Eye on the Amazon: The Official Blog of Amazon Watch

Sarayaku Celebrates Human Rights Victory

August 16, 2012 | Kevin Koenig

On the heels of their victory before the Inter-American Human Rights Court of the Organization of American States (OAS), the Kichwa of Sarayaku held a major celebration over the weekend on their rainforest lands. Sarayaku brought the case in 2003 against the government of Ecuador for rights violations related to oil drilling on their lands. The binding court decision found that the state violated Sarayaku's right to consultation when it signed an agreement with Argentine company CGC, and that the Ecuadorian military was guilty of rights abuses against the community.

On Sunday August 12, hundreds of members of Sarayaku that live dispersed throughout the community's 300,000+ acre territory, national indigenous leaders, neighboring indigenous nationalities, and ally NGO organizations descended on Sarayaku to hear analysis of the court decision and celebrate its implications. Several hours of meeting to digest the verdict gave way to an afternoon of revelry with drumming, singing, and dancing, fueled by fermented chicha, traditional libation of choice. The eight year long legal battle sets the stage for a new conflict on the horizon. A new government oil auction of 18 oil concessions – known as the XI Round – is set to open in October 2012, and would cover close to 10 million acres of primary forest and indigenous land, including all of Sarayaku territory.

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Belo Monte's Latest Legal Challenge – Will It Stand?

August 14, 2012 | Maira Irigaray

Photo Credit: Atossa Soltani

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The construction of the Belo Monte Dam has been suspended again! What? Could it be true? My colleague Andrew woke me up early this morning with what could be the best news ever. I needed to confirm this news and understand it before getting too excited. I remember celebrating other court-ordered suspensions of the dam only to find out shortly after that these were overturned within a matter of days or even minutes. I just wanted to be more cautious this time before calling for celebrations.

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Chevron's Disaster at Home

August 9, 2012 | Paul Paz y Miño

Fire at Chevron's Richmond refinery

In case anyone didn't get the message that Chevron has a reckless attitude with regard to environmental safety and responsibility, the explosion and fire Monday night at its refinery in Richmond, California – and Chevron's rhetorical stonewalling since then – have provided a smoky, toxic answer.

The disaster caused government officials to issue a "shelter in place" order for hundreds of thousands of nearby residents. It also worsened local residents' already abysmal view of the company.

At a community meeting Tuesday night, Chevron officials' bluster was met by outrage:

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Support the Achuar Any Way You Can

August 6, 2012 | Suzanne West

Achuar homes

My daughter Elena and I have just returned from a journey deep into the Amazon where we spent a week as guests of an Achuar indigenous community targeted by Canadian oil company Talisman Energy, which is on a quest to control oil exploration in the Peruvian Amazon despite the fact that recent test drilling has shown only modest potential. During our stay we took part in strategy sessions with leaders from about 20 of the 48 surrounding communities, many of whom walked or traveled by boat for 2-3 days to attend. We left deeply inspired and motivated to protect this extraordinary place and its peoples.

The importance of rivers in Achuar life The Achuar are well-organized and supported in their efforts by several international NGOs, including Amazon Watch. Last year, Amazon Watch led an Achuar delegation to Canada where they coordinated a series of meetings with the CEO of Talisman, important members of Parliament and key media. Amazon Watch is fighting this fight with relentless grassroots efforts through international channels, including attaining recognition of the Achuars' legal rights to protect ancestral territory and directly pressuring Talisman. After observing the Achuar's peaceful and pure way of living off the land and how they care for the rainforest, I am deeply moved and inspired to help however I can in their fight to get Talisman to leave the Amazon and their lives in peace.

We need your help to support the Achuar. Please join me in this fight as we all stand to benefit, or conversely, we all stand to suffer the consequences if we turn a blind eye. In addition to my ongoing support I have personally pledged $10,000 to Amazon Watch to see this fight through. Won't you join me by matching this commitment in any way that you can?

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Looking Back at Rio+20 & the Xingu Occupation

August 2, 2012 | Maira Irigaray

Photo Credit: Mitch Anderson

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We had just arrived at an official event at Rio+20 in late June, where Vitor Cardeal, the head of the Brazilian power company Electrobras, was discussing the Belo Monte Dam complex. As a representative of Amazon Watch, I was accompanying Sheyla Juruna, a well-known warrior from the Juruna tribe in the Xingu River basin. Just two days earlier, Sheyla and I had joined some 200 others on the banks of the Xingu to free the river, plant trees and bring attention to the devastation Belo Monte will have the Xingu and on the lives of the area's indigenous peoples.

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