Eye on the Amazon: The Official Blog of Amazon Watch

Idle No More Goes Up Against Ecuador's 11th Round

April 19, 2013 | Adam Zuckerman

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Award-winning actress and aboriginal activist Michelle Thrush is no stranger to public speaking. But her latest brilliant performance was not on a set; it was in a recent meeting between the Ecuadorian government and Canadian oil investors conducted in Calgary as Ecuador peddles the 11th Oil Round around the globe.

Introducing herself by her native name of Goodfeathers Woman, Michelle demanded to know why the Ecuadorian government is "auctioning off over three million hectares of indigenous land in the Amazon without the consent of the people who live there." Striding to the front of the room, she presented the government with a declaration of opposition from five indigenous nationalities whose rainforest communities would be devastated by the oil round. Amazon Watch community liaison Mike Byerley and three other activists who strategically entered the meeting filmed the encounter, holding up a banner that read ¡Basta de Contaminación Petrolera! (Enough with Oil Contamination!)

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Indigenous Leaders meet in Puyo, Ecuador to Oppose the XI Oil Round

April 12, 2013 | Alex Goff

Pristing rainforext in Ecuador

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Last Tuesday leaders from representative organizations of five indigenous nationalities affected by the XI Oil Round – Achuar, Shuar, Zápara, Shiwiar, and Kichwa – as well as representatives from various affected communities, met in Puyo for a "meeting of leaders of the communities and nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon in defense of their territories in the face of the XI Oil Licitation Round." The meeting consisted of intense debates, analysis of the situation, an exchange of experiences, and strategy proposals, and resulted in a firm declaration by the nationalities to reject the XI Oil Round. A press conference followed in which each of the individual leaders expressed their opposition to the round in front of national and international media. A resolution was established for "joint strategy in the legal, organizational, and communicational fields, and among allies, to confront the threat of the extractivist policies of the national government that look to move forward with the XI Oil Round in the south-central Amazon despite the Amazonian Nationalities' opposition."

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.

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A Message from the Achuar to Canada

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."

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Injustice in the Amazon

Rural Brazil Lets An(other) Environmental Murderer Walk Free

April 10, 2013 | Paulo Padilha and Felipe Milanez

Judge Murilo Lemos reading the sentences at the conclusion of the trial of the men who killed Zé Claudio and Maria do Espirito Santo. Photos by Marcelo Lacerda

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.

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We Beat Chevron, but the Fight for Real Justice Continues

April 5, 2013 | Paul Paz y Miño

We Beat Chevron, but the Fight for Real Justice Continues

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.

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