Eye on the Amazon: The Official Blog of Amazon Watch

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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Reopening the Wounds of Bagua

Peruvian government actions to criminalize social protest started with indigenous peoples

April 2, 2013 | Andrew Miller

Reopening the Wounds of Bagua

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. 

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Voices of the Xingu: Interview with Maini Militão

March 28, 2013 | Sarah Freeman

Voices of the Xingu: Interview with Maini Militão

Notes from the Amazon Watch Brazil field team, currently in Altamira.
Follow their journey directly here.

Justice Now!

Join the worldwide chorus calling for justice by urging Brazil's Supreme Court to rule on lawsuits against the Belo Monte Dam!


It was 7 a.m. when I started talking with Maini while she waited with me in line for four hours at the Altamira private hospital in the remote jungle boomtown deep in the Brazilian Amazon. Maini is the second oldest of Seu Sebastião's four children. Ten years ago, her father Seu Sebastião built his life as a farmer near the banks of the Xingu River. At that time he couldn't have predicted how much his life would change because of his country's desire for "progress." Nearly 14 months ago, when the construction of the Belo Monte dam began, Sebastião and his family were forced off their land and to this day they have not received any compensation. Maini and her sister say often, "They have not given even a kilo of salt in compensation."

This 17-year-old girl with long hair, exuberant and full of energy, did not try to hide her anger about what happened to her family. She told me that she was now dedicating her time to studies and fighting against the Belo Monte dam.

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Peruvian Government Declares State of Environmental Emergency in Pastaza Region

March 27, 2013 | Stefan Kistler

On Sunday, Panorama, a primetime Peruvian news program, aired a short documentary on the contamination in the Pastaza Basin caused by Pluspetrol Norte S.A. – Argentinian oil giant and the largest producer of oil in the Peruvian Amazon. Pluspetrol operates the oil concession 192 (former 1AB) and 8, affecting the four river basins Pastaza, Corrientes, Tigre, and the Marañon, in the northern Peruvian Amazon region of Loreto.

Although the images reported in the documentary were shocking, they are not new. The indigenous federations in the affected areas, and its allies, have long been monitoring and broadcasting to the world pictures of crude oil spills, contaminated soils, rivers, and entire lagoons which have been made to disappear by PlusPetrol to cover up contamination. Yet, the testimonies of the Quechua, Achuar, Kukama, Candoshi, among other indigenous groups, have long gone unheard in over forty years of oil exploitation in their territories.

IMG 1782An unexpected announcement then followed the report by Panorama, when they invited the Peruvian Minister of the Environment, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, to do an interview. Pulgar-Vidal pronounced on the television program that a state of environmental emergency would be officially declared in the Pastaza the following day. Moreover, he stated that the Peruvian government would release a new law on environmental quality standards for soils, something which environmental groups in Peru have been demanding for over a decade.

The two pieces of legislation were officially released on March 25th, and beginning yesterday the environmental state of emergency in the Pastaza is now in place. It orders the government to take immediate action to "reduce the risk on the health and the environment in the zones affected by human activities in the Pastaza River Basin."

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"Volta Grande do Xingu"

A poem by Luciano Gouveia de Moraes Silva, age 13

March 22, 2013 | Caroline Bennett

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I just stumbled upon this poem that 13-year-old Luciano read to me by candlelight from his family's modest home on the banks of the mighty Xingu River, deep in the Brazilian Amazon. We had spent the day exploring his rainforest backyard, stopping to sample fruits and to tell stories about our surprisingly similar childhoods growing up on rivers. He taught me how to swing out over the sandbank just the right way to make the biggest SPLASH!, and how to carry overflowing buckets without spilling a drop. He shared the magic secrets of the Xingu as if he'd been safeguarding them all his life for that very moment.

"Caro, can I read you a poem I wrote about the river?"
"Claro (of course)!" I whispered. "Can I record it so that maybe someday all the world can know the magic secrets of the Xingu?"

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