Eye on the Amazon: The Official Blog of Amazon Watch

Bringing the Fight over Bolivia's TIPNIS Road to Washington, DC

Bolivian indigenous leaders denounce human rights violations in Isiboro-Sécure case in Washington

March 22, 2013 | Carwil Bjork-James

Fernando Vargas, president of the TIPNIS Sub-Central federation of indigenous communities, outlining the violation of indigenous rights to the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights. Credit: Andrew Miller / Amazon Watch

Subcentral TIPNIS leader Fernando Vargas Mosua and Adolfo Chávez, president of the Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Bolivia (CIDOB), addressed the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on Friday, March 15. The hour-long hearing was the culmination of a weeklong trip aimed at putting the Isiboro Sécure situation on the hemispheric human rights agenda. The visit came in the third year of high-profile campaign to prevent the Bolivian government from building a highway through the Isiboro-Sécure National Park and Indigenous Territory (TIPNIS).

Since their march to La Paz in 2011, residents of TIPNIS have experienced restricted freedom of movement. Military detachments, variously labeled an "environmental brigade," an anti-narcotics measure, and part of "integrating the territory under state control," restrict access and have hampered the activities of external organizations. Boat fuel, the essential ingredient of mobility on the rivers, has been tightly regulated as a "narcotics precursor." Meanwhile the Bolivian government backed its own parallel leadership for CIDOB and assisted in evicting Adolfo Chávez and the rest of its elected officers from their headquarters in Santa Cruz. Domestic and Amazon Basin-wide indigenous organizations continue to recognize his leadership.

At the headquarters of the Organization of American States, the indigenous representatives offered a wide-ranging presentation concerning all of the events since the inauguration of the Villa Tunari–San Ignacio de Moxos highway project. Adolfo Chávez introduced his compatriot and to ask that indigenous and individual rights be protected by the IACHR. Fernando Vargas described the territory and the project and presented the struggle of his people as a defense of the territory, of their rights, and the natural environment. "We cannot be accomplices," he said, "to the destruction of the environment and global warming."

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Water Rising…

March 19, 2013 | Maíra Irigaray

Water rising in Altamira

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

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While Amazon Watch team is on the ground in Brazil heading out to another occupation in efforts to stop the Belo Monte Dam, heavy rains continue to fall in the Xingu region. The water started rising earlier this week and now Altamira is totally flooded; the river is high, coming up through floorboards of raised houses. Sudao neighborhood was greatly impacted and firemen were helping people out of their home... We worry what is to come with increased flooding caused by the dam. Where will people go?


A Tough Sell Indeed

March 19, 2013 | Adam Zuckerman

A Tough Sell Indeed

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Analytica Investments released a report titled A Tough Sell about the Ecuadorian government's attempt to auction off its southeastern Amazon to oil companies. It highlights the environmental, financial, and legal risks associated with the oil auction.

Environmental Risk

Analytica warns that the oil round would threaten "a biodiversity every bit as varied as that of the fabled Yasuní National Park to the North" where one hectare holds more tree species than exist in all of North America.

Ecuador's government is attempting to secure the funds to preserve Yasuní from oil drilling. At the same time, it is in the midst of a campaign to sell off a swath of primary forest over three times that size. The report says that this contradiction has made donors hesitant to fund Yasuní's preservation.

Analytica cites a study by the Universidad Andina, which finds that if oil companies operate as they did in the Northern Ecuadorian Amazon – an area that is still heavily contaminated from decades of oil exploration – they would deforest 185,000 hectares (over 450,000 acres) of the Amazon.

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The Gods of the Xingu Are on Our Side!

Norte Energia, not so much.

March 14, 2013 | Maíra Irigaray

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!

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Celebrating International Day Against Dams kicked off at 6 am today in Altamira, Brazil, gathering our signs and gear for a protest at the Belo Monte Dam's Transpositional System. This system was put into place to help boats cross the river once the dam closes it, sadly symbolic. For Norte Energia to obtain its loan from BNDES it had to prove that this system was operational; apparently they did since they obtained the loan. However, the system is not working and the river has become treacherous to cross since it is nearly closed and because it is high due to the rainy season. The system stands tall as a sacrificial monument to this monstrous project. In truth they are using a John Deer tractor with a trailer to move boats from one side to the other. The small wooden boats are very delicate and this system is very hard on them. Local people feel humiliated having to constantly interact with the company, waiting for their boats to cross, and in some cases being filmed by the company. It seems that they do not have much of a choice since the mighty river is very dangerous to cross.

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Voices of the Xingu: Interview with Karoline Militão

March 12, 2013 | Maíra Irigaray

Voices of the Xingu: Interview with Karoline 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!

SIGN THE PETITION

I have started conducting interviews to share the stories of some of the impacted peoples of the Belo Monte Dam. Since working in Altamira I have come close to many of these people and I believe it is important to give voice to their struggles.

My first interview is with Karol and for me to talk about her isn't easy. She is only fifteen years old and in her face it's impossible not to notice a profound sadness behind her sweetness. I get emotional just when I think of her girly face hidden underneath her hoody and calling me aunt. Karol is one of four children of Sebastião. A farmer who over the past ten years had built a life on what has now become the Pimental Worksite of the Belo Monte Dam. Their family was expelled from their land fourteen months ago and as Karol and her sister like to say, "they never received even a kilo of salt in compensation."

I tried to interview Karol and I ended up sitting on the ground crying with her. It is important for me to have some humanity with my work here. I am not a journalist and have no intentions to be one. I cannot hide what I feel or think. I am against the Belo Monte Dam and Karol is one of the many reasons why I don't believe the government's lies and why I don't support their way of development at all cost.

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