Tags: amazonia, Brazil, environmeni, genocide, gold miners, indigenous, mining, roger hollander
add a comment
Roger’s note: profits from the extraction of valuable metals by miners versus human lives. Who wins?
Published on Thursday, August 30, 2012 by Common Dreams
Up to 80 Yanomami in Venezuela killed by Brazilian gold miners
As many as 80 Yanomami Indians have been killed in a “massacre” carried out by unauthorized gold miners from Brazil, leaving charred remains of a community and polluted rivers in its wake.
Survival International, a London-based groups that works for tribal peoples’ rights worldwide, says that the massacre took place in July but news of the event is only coming to light now due to the community’s remote location in Venezuela’s Momoi region close to the border with Brazil.
The Guardian reports on the details of the massacre: “According to local testimonies an armed group flew over in a helicopter, opening fire with guns and launching explosives into Irotatheri settlement in the High Ocamo area. The village was home to about 80 people and only three had been accounted for as survivors, according to people from a neighbouring village and indigenous rights activists.”
Witnesses who saw the aftermath of the massacre reported seeing “burnt bodies and bones” and a burnt communal home.
Luis Shatiwe Yanomami, a leader of the Yanomami organization Horonami, told Survival International that the problem of illegal mining has been ongoing. “‘For three years we have been denouncing the situation. There are lots of goldminers working illegally in the forest.”
Luis Bello, a lawyer in Puerto Ayacucho who defends indigenous rights, says that these mining activities are on the rise and “have also become more sophisticated. They used to fly in and land in clandestine strips, now they come in helicopters and use huge extracting machinery that is decimating the jungle.”
Survival International says that the number of unauthorized gold miners in Yanomami territory now number 1,000. When they come, they bring diseases like malaria to the isolated tribe. The mining itself is devastating to the local environment, as it pollutes rivers with mercury. On top of the mining, the tribe faces threats from cattle ranchers who bring deforestation to the rainforest.
“This is another appalling tragedy for the Yanomami – heaping crime upon crime. All Amazonian governments must stop the rampant illegal mining, logging and settlement in indigenous territories. It inevitably leads to massacres of Indian men, women and children. The Venezuelan authorities must now bring the killers to swift justice, and send a signal throughout the region that Indians can no longer be killed with impunity. The mining and logging must be stopped,” said Stephen Corry, Director of Survival International
Tags: bleo monte, Brazil, brazilian congress, brazilian dam, brazilian judge, environmentalists, evnironment, greenhouse gas, hydro-electric dam, indigenous
add a comment
Brazilian Federal court finds Belo Monte hydro-electric dam licenses invalid, indigenous peoples were not consulted
(photo: International Rivers via Flickr)
A victory came to activists in Brazil on Tuesday when a federal judge halted construction on the controversial Belo Monte dam in the Amazon, saying that the indigenous peoples had not been consulted.
The impacts of the dam, which would have been the third largest hydro-electric dam in the world, had long been slammed by indigenous groups and environmental activists who said that it would have displaced thousands and wreaked havoc upon the ecosystem while contributing to greenhouse gases.
When the Brazilian Congress gave approval for the dam in 2005, there were no consultations with the indigenous peoples about the environmental impacts, a fact that Judge Souza Prudente found in violation of the Brazilian Constitution.
“A study on the environmental impact of the project was required before, not after, work on the dam started. The legislation is flawed,” Judge Souza Prudente told O Globo newspaper.
“The Brazilian Congress must take into account the decisions taken by the indigenous communities. Legislators can only give the go-ahead if the indigenous communities agree with the project,” he said.
Souza Prudente remarked at a press conference that “only in a dictatorial regime does a government approve a project before holding consultations.”
Indigenous groups lauded the court ruling. “It’s a historic decision for the country and for the native communities,” said Antonia Melo, coordinator of the Xingu Vivo indigenous movement.
“It’s a great victory which shows that Belo Monte is not a done deal. We are very happy and satisfied.”
Zachary Hurwitz of International Rivers writes that “the decision supports the arguments that the affected tribes have been making over the lifetime of Belo Monte: tribes will face downstream livelihood impacts as a result of a reduction in the flow of the Xingu River on the 100-km stretch known as the Volta Grande or ‘Big Bend,’ and were never properly consulted, much less gave their consent.”
Hurwitz adds that the economic rationale dam proponents pushed is fundamentally flawed. “Economic rationale for the dam is based on a projected economic growth of 5% or more a year, but over the past few quarters, GDP has been lucky to grow at even a measly rate. As far as Belo Monte’s importance to Brazil’s economic race, this is really a case of the horse following the wagon.”
“And, as illustrated by this historic court decision, the wagon has been trampling on indigenous people and their rights, along the way,” writes Hurwitz.
