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)
An Amazonian indigenous group said to be the Earth's most threatened tribe has sent an urgent appeal to Brazil's government to evict invaders from their forest homeland. Despite a federal judge's ruling that ordered Brazilian authorities to remove all invaders on Awá land by the end of March, not a single person has yet been evicted. The Awá are becoming increasingly desperate as illegal loggers close in on them and settlers encroach on their territory. In a rare video appeal to Brazil's Minister of Justice, an Awá man said: "I am angry, very angry… The loggers come here and chop down the trees… The Minister of Justice in Brasília can help us here, now. He must help us now!"
In the early morning of March 21 some 150 indigenous people and other local residents occupied one of the four construction sites at the giant Belo Monte dam now being built on the Xingu River in the northern Brazilian state of Pará. The action, which brought construction at the Pimental site to a halt, was carried out by members of the Juruna, Xypaia, Kuruaia and Canela indigenous groups and by non-indigenous riverside dwellers, who mostly support themselves by fishing. The protesters were demanding clarification of the boundaries of their territories and also compensation they said had been promised them by Norte Energía, the consortium of private and state-owned companies in charge of the hydroelectric project.
Peru's Amazonian indigenous alliance AIDESEP released a statement March 20 protesting what they charged are irregularities in the criminal case over the June 2009 violence at Bagua. Days earlier, the local court that had been hearing the case, the Transitory Liquidative Penal Chamber of Bagua, adbicated its authority in the case against several indigenous leaders and turned it over to the National Penal Chamber, based in Lima. The National Penal Chamber officially only hears cases involving terrorism or arms and drug trafficking. AIDESEP said the transfer of the case is intended to imply that "the just struggles of indigenous peoples for the survival of their communities and humanity, as ocurred in the indigenous mobilization of 2008-2009, are acts of terrorism, and this we will not allow." (AIDESEP, March 20)
Reprisals are feared in a sensitive part of Ecuador's Amazon rainforest following an attack by "uncontacted" tribesmen in which two members of the Waorani indigenous people were killed March 5. According to a preliminary investigation by the Orellana province public prosecutor's office, the victims were speared to death while walking near their village of Yarentaro, located along the Maxus Oil Road—within both Yasuní National Park, and the Bloc 16 oil exploration division, being developed by Repsol. The victims were identified as a Waorani elder and his wife. A statement by the Organization of the Waorani Nationality of Orellana (ONWO) said the attackers were from an isolated band of the Tageiri-Taromenane, which has long had territorial disputes with the closely related Waorani. The Taromenane are said to be a branch of the Waorani who spurned contact with evangelical missionaries in the 1950s by retreating deeper into the forest, and now roam the interior Yasuní as nomads.
Indigenous peoples in Peru's Amazonas region have held demonstrations over the past weeks at the site of the June 2009 massacre at Curva del Diablo, in the municipality of Bagua. The action was called to protest that 54 indigenous leaders are now facing life terms if convicted in the Bagua violence, while only one member of the National Police is behind bars in the affair, with another two already released. On Feb. 26, when the road at "Devil's Curve" was blocked by hundreds of members of the Awajún and Wampis peoples, one large group of participants refused to join in the singing of Peru's national anthem that opened the gathering. Carlos Altamirano Rafael, leader of the Interests Front of Condorcanqui, said he believed that no justice is possible within Peru, and that the two peoples should declare independence or unite with Ecuador.