Eye on the Amazon: The Official Blog of Amazon Watch
April 12, 2013 | Alex Goff
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Send a letter urging President Correa to respect indigenous rights and the rights of nature.
The XI Oil Round is the Ecuadorian government's auctioning of 16 oil blocks in the south-central Ecuadorian Amazon. The blocks cover over ten million acres of pristine rainforest. Studies show that 85% of the area included in the round is intact, primary forest, and the ancestral homeland of seven indigenous nationalities: Shuar, Achuar, Shiwiar, Andoa, Kichwa, Zápara, and Waorani. This is not the first time these oil blocks have been up for auction. Previous administrations attempted a licitation round of the very same blocks, but received no bids due to indigenous resistance in the area. Even the Ecuadorian government has called the blocks "high risk." Leaders of the seven nationalities claim that a prior consultation process was not carried out in accordance with international legislation and Ecuador's constitution.
April 11, 2013
"I am very concerned I can't stand alone in defense of my people.
We must stand together in solidarity."
– Peas Peas Auyi
Calgary, Canada – Last night we gave a keynote about the Achuar/Talisman campaign to a packed house as part of Public Interest Alberta's advocacy conference Fighting for our Future: People Power vs Corporate Control. The evening featured a special multimedia message from Achuar leader Peas Peas Auyi, who called up from the Amazon to be sure we recorded and delivered his words of gratitude to allies in Canada:
"Every day, across the globe, society suffers the environmental and social impacts of extractive industries. The history of the extractive industries is filled with negative stories...
"I would like to thank our allies in Canada and Public Interest Alberta for their solidarity in this struggle. Thanks to the many actions taken in defense of our territory we have achieved a great victory: a large and powerful corporation, Talisman, has been forced to leave our ancestral territory and Oil Block 64."
Speakers at the seventh annual advocacy conference came from the United States, Canada and India, including a keynote panel featuring Beaver Lake Cree Nation oil-sands activist Crystal Lameman, award-winning journalist and author Linda McQuaig (The Trouble with Billionaires) and Amazon Watch's Gregor MacLennan.
"I have been taken aback by Calgary, from our first visit with the Achuar to what appeared a cold and foreign land, to see a growing network of allies and friends who have stood with the Achuar to help their voice be heard and force Talisman Energy to leave their territory," said Maclennan. "Theirs is a story of inspiration and hope amongst a growing indigenous movement in the north to call governments and companies to account."
Rural Brazil Lets An(other) Environmental Murderer Walk Free
April 10, 2013 | Paulo Padilha and Felipe Milanez
The city of Marabá was founded on April 6, 1913, in the southeastern edge of the Amazon rainforest on a narrow strip of land where the rivers Tocantins and Itacaiunas meet. For the first several decades of its existence, the city's economy was dependent on the abundant Brazil nut trees in the surrounding forest, but starting in the 1960s, the forest was cut down to make way for pasture. Since then, Marabá's main claim to fame has been as one of the most violent places in Brazil. Last week, as the town geared up to celebrate its centennial, it was also wrapping up the trial of the killers of environmental activist couple Zé Claudio and Maria do Espirito Santo, the case VICE covered in Toxic: Amazon. But instead of closing the book on this violent chapter of the region's history, Marabá's justice system has given the green light to those who think murder is the best way to solve a problem.
Zé Claudio and Maria came from generations of nut foragers, people who made a meager living selling Brazil nuts in Marabá while getting most of their food from the forest. In the late 90s, the couple settled in a newly created extractive reserve called Praia Alta-Piranheira. The reserve was made exclusively for extractivists like them; logging and ranching the land is illegal and its occupants are expected to make a living collecting rubber, nuts, fruits, and other forest products in a sustainable fashion. However, from its inception the reserve had been the target of loggers and ranchers hungry for one of the few remaining patches of forest in the region. As a result, Zé Claudio and Maria became increasingly active in protecting the area, constantly reporting illegal activities to the authorities, receiving threats from loggers, ranchers, and charcoal producers – and eventually being murdered for their defense of their land. Their deaths would have gone unnoticed had they not happened on the same day Brazil's congress was voting on revisions to the country's forest code, and the attention the case received led to unusually fast investigations by Brazilian standards.
In the days after Toxic: Amazon was made, investigators looked into the local loggers and charcoal producers who constantly threatened the couple, but found no evidence that they were responsible for the murders. Once those avenues had been exhausted, they started to investigate a rancher named Zé Rodrigues, who had recently moved into the settlement. Rodrigues had illegally acquired two plots of land in the area and forcibly removed the three families who had been living there. Those families came to Zé Claudio for help, and this is when the couple became the target of Zé Rodrigues' rage.
April 5, 2013 | Paul Paz y Miño
At one point or another every social justice activist wakes up wondering if we stand a chance against the massive forces acting against us. This week, my faith in justice was given a boost when Amazon Watch won a major victory in the face of Chevron's massive legal efforts against us. In U.S. Federal Court on Wednesday, Chevron's efforts to significantly disrupt our work and threaten our ability to campaign against their reprehensible actions in Ecuador were entirely quashed.
Several months ago I wrote about being served a subpoena on my front doorstep by one of Chevron's 60 law firms – Gibson Dunn & Crutcher. Chevron has falsely accused Amazon Watch of participating in a "massive global conspiracy" against the company because we have stood with the communities fighting for justice in Ecuador for almost two decades. As part of their scorched earth legal strategy, Chevron is attacking virtually anyone and everyone who has spoken out about Chevron's misdeeds in Ecuador. As this post by our heroic legal support team at EarthRights International explains, "Chevron has also sought discovery from journalists, activists, lawyers, and even from its own shareholders."
Yet, even after obtaining hundreds of thousands of documents from other parties and hundred of hours of depositions, they had not a shred of evidence that Amazon Watch has done anything wrong. Of course not. Because we haven't.
Peruvian government actions to criminalize social protest started with indigenous peoples
April 2, 2013 | Andrew Miller
Almost four years ago gunshots in the Peruvian Amazon were heard around the world. On the morning of June 5th, 2009, the Peruvian anti-riot police moved in to evict indigenous protesters blocking a road near the town of Bagua. The following violence in the place known as The Devil's Curve – including the related Pumping Station 6 confrontation the following day – resulted in an official death toll of 34 people, between civilians and police.
Last month, the Superior Court of Bagua heard arguments about the proposed charges against 54 indigenous leaders in the "Curva del Diablo" case. The state prosecutor has asked for the most severe charges, including life sentences (usually reserved for murder and other heinous crimes). Peru's national indigenous federation, AIDESEP, sent lawyers to contest the charges, as did some of the country's most respected human rights groups.
These charges are not about bringing to justice those responsible for the deaths of either policemen or protestors in June of 2009. The criminal process has instead served as an underhanded political tactic to criminalize social protest and intimidate grassroots leaders.