Indigenous Peoples Refuse to Be Ignored | Amazon Watch
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Indigenous Peoples Refuse to Be Ignored

The Amazon and Indigenous rights were amplified, not ignored, at the Summit of the Americas

June 17, 2022 | Ada Recinos | Eye on the Amazon

Oil drilling in our Amazon has brought contamination, disease, deforestation, destruction of our cultures, and the colonization of our territories. It is an existential threat for us and violates our fundamental rights as Indigenous peoples.

Nemo Andy Guiquita

June 6, 2022 marked the beginning of the Summit of the Americas in downtown Los Angeles, California hosted by U.S. President Biden and the Organization of American States (OAS). Among its attendees were leaders from multiple nations across the Americas, including Ecuadorian President Lasso and Brazilian President Bolsonaro. Our team, allies, and organizational partners were there to be sure the issues of protecting the Amazon and advancing Indigenous rights were heard inside and outside the conference.

As Amazon Watch has done since its founding, we accompanied an Indigenous delegation from the Amazon rainforest. Like many global events where politicians make decisions that will affect the future of our climate, Indigenous peoples were not invited into key decision-making spaces within the Summit. We were able to secure accreditation for some delegates under the Civil Society Forum, and hosted simultaneous events, including actions, rallies, vigils, and more to amplify the visibility of the delegates and their priorities. 

In various global events, deals are sometimes made that affect the Amazon but never actually include its protectors, so we spent our time at the Summit demanding leaders bring Indigenous communities to the table. The delegates we accompanied were Tuntiak Patricio Katan Jua, Shuar Vice-Coordinator of the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin (COICA, Pan-Amazon); Nemo Andy Guiquita, Waorani, Leader of Women and Health, Confederation of Amazonian Indigenous Peoples of Ecuador (CONFENIAE); Andres Tapia, Communications Director, CONFENIAE; and Toya Manchineri, Coordinator of Territories and Natural Resources at COICA, political advisor of the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (COIAB), and President of the Manxinerune Tsihi Pukte Hajene (MATPHA) organization.

They arrived with key messages calling on global leaders to commit to protect 80% of the Amazon by 2025, demanding (once again) that Biden and Bolsonaro not make any deals regarding Amazonia, exposing the crude impact of Amazon oil by calling on Newsom to end California’s outsized consumption, and bringing to light Ecuador President Lasso’s plans to sell millions of hectares of Indigenous land for oil. 

Protecting 80% of the Amazon by 2025

We hosted a series of events to bring attention to these demands alongside frontline communities and human rights and environmental organizations, like Stand.earth, Avaaz, Stand – L.A., and CodePink. To welcome the delegates, we hosted an event in honor of their work alongside artists and environmental influencers at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles to discuss ways to preserve 80% of the Amazon by 2025 and prevent the forest from passing its ecological tipping point. 

To open up the Summit, our organizers built an altar with the delegation and invited all attending to bring offerings. Local artists, poets and other environmental justice and women’s rights groups joined in sharing their art, stories, and struggles in support of the protection of the rainforest, climate and Indigenous rights. 

We’re ending Amazon Crude

A key demand we amplified in our visibility events throughout the week was based on our work with Stand.earth titled Linked Fates, a groundbreaking investigative report that tracks crude oil from the Western Amazon to the United States. 89% of the crude oil exported from the Amazon comes from Ecuador and 66% of that goes to the U.S., leaving a trail of pollution, corruption, deforestation and rights violations. To escalate our demands to Newsom and Lasso, activists from Stand.earth and Amazon Watch in partnership with CONFENIAE deployed two massive 50’x40′ banners on the Queensway Bridge in Long Beach to demand Summit of the Americas leaders take action to stop the imminent expansion of Amazon oil drilling. Both banners – the largest ever about the Amazon – hung for over an hour on a bridge that sits between oil tankers carrying crude and the Valero refinery where a majority of the Amazonian crude coming to California is refined. The Spanish language banner specifically calling out Ecuador’s president Lasso made huge waves in Ecuador’s media and drew international attention to this critical issue. 

Ecuador’s President, Guillermo Lasso, who attended the Summit, announced plans in 2021, to double the country’s oil production and to auction nearly 7 million acres (3 million hectares) of mostly roadless rainforest for new oil exploration. If extracted, this Amazon oil would likely end up in the U.S., the majority for consumption in California. Axios reports that Lasso has spent his time at the summit attempting to deepen ties with the U.S., particularly around trade. The Ecuadorian president recently pushed through decrees and declared a state of emergency in response to civil society mobilizations. These types of decrees have been used to quell Indigenous dissent as they resist incursions and extraction into their territories. Just this week Lasso’s government illegally detained CONAIE president, Leonidas Iza for leading an Indigenous uprising calling for more services and economic justice to address increasing poverty exacerbated by the pandemic. 

No Biden-Bolsonaro deal will save the Amazon

In the week leading up to the summit, news broke that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro would attend and privately meet with President Biden. Together with COIAB, Amazon Watch, Artists for Amazonia, Avaaz, Extinction Rebellion LA, local activists, policymakers, and artists including Francis Fisher, Barbara Williams, and Scottie Thompson, we quickly assembled a rally and press event in front of LA City Hall the day before their meeting, demanding the Biden administration make no deals with leaders like Bolsonaro that seek to destroy and commodify Indigenous territories while removing their ancestral rights to their lands.

If there was any doubt about Bolsonaro hearing the message, we made sure he got it with a very well timed drive by the mobile banner covered by national and international press:

On Thursday, Brazilian Indigenous leader Toya Manchineri spoke at the People’s Summit for Democracy, the counter-event to the exclusive Summit of the Americas. Manchineri spoke on the panel “Surviving Together: Food Sovereignty, Climate Justice and the Future of Our Planet.” The People’s Summit is organized by social movements from different countries, aimed at debating issues such as the fight against poverty, the struggle for social equality and sovereignty, and the right to self-determination of peoples — issues that are often not on the agenda of the leaders attending the Summit of the Americas. 

That same afternoon, Presidents Biden and Bolsonaro of Brazil met for the first time, a condition of Bolsonaro’s participation in the Summit. Among other issues, Biden then backtracked from earlier commitments to not engage with Bolsonaro and they announced the Amazonia Connect initiative, through which the U.S. pledged to provide $12 million to support Brazil, Colombia, and Peru in reducing commodity-driven deforestation. 

Unfortunately, Presidents Lasso and Bolsonaro hold the fate of the Amazon in their hands. But their policies aren’t protecting it, they’re driving destruction. In both countries, commodity-driven deforestation and contamination are ravaging the forests and rivers and violating the rights of the Indigenous peoples who depend on them. Their failure to act is pushing the Amazon to a dangerous tipping point of no return. Any talk of renewable energy aspirations from either of these short-sighted leaders that doesn’t come with commitments to restrict extraction and protect the rights of peoples under attack for doing the real work to protect the Amazon is meaningless. Those leaders who attended the Summit should not be fooled by them and we must not let up the pressure.

People’s Summit march

To culminate a week of events, we joined local and global civil society leaders excluded from the Summit, including union reps, youth, and frontline community members resisting fossil fuels, members of the Landless Worker’s Movement (MST), at the People’s Summit March. It was a beautiful show of joy and unity as we protect and defend what we love and resist injustice.

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