Amazon Theater

Brazil: indigenous reserve attacked in Amazon

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, AcriticaCombate Racismo Ambiental blog, Brazil, Dec. 26)

Brazil: indigenous protesters blast land proposal

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: ecology group shut down by government

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.  

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)

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