Occupy the Dam: Brazil’s Indigenous Uprising July 24, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Brazil, Environment, First Nations, Latin America.
Tags: #occupy movement, belo monte, Brazil, brazil government, brazil rainforest, civil disobedience, coffer dams, environment, hydroelectric, indigenous, john perkinsl, protest, roger hollander
add a comment
Roger’s note: the author of the article posted below, John Perkins, has written ”Confessions of an Economic Hit Man,” his account of his personal involvement in measures to create debt in third world countries in order to gain political leverage over their governments. These “measures” range from bribes to falsified reports to the probable assassination of the presidents of Panama and Ecuador. I highly recommend this book: it is available as an Ebook.
In the Amazonian backcountry, tribes are challenging construction of the world’s third-largest dam—by dismantling it. Here’s what they can teach us about standing up to power.
Indigenous tribesmen stand firm near the Belo Monte Dam. (Photos courtesy of International Rivers)
Last month, hundreds of indigenous demonstrators began dismantling a dam in the heart of Brazil’s rainforest to protest the destruction it will bring to lands they have loved and honored for centuries. The Brazilian government is determined to promote construction of the massive, $14 billion Belo Monte Dam, which will be the world’s third largest when it is completed in 2019. It is being developed by Norte Energia, a consortium of ten of the world’s largest construction, engineering, and mining firms set up specifically for the project.
The Belo Monte Dam is the most controversial of dozens of dams planned in the Amazon region and threatens the lives and livelihoods of thousands of Amazonian people, plants, and animals. Situated on the Xingu River, the dam is set to flood roughly 150 square miles of already-stressed rainforest and deprive an estimated 20,000 people of their homes, their incomes, and—for those who succumb to malaria, bilharzia, and other diseases carried by insects and snails that are predicted to breed in the new reservoir—their lives. Moreover, the influx of immigrants will bring massive disruption to the socioeconomic balance of the region. People whose livelihoods have primarily depended on hunting and gathering or farming may suddenly find themselves forced to take jobs as manual laborers, servants, and prostitutes.
History has shown again and again that dams in general wreak havoc in areas where they are built, despite promises to the contrary by developers and governments. Hydroelectric energy is anything but “clean” when measured in terms of the excruciating pain it causes individuals, social institutions, and local ecology. The costs—often hidden—include those associated with the privatization of water; the extinction of plants that might provide cures for cancer, HIV, and other diseases; the silting up of rivers and lakes; and the disruption of migratory patterns for many species of birds.
The indigenous cultures threatened by the Belo Monte Dam, including those of the Xikrin, Juruna, Arara, Parakanã, Kuruaya and Kayapó tribes, are tied to the land: generations have hunted and gathered and cultivated the same areas for centuries. They—as well as local flora and fauna—have suffered disproportionately from the effects of other hydroelectric dams, while rarely gaining any of the potential benefits. Now they are fighting back.
Indigenous leaders from these groups have asked the Brazilian government to immediately withdraw the installation license for Belo Monte. They demand a halt to work until the government puts into place “effective programs and measures to address the impacts of the dam on local people.” They point out that a promised monetary program to compensate for the negative impacts of the mega-dam has not yet been presented in local villages; also, that a system to ensure small boat navigation in the vicinity of the cofferdams, temporary enclosures built to facilitate the construction process, has not been implemented. Without such a system, many will be isolated from markets, health care facilities, and other services. The cofferdams have already rendered much of the region’s water undrinkable and unsuitable for bathing. Wells promised by the government and Norte Energia have not yet been drilled. The list of grievances goes on and on and is only the latest in a very old story of exploitation of nature and people in the name of “progress.” Far too often, this has meant benefiting only the wealthiest in society and business.
Yet here in the backcountry of Brazil, there is a difference: the makings of a new story. The indigenous people’s occupation of the dam garnered international attention, connecting their situation to other events across the globe—the Arab Spring, democratic revolutions in Latin America, the Occupy Movement, and austerity strikes in Spain and other European nations. Brazil’s indigenous protesters have essentially joined protesters on every continent who are demanding that rights be restored to the people.
Stories take time to evolve. This one—the story of people awakening on a global level to the need to oppose and replace exploitative dreams—is still in its beginning phase. And the first chapter has been powerful, elegant, and bold.
A few years ago I was invited, with a group, to Ladakh, a protectorate of India, to meet with the Dalai Lama. Among a great deal of sage advice he offered was the following: “It is important to pray and meditate for peace, for a more compassionate and better world. But if that is all you do, it is a waste of time. You also must take actions to make that happen. Every single day.”
It is time for each and every one us to follow that advice.
