities. García Sandi's organization, the Río Corrientes Federation of Native Communities (FECONACO), asserts the arrest is retaliation for his demands for environmental justice. FECONACO reports that five Achuar children died in December as a result of contamination related to oil operations in the area, and that a state of emergency announced by Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal in October for the Corrientes Valley, calling for special monitoring, is going unenforced. The Environment Ministry in November took the rare step of fining Pluspetrol $7 million for contamination to the Loreto rainforest. (Servindi, Jan. 11; La Región, Loreto, Jan. 8; Mariátegui blog, Jan. 7; La Región, Dec. 20; AP, Nov. 27)
The Guaraní community of Ñandeva in Japora municipality of Brazil's Mato Grosso do Sul state, are pledging to resist a court-ordered eviction, and to defend their land to the death. The community made their announcement in an open letter to federal presidency and Justice Ministry on Dec. 18, a week after a federal judge in the nearby town of Naviraí issued a decision finding that Ñandeva is not a part of the traditional Guaraní territory or tekoha known as Yvy Katu, and that the community is therefore occupying the lands illegally. The community is demanding that Ñandeva, whose lands are now formally held by local haciendas, be incorporated in the pending official demarcation of Yvy Katu. The statement demanded an audeince with President Dilma Rousseff and asserted that the Guaraní of Ñandeva are prepared for "collective death." (Adital, Adital, Dec. 19; Campo Grande News, Dec. 14)
The Tenharim indigenous reserve at Manicore in Brazil's Amazonas state was attacked Dec. 27, with several houses set afire by local farmers and loggers. Townspeople in the region say members of the indigenous group abducted three contractors on Dec. 16. The men were all in employ of business interests seeking to develop the region, including Eletrobrás Amazonas Energia. The popular theory is that the three were seized in retaliation for the death of a Tenharim cacique, or traditional leader, Ivan Tenharim, who was found mortally wounded on a roadside Dec. 3. On Dec. 25, some 3,000 residents rallied in the town of Humaitá to demand that police enter the reserve to hunt for the missing men. The march turned violent, with protesters attacking and torching the local offices of the government's indigenous agency FUNAI, as well as a health clinic established for Tenharim residents, a boat used to ferry the Tenharim from their reserve to the town, and several vehicles. The riot was finally put down when a detachment of some 150 federal police were mobilized to the town. Several Tenharim families sought refuge at the nearby base of the army's 54th Jungle Infantry Battalion, fearing attack. On Dec. 28, Brazil's Justice Ministry ordered a 200-strong special federal police task-force to search the Tenharim reserve. (HispanTV, BBC Mundo, Dec. 29; G1, Brazil, Radio New Zealand, Dec. 28; BBC News, Acritica, Manaus, Lingua Ferina blog, Brazil, Dec. 27; AP, Rondoniagora, Acritica, Combate Racismo Ambiental blog, Brazil, Dec. 26)
Some 1,200 Brazilian indigenous activists encircled the Palácio do Panalto, which houses the president's offices, in Brasilia on Dec. 4 in a continuation of protests against proposals to change the way land is demarcated for indigenous groups. Currently the demarcations are worked out by the government's National Indigenous Foundation (FUNAI), but Congress is considering a measure, Proposed Constitutional Amendment (PEC) 215, which would give other government agencies a role in the process. During the Dec. 4 march a confrontation broke about between some protesters and the Palácio do Panalto security force, which used pepper spray to disperse the group. "Some participants were hospitalized," an indigenous leader, Marcos Xukuru, told the Brazilian news agency Adital. The marchers then moved on to the Justice Ministry and requested an interview with the minister; they were told he was out of the office. (Adital, Dec. 4)
Ecuador's government ordered closed the environmentalist Fundación Pachamama Dec. 4, with the Interior Ministry saying it was "affecting the public peace." The Environment Ministry issued its own statement accusing of the organization of "interference in public policy." Plainclothes police were sent to seal off the group's offices in the morning. The action stemmed from the previous week's protests at the XI Round for selling oil leases in the Ecuadroan Amazon. President Rafael Correa accused Pachamama and another group, Yasunidos, of attacking the Chilean ambassador, Juan Pablo Lira. Pachamama denies the allegations, saying its members were not even present at the protest in front of the Hydrocarbons Ministry. Fundación Pachamama plans to appeal the government's decision.
The Shuar Association of Bomboiza, in Ecuador's eastern rainforest province of Morona Santiago, is demanding answers from the government over a Nov. 7 incident in which a member of the Shuar indigenous people was killed in an army operation against illegal gold-miners in the region. The confrontation, at Kukus community on the banks of the Río Zamora, Bomboiza parish, Gualaquiza canton, also left nine army troops wounded. The army maintains that a patrol boat came under fire from presumed outlaw miners, and the Shuar man, Freddy Taish, was among the attackers. But Shuar leaders are demanding that the government reveal what kind of bullet killed Taish, saying that the official version of events contains "contradictions," and accuse the army of tampering with forensic evidence.