Eye on the Amazon: The Official Blog of Amazon Watch

From Altamira to Munich: Confronting Belo Monte's Corporate Profiteers

January 31, 2014 | Christian Poirier

Monica Brito addressing Siemens shareholders Photo: Planète Amazone

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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Last week's annual shareholder meeting of the German technology giant Siemens was peppered with acclamations of the company's sustainable business practices and valiant efforts to deliver clean technology around the world. Yet Amazonian activist Monica Brito immediately shattered this clean and green illusion when she took the microphone to address assembled shareholders. Having traveled from the sweltering and chaotically dam-stricken city of Altamira to the orderly and freezing streets of Munich, Monica delivered a much-needed reality check to this bastion of corporate authority.

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Severe Oil Contamination Found in the Largest National Reserve in Peru

January 27, 2014 | Stefan Kistler

Indigenous monitor records contamination in Pacaya Samira. Photo: Alianza Arkana/ACODECOSPAT Last week Peruvian governmental authorities released test results that prove alarming levels of contamination in Peru's largest national reserve, Pacaya Samiria. The park has been declared a "wetland of international importance" by international treaty and is part of Kukama Kukamilla indigenous territory. The contaminated waters are the source of drinking water for numerous indigenous communities along the Marañon River basin of the northern Peruvian Amazon.

Contaminants were detected in water, soil, sediment, and drinking water within and outside of the oil concession 8x operated by Pluspetrol. Soil contained hydrocarbons (TPH), as well as heavy metals such as lead, mercury, and arsenic – in some areas exceeding up to 95 times the permitted environmental quality standards for soil. The water contaminants included arsenic, zinc, mercury, and most prominently, lead.

The agencies reported several infractions by Pluspetrol, including its failure to report 49 of the 60 sites where contaminants were detected. Actions have been taken to undertake sanctions against the company.

These test results are the last in a series of investigations carried out by a government commission which looked at the two oil concessions 1AB and 8, operated by Pluspetrol, located in the northern Peruvian Amazon. The seriousness of previous results from the Pastaza, Corrientes, and Tigre river basins led the government to declare an environmental state of emergency in each respective basin.

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Shut It, You Long-Haired Hippie

An "anti-public service" message from Donny Rico

January 21, 2014 | Donny Rico

Don't let Chevron turn defending the environment and human rights into a crime!

Tell the U.S. Senate's top corporate watchdogs to investigate Chevron's attacks against the very people it poisoned and their allies.

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Donny Rico here to deliver a message to all you long-haired hippie activist types complaining about the environment and human rights. Be warned: things have changed in America and you need to keep your mouths shut. Corporations are the top of the food chain and you need to keep your place or you'll be what's for dinner. Got it?

See, me and Chevron are paving the way for corporate freedom in America. Freedom from accountability, freedom from watchdog punks and freedom from caring about how our actions affect the rest of yous. When those pesky Ecuadorians spouted off about the fact that Chevron did a piece of work and chose to dump billions of gallons of toxic waste in their rainforest, we decided to turn the tables and it worked like a real charm. Chevron's tired of being the victim just because over a thousand people died of cancer in Ecuador and we wrecked the Amazon rainforest.

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Rights Versus Resources in the Amazon

January 13, 2014 | Kevin Koenig

Texaco oil well in the Ecuadorian Amazon

Tar sands, hydraulic fracking, deep water drilling. All are examples that we are living in the age of extreme oil. With most major reserves of traditional crude found or tapped, the industry is encroaching into some of the most geologically-complicated, environmentally-risky and socially-conflictive terrain than ever before. As the price of crude hovers at $100, companies are eager to get at what was once impossible crude, much to the peril of people and the planet.

In some cases, this means pursuing non-conventional sources of oil, once technologically or financially out of reach, but now lucrative, despite being more energy intensive to extract than the final crude produced.  In other cases, this means attempting to access "shut in" reserves – oil fields trapped by local resistance or above-ground ecological importance.

There is no greater example of this clash than what is playing out in the forests of Ecuador's Amazon. There is a new oil boom underway, fuelled by the country's rising debt, China's energy demands, Ecuador's leftist government's plans to finance its "citizen's revolution", and the massive increase in public spending with expanded drilling.

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Ecuador Cracks Down on Indigenous Leaders Opposed to Oil

January 10, 2014 | Adam Zuckerman

Humberto Cholango, CONAIE President, speaks at a press conference in Quito on Jan. 9, 2014.

Following the close of the 11th Round oil auction on November 28th, 2013, plain-clothes officers in Quito, Ecuador summarily closed the offices of Fundación Pachamama, a nonprofit that for 16 years has worked in defense of the rights of Amazonian indigenous peoples and the rights of nature. The dissolution, which the government blamed on their "interference in public policy," was a retaliatory act that sought to repress Fundación Pachamama's legitimate right to disagree with the government's policies, such as the decision to turn over Amazonian indigenous people's land to oil companies.

After attacking some of their closest allies, the Ecuadorian government is now attempting to take down Ecuador's indigenous leaders who are committed to defending their territory from any oil development plans by companies including PetroAmazonas, Andes Petroleum, ENAP, Belorusneft and Repsol. The Secretary of Hydrocarbons has filed a formal complaint against eight indigenous leaders who have dedicated their lives to defending the Amazon, including Franco Viteri (President of GONOAE), the presidents of the Achuar & Zapara nationalities, the president and vice president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) and pioneering female leaders Patricia Gualinga from Sarayaku and Gloria Ushigua of the Zapara.

The complaint, which has led to a preliminary investigation by the Attorney General, accuses the leaders of "the crime of [making] threat[s]" during protests against the oil auction on November 28, and accuses them specifically of (1) Obstructing entry to buildings, (2) not having a permit to protest, (3) impeding the opening of the envelopes from the oil auction, and (4) injuries. Most disturbingly, it asks that they be imprisoned.

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