Amazon Theater

Ecuador: deadly clash in anti-mining operation

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.

Ecuador high court halves judgment against Chevron

Ecuador's National Court of Justice on Nov. 13 ordered the Chevron company to pay $9.51 billion in fines and legal fees. This was a significant reduction from the previous $18 billion judgment. The lawsuit, brought by the Amazon Defense Front, arises out of Chevron's drilling for oil in Ecuador* and the resulting pollution in the rainforest. The original judgment was handed down in 2011, but Chevron has been appealing since and has also removed its presence in Ecuador. Chevron won an arbitration to the Hague's Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) which stated Chevron was released from pollution liability a full four years before the lawsuit was filed. Chevron continues to allege fraud and corruption resulted in the judgment and has an ongoing lawsuit (PDF) against Ecuadoran plaintiffs and their lawyer for racketeering. However, other groups argue that Chevron's negligent practices caused immense damage from pollution and is simply attempting to avoid any judgment.

Brazil: teachers, indigenous hold mass protests

Despite a heavy rain, tens of thousands of Brazilians marched in Rio de Janeiro on Oct. 7 to support local teachers on the 60th day of a strike over pay and benefits. Organizers said 50,000 people participated in what media reports called one of the largest demonstrations since an unprecedented wave of mass protests in June. The immediate issue of the strike was what the teachers considered an inadequate pay and benefit package offered by Rio mayor Eduardo Paes, but the demonstration attracted broad support because of widespread anger over police brutality at earlier protests and over the failure of local and national governments to provide services in health and education. "We have support from the people," schoolteacher Aline de Luca told the British daily The Guardian at the march. "Many of those who are here are not education professionals. I am hopeful things will improve, because we have never seen society as mobilized as it is now."

Brazil: documents expose US industrial espionage

On Sept. 8 the "Fantástico" news program on Brazil's Rede Globo television network presented documents indicating that the US National Security Agency (NSA) had spied on Brazil's giant semi-public energy company, Petrobras (Petróleo Brasileiro S.A.). The allegations came one week after the same program presented evidence that the NSA had spied on Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff and Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto. As in the earlier news program, the spying claims were based on documents given to Glenn Greenwald, a US blogger and columnist for the UK daily The Guardian who lives in Brazil, by former US intelligence technician Edward Snowden.

Bolivia: wanted rainforest defenders hold out

Members of the Human Rights Commission of Bolivia's lower-house Chamber of Deputies announced Aug. 30 that they will visit three indigenous leaders from the contested Isiboro Sécure National Park and Indigenous Territory (TIPNIS), who for weeks have refused to leave the remote rainforest reserve to avoid being arrested by National Police troops. Leaders Fernando Vargas, Adolfo Chávez and Pedro Nuny have been maintaining a vigil at the office of the TIPNIS Subcentral of the Indigenous Council of the South (CONISUR) since orders were issued for their arrest on charges related to a supposed attack on a rival CONISUR leader, Gumercindo Pradel. The three wanted leaders charge the government of President Evo Morales with attempting to divide the organization to undermine resistance to a planned highway through the reserve. (ANF, Aug. 30; NACLA, Aug. 27)

Ecuador: clashes at Quito protest over Yasuni

Indigenous and environmentalist protesters clashed with police in Ecuador Aug. 27, as a mobilization dubbed a zapateo (foot-stamping) against plans to open the Yasuni Amazon reserve to oil drilling was held in both Quito and Cuenca. Carlos Pérez, leader of the ECUARUNARI indigenous alliance, said police fired rubber bullets on protesters in Quito, leaving 12 hurt—claims denied by the Interior Ministry. At the capital's Plaza de la Independencia, protesters were confronted by an organized counter-demonstration made up of supporters of the ruling Alianza PAIS. After the march, protesters held a public assembly in the city's Plaza Bolívar, where they agreed to meet every Thursday outside the Environment Ministry in an ongiong campaign until their demands are met. The movement is demanding a consulta popular—public discussion and referendum—on the fate of Yasuni. Ecuador's National Assembly is currently considering President Rafael Correa's proposal to open oil blocs within the reserve. (El Universo, Guayaquil, Aug. 29; AFP, Aug. 28)

Brazil: farmers block Belo Monte to demand power

Some 150 farmers blocked the access road to one of the construction sites for the giant Belo Monte dam in Vitória do Xingu municipality in the northern Brazilian state of Pará on Aug. 20 to demand access to electricity. The farmers said Norte Energia S.A., the consortium in charge of the dam, was running electric lines past their homes for the construction but wasn't giving them access to the power. Some 300 families live in the area without access to electricity, according to Iury Paulino, a member of the Movement of Those Harmed by Dams (MAB). The residents were also demanding the construction of a bridge near the community of Volta Grande do Xingu. 

Peru: oil spill threatens rainforest reserve

Indigenous leaders in Peru's northern Amazonian region of Loreto on Aug. 10 protested that a leak from Pluspetrol's oil operations at the exploitation bloc known as Lot 8X is causing contamination within the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, with which the bloc overlaps. Alfonso López Tejada, president of the Cocoma Association for the Development and Conservation of San Pablo de Tipishca (ACODECOSPAT) said that the reserve is "every day more unprotected against oil spills." (RPP, Aug. 11; El Comercio, Lima, Aug. 10)

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