Eye on the Amazon: The Official Blog of Amazon Watch

Served by Chevron, and It Just Warms Us Up

December 24, 2012 | Paul Paz y Miño

Protesting at Chevron's Annual General Meeting

Last Wednesday morning, I opened my front door to take my two small children to preschool and before I could take a step a man shoved subpoena papers at me from Chevron. At that moment, I knew Amazon Watch had been doing something right in our relentless campaign to hold the company accountable for the toxic mess it left in the Ecuadorian Amazon. When a giant corporation like Chevron bothers to subpoena a small nonprofit like Amazon Watch, we know our actions are hitting hard. Never mind their audacity to come to my home, that's the least of their offenses.

Nearly 50 years ago, Texaco (now Chevron) arrived in a pristine region of the Ecuadorian Amazon, and over the course of the next two decades, caused one of the worst oil-related environmental disasters in history. As most readers of this blog know, in February of 2011 Chevron was found guilty in Ecuadorian courts for massive environmental contamination, and fined upwards of $18 billion for its crimes. Instead of owning up to its toxic legacy in the Amazon – a crime which has caused more than a thousand cancer deaths, led to an ongoing public health crisis, and has decimated indigenous cultures – Chevron has decided to "fight the verdict till hell freezes over."

What does a "fight till hell freezes over" strategy look like? Well, it's ugly. It involves high-powered (and unprincipled, often morally depraved) law firms. It involves smart (and equally twisted and cynical) public relations firms. It involves a herd of big-oil lobbyists. It involves near limitless resources (it's estimated that Chevron is spending several hundred million dollars a year to fight the Ecuador lawsuit). And it also involves a plan – in military terms known as "scorched-earth" – to destroy everything and everyone that is valuable to the people of the Ecuadorian Amazon in their pursuit of justice.

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The Crystal Method: NOW Is the Time to Support Amazon Watch!

December 18, 2012 | Monica Salazar

I'm writing with a soulful message from the EDM (electronic dance music) community, straight from the hearts of two ambassadors that have long supported our work – Janine and Ken Jordan.

Janine – the Executive Director of the Electronic Music Alliance and Ken – of the two-time Grammy-nominated band The Crystal Method were in Brazil for Lollapalooza where the band performed for a crowd of 75,000. Amazon Watch Brazil Campaigner Maira was able to illustrate for Janine and Ken the urgent struggle to stop the Belo Monte dam, a devastating project being built in the heart of the Amazon. In a brave display of solidarity, Ken shouted to fans "PARE BELO MONTE!" mid-show, and has since supported our efforts by spreading this message to a large network of supporters, the dance music community.

"NOW IS THE TIME" to support Amazon Watch! Show Ken, Janine and our partners in the Amazon your solidarity – share this message with your friends and family, and make a donation NOW to help fulfill our 2012 fundraising goals and meet the many challenges ahead in the New Year.

There are many ways to show your support for Amazon Watch this holiday season:

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A Cry from the Heart of Pan Amazonia

December 12, 2012 | Christian Poirier

Belo Monte protest

Last month the sixth Pan Amazon Social Forum (FSPA) brought together hundreds of community leaders, academics, and NGO representatives from across the Amazon to discuss and debate common challenges and forge collaborative solutions for a socially and environmentally sustainable future. Held in the small Bolivian city of Cobija at the Amazonian crossroads of Pando, Bolivia, with Acre, Brazil and Madre de Dios, Peru, the Forum converged diverse voices that endeavored to speak as one, seeking "Unity of Pan-Amazon peoples to transform the world."

The Forum took place as threats to the Amazon's indigenous and traditional communities have dangerously escalated, with the combination of predatory extractive industry and massive infrastructure projects placing enormous pressure on the fragile ecosystems these communities call home. Geopolitics were at the center of this gathering, casting the region's emerging hegemon under scrutiny: Brazil's growing economic and political clout has empowered the country to spread its expansionist development model to its Amazonian neighbors, exporting with it a spate of unacceptable social and environmental problems.

The FSPA came on the heels of the release of a record-setting R$22.5 billion (US$10.8 billion) loan by Brazil's National Development Bank (BNDES) for the Belo Monte dam, setting a precedent that also spells disaster for Bolivian and Peruvian communities faced with the construction of major dam and road projects by BNDES-financed Brazilian companies. As such, BNDES took center stage at the Forum as the key financial instrument enacting destructive Brazilian foreign economic policy in the Amazon.

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International Day of Action for Justice Now

Keep taking action!

December 11, 2012 | Maíra Irigaray

Protest in Times Square

In recognition of the International Day of Human Rights, people all over the world participated in an "International Day of Action for Justice Now" to stop the Belo Monte Dam in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon. While people protested in the streets of Altamira near the dam construction site, a delegation of Kayapo leaders met with UN High Commissioner Navi Pillay in Geneva and hundreds showed solidarity by participating in protests, uploading photos for a photo action campaign and by signing the Justice Now online petition. We will continue to promote the Justice Now campaign until justice is served. If you haven't yet signed the petition or uploaded a photo, please do so here!

Down in Altamira, 150 people went to the streets and installed a dead Christmas tree in front of the Federal Justice building. 56 "presents" symbolized the 56 lawsuits against Belo Monte that have been filed in the past five years in defense of the rights of people of the Xingu who are still waiting for judgment. The protest was attended by the local bishop, students, fisherman and other affected people.

"Currently Altamira is in chaos, residents are being evicted without answers, being kicked out of their homes where they have built lives," cried Don Erwin, Bishop of Prelazia. "They are souls! They are expelled in a malicious way!"

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Take Action for Justice Now! on December 10th

December 4, 2012 | Maíra Irigaray

Photo credit: Verena Glass

Right now we are witnessing a critical moment in Brazil's history. Brazil's current energy polices have created glaring setbacks for the rights of indigenous peoples, the environment and Brazilian democracy. It's time to take action for justice. Join us on Monday, December 10th for an International Day of Action against the Belo Monte Dam and for Justice Now!

Why take action next week?

Last month, together with the Movimento Xingo Vivo Para Sempre and International Rivers, we launched the Justice Now! Campaign calling on the Brazilian judiciary to help bring resolution to the outstanding legal cases against the Belo Monte Dam. The campaign has been endorsed by 140 Brazilian organizations and 63 international groups from at least 25 countries in a sign on letter to Brazilian judicial authorities, including the new Afro-Brazilian President of the Supreme Court. The coalition delivered the letter last week and is requesting face-to-face meetings led by Brazilian civil society groups to discuss concerns.

The situation in Brazil is getting more serious by the day. Last week the Brazilian National Development Bank (BNDES) approved a historic $10.8 billion loan for the Belo Monte Dam. While this decision was anticipated for December, we were surprised to see the funds released amidst controversy over the dam, including indigenous occupations and worker uprisings.

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