Opposing the Belo Monte Dam project provides an opportunity for you and me to honor those words, and those leading resistance to it can help us understand the importance of looking around—in our neighborhoods as well as globally—to determine what else we can do to change the story.
Click here to view photo essay of the indigenous resistance to the Belo Monte Dam construction.
John Perkins is the author of New York Times bestseller Confessions of an Economic Hitman and, most recently, Hoodwinked: An Economic Hitman Reveals Why the World Financial Markets Imploded—and What We Need to Do to Remake Them.
Amazon Indians Occupy Belo Monte Dam Site in Brazil June 26, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Brazil, Environment, First Nations, Latin America.
Tags: amazon rainforest, belo monte, Brazil, brazil amazon, environment, gabriel elizondo, indigenous, indigenous protest
add a comment
An estimated 200 indigenous people from Brazil’s Amazon region have occupied a work area at the Belo Monte dam construction site, at least partially halting work on the controversial mega project on the Xingu river.
Indigenous people protesting the Belo Monte dam project on last week as the Rio+20 conference opened in Brazil. They say the dam will destroy their livelihoods along the Xingu River and have now occupied the construction site in hopes of shutting down the project. (European Press Photo Agency)
The indigenous people are from at least four tribes – the Xikrin, Juruna, Parakana and Araras – and are protesting against what they say is the negative effects of the construction.
They say the construction runoff is muddying the waters and drying up parts of the river they use to fish.
They are also upset that mitigation projects or compensation promised to the indigenous people by the builders to minimize effects of the construction have been slow to materialize.
The indigenous people have occupied one of work sites of the dam since last Thursday, making it the longest occupation of its kind on the construction site.
Click here to watch a video, shot by the Indian tribes during the opening phase of their occupation of a work site:
The builders have halted work on the part of the dam that is being occupied by the indigenous people, but say work continues unabated in other areas. (The construction site is so big it’s divided up into multiple work sites).
According to a local federal prosecutor, the builders’ judicial request to have the Indians removed by force by police was rejected by a federal judge over the weekend.
The Belo Monte Dam is the most controversial construction project in Brazil. It is scheduled to cost roughly $14bn, and the first turbine is expected to be operational by February 2015.
When completed, the dam will be the third largest in the world.
The Brazilian government says Belo Monte will provide much needed energy at minimal environmental impact. They also argue that hydroelectric dams are clean energy.
But environmentalists have said for years the social impacts – displacement of thousands of people, mostly indigenous people – not to mention environmental damage, are far worse than any potential benefits.
The dam, which was first proposed in the 1970s, has gone through numerous judicial and environmental injunctions in the past couple years. But with most of the hurdles seemingly passed last year, construction on the dam began in July 2011.
The construction ramped up in January this year.
As for the protest by Indians, nobody knows where this will go from here.
On Thursday a delegation from the capital Brasilia will arrive at the work site to speak directly to the Indians to try to reach a compromise.
In the meantime, hundreds of more indigenous peoples are reportedly in boats making their way to provide support.
In late January, I visited the construction site, and towards the end of the day the builders said we had to move away from the immediate work area. Why, I asked? Because there will be an explosion, we were told. A couple of times a day engineers use dynamite to blast away hard rock to make way for the dozens of bulldozers.
I saw the explosion. It’s powerful symbolism that could easily be interpreted as the builders’ way of saying: The time for debate is over, this project is moving forward.
As we are witnessing now, the indigenous people didn’t get the memo.
With the occupation of the dam work site they too are sending a clear signal:
The final chapter in the fight against this mega dam in the Amazon has yet to be written.
Court Ruling Backs Ecuadorian Effort to Hold Chevron Accountable for Amazon Pollution September 21, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Ecuador, Environment, Latin America.
Tags: amazon rain forest, amazon watch, atossa soltani, belo monte, Brazil, brazilian amazon, chevron, chevron texaxo, dilma rousseff, Ecuador, ecuador rainforest, ecuadorian amazon, environment, environmental contamination, oil spillo, roger hollander
add a comment
www.democracynow.org, September 21, 2011
A U.S. appeals court has ruled oil giant Chevron cannot escape an $18 billion fine for massive pollution of the Amazon rain forest. Amazonian residents won the damages in an Ecuadorian court earlier this year, and Chevron says it will appeal the decision. It is the latest development in a complex, 18-year legal battle that has gone before judges not just in Ecuador and the United States, but also The Hague. We speak with Atossa Soltani, executive director of Amazon Watch, which has worked closely with the Amazon residents suing Chevron. Atossa Soltani is in New York City this week to draw attention to environmental causes in the Amazon in conjunction with two major gatherings, the Clinton Global Initiative and the United Nations General Assembly.
