Eye on the Amazon: The Official Blog of Amazon Watch
March 30, 2012 | Mitch Anderson
The courthouse stands four stories high along the main drag of Lago Agrio. Like all other buildings in the town, the weather has gotten the best of it; it is tropically dilapidated. The colors, off-white with yellow trim, are ruined; the cement shows signs of crumbling; and from up close the black mold appears to be winning against all else.
The townspeople refer to the building as "la corte", though in actuality the court itself is only a series of offices on the third floor. The first floor is a credit agency, a copy and print shop, and an appliance store; the second floor is the government tourism office, full of brochures; and the fourth floor is a vacant, dark and unused terraza.
At the courthouse on the third floor, the people move slowly, deliberately. The air conditioning does not work. The air is stale and sticky. Just as any other provincial court, there are the usual characters – the judges, prosecutors, defenders, administrative workers – who shuffle in and out of rooms, swamped with any number of local civil or criminal cases. There are also, of course, the plaintiffs and the defendants, who come and go, huddle with their lawyers, wait, come and go again, always hoping never to return. In general it is an average courthouse scene.
March 29, 2012 | Maíra Irigaray and Christian Poirier
On March 20th fourteen Kayapo leaders traveled to the headquarters of Brazil's indigenous agency FUNAI to discuss the demarcation and regularization of ancestral indigenous lands known as Kapot Nhinore, and to denounce the serious conflicts taking place between Kayapo and Juruna peoples and those who have occupied their traditional lands.
"I don't want to go back home only with words, I want to go back home with a solution," said Daniel Apinama, one of the Kayapo leaders on the delegation. "The area was traditionally always ours, but now there are all sorts of invasions by farmers, fishermen, and businessman building hotels. If there is no adequate response, there will be conflict."
Endeavors to demarcate Kapot Nhinore started thirteen years ago but the process has been foiled by unfulfilled promises from FUNAI, leading to a protracted struggle. Terry Turner, an anthropologist that has worked alongside the Kayapo for over 45 years, participated in a technical study on the process of demarcation and delivered his working group's full analysis in 2003. However, FUNAI has claimed that there were documents missing, indefinitely stalling the demarcation process.
March 26, 2012 | Patrick le Flufy
"Shh, wait here," Wilson told me. I ducked down behind the buttress of a large tree to wait. We had been walking through the jungle for a few hours. At first we followed a path through the undergrowth, a wet world of ferns, trunks and lianas speckled with the sunlight that made it down through the canopy and understory, but soon we simply walked along a route Wilson picked out. I had been trying to concentrate on the myriad sounds: cicadas were the background and various small birds tweeted from different points. We were listening and looking for signs that would lead us to prey – perhaps the calm whistle of a perdiz or the scent – marking of a boar – but just before Wilson became excited I had heard nothing. He stopped and said, "Red monkeys," pointing ahead. I saw a reddish shape that might have been an animal in the treetops ahead, so nodded vaguely. A few paces on he turned to me, "Only two, but some woolly monkeys as well – 2 groups." Then I heard the telltale swishing of branches as the monkeys leapt through the branches. Now we were close and Wilson had gone ahead without the lumbering gringo. A few moments later there was a loud bang and a thud on the ground. We would have full bellies tonight.
Wilson is not just an expert hunter. Two weeks earlier, he'd been helicoptered out to Nueva Vida, a village upriver on the Rio Corrientes, to record and assess a 1 kilometer long oil spill using GPS and video. Wilson is an assessor of the environmental monitors for FECONACO, the Federation of Native Communities of Rio Corrientes.
In the FECONACO office in Iquitos, where Wilson works a third of the time, he uses the Internet daily to ensure the leaders of FECONACO, Pluspetrol and the government are up to date on the environmental state of Rio Corrientes and to report any new spills, which happen with terrible regularity. While he insists he is not yet used to the city (he has worked in Iquitos for just two months) and much prefers the tranquility of jungle life – where you do not have to pay for everything – he clearly knows a lot more about the urban world than I know about life in the jungle.
March 23, 2012 | Kevin Koenig
Thousands of indigenous peoples led by CONAIE (Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador) converged on Quito on Thursday, culminating a fifteen-day march demanding a new water law, land reform, and an end to open-pit mining and new oil concessions. The march, timed to arrive with World Water Day, was the first major indigenous mobilization in recent years, and it was an indictment of President Rafael Correa's environmental and social policies that the left-wing leader has touted as hallmarks of his "Citizens Revolution".
Several hundred indigenous groups from the Andean highlands and the Amazon marched the entire route, which started in the southern highland province of Zamora, the site of the first large-scale open-pit mining project recently signed with the Chinese firm Ecuacorriente. But by the time the march reached the south of Quito, it was nearly five thousand strong, with wiphalas waving, and chants filling the high-altitude air.
"The indigenous movement once supported Correa, but his policies have gone too far, and are threating our rights instead of protecting them," said CONAIE President Humberto Cholango. "Against all odds, we made it to Quito, and we want our voice and our demands to be heard, respected, and implemented," he continued.
March 21, 2011
Chevron is still pursuing its desperate fight to stonewall the process of justice in Ecuador, but in Brazil the company has found that escaping a similar pollution scandal is not so easy.
Today, March 21, Brazilian officials are expected to file criminal charges against Chevron, alleging that the company acted irresponsibly before and after the Nov. leak of 3,000 barrels of oil at Chevron’s $3.6 billion Frade field off the coast of Rio de Janeiro.
Fabio Scliar, head of the environment unit of Brazil's federal police department, told Brazilian media this week that the deep water well "could not and should not have been drilled under the conditions presented in the area," adding that an "absurd" amount of pressure was used at the site situated off the coast of Rio de Janeiro state. "All indications are that a desire for profits led (Chevron) to take the prohibitive risk" of drilling at the site, Scliar concluded.
On Friday, a Brazilian judge barred Chevron's Brazil chief, George Buck, and 16 other executives from leaving the country until an investigation of the company's offshore oil spills has been completed.