AMY GOODMAN: The oil giant Chevron has been dealt a setback in its bid to escape responsibility for massive pollution in Ecuador’s rain forest. On Monday, a U.S. appeals court vacated a ruling that allowed Chevron to avoid enforcement of a fine of up to $18 billion. Amazonian residents won the damages in an Ecuadorian court earlier this year. Chevron is appealing the decision in Ecuador, and in March won a U.S. court order blocking the plaintiffs from claiming their damages abroad, including in the United States. Monday’s ruling freezes that judgment until the appeals court is able to weigh in on the case.
It’s the latest development in a complex, 18-year legal battle that’s gone before judges not just in Ecuador and the United States, but also at The Hague. Chevron has also filed counter-suits in the case, accusing the plaintiffs and their attorneys of fraud. In a statement, Chevron said, quote, “[We] remain confident that once the full facts are examined, the fraudulent judgment will be found unenforceable and those who procured it will be required to answer for their misconduct.”
Well, we’re joined right now by Atossa Soltani, executive director of Amazon Watch, which has worked closely with the Amazon residents suing Chevron. Atossa Soltani is in New York this week to draw attention to environmental causes in the Amazon in conjunction with two major gatherings, the Clinton Global Initiative and the United Nations General Assembly.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, Atossa.
ATOSSA SOLTANI: Thank you, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about this ruling that just came down.
ATOSSA SOLTANI: Well, I think this ruling affirms what we’ve been saying and what the plaintiffs have been saying for a decade, that—for over a decade, that Chevron is guilty of massive environmental contamination in the Ecuadorian Amazon. A decision was handed down in February against Chevron, ruling that Chevron is guilty and ordering the company to pay $18 billion in damages. And what Chevron did is run to find a sympathetic venue—in this case, Judge Kaplan’s court here in New York—that would protect it from justice. And what we saw yesterday was a decision that blocks the injunction against the Amazonian communities and their legal team to be able to enforce this judgment against Chevron.
And I think what it says is that it’s really time—it sends a message. It’s a legal victory. It’s a victory for rule of law. It’s a victory for the communities that are fighting against Chevron for the last two decades, that Chevron needs to stop its abusive PR tactics and deceitful PR and its legal fireworks, and address the health and environmental catastrophe that it created in the Amazon, and pay up. And, of course, this is not yet—you know, it’s not yet ready for—we have one more hurdle to go, which is the appeals court, the appeal—Chevron’s appeal of the decision in the Ecuadorian court. So we’re still waiting for that decision. But really, this is a—you know, wipes off two years of, you know, legal—backhanded legal maneuvering by Chevron in the U.S.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain what happened. Chevron bought Texaco, so this is when Texaco was in the rain forest.
ATOSSA SOLTANI: That’s right.
AMY GOODMAN: And explain what actually took place. What areas are we talking about?
ATOSSA SOLTANI: We’re talking about the northern Ecuadorian Amazon, where Texaco arrived in the late ’60s and started drilling for oil in a way that would have been illegal to do in the United States, dumping huge amounts of production waters and drilling waste and causing a significant area—18 billion gallons of toxic waste and over 20 million gallons of crude waste that was spilled in this area. Some 30,000 people live here, including five indigenous tribes, who have been systematically poisoned over the last 30 years. And there is a public health crisis. There’s epidemics of cancer, birth defects, all kinds of health problems related to the oil pollution. People here don’t have drinking water, so every day they’re drinking the water from the rivers and streams and poisoning themselves in the process.
So, the case was brought initially in the New York courts against Chevron. And for nearly a decade, Chevron argued that this case should be heard in Ecuador. And then it went to Ecuador. Once Chevron bought Texaco, it assumed the liabilities. The case was taken to Ecuador, and that’s where it’s been for the—since 2003. So now it’s ironic that after nearly, you know, a decade of arguing the case should be heard in Ecuador, Chevron is back in the New York courts looking for a sympathetic judge to block enforcement. It’s lost the first round of this historic trial. And we believe that Chevron needs to, you know, stop its tactics of trying to allege fraud, and address the real health crises that are facing the communities in the region.
AMY GOODMAN: During arguments on Friday, U.S. Circuit Judge Gerard Lynch asked a Chevron lawyer, quote, “Are you saying that a New York court is in charge of deciding that we will not tolerate a South African judgment, procured by fraud, and enforced in Russia?” What does that mean?
ATOSSA SOLTANI: Well, basically, you know, Judge Kaplan was giving a global injunction to prevent lawyers for the communities in the Amazon to enforce this decision that the Ecuadorian judge made against Chevron. So it’s basically legal imperialism, preventing—basically saying that a U.S. district court could—you know, a U.S. district court could prevent a sovereign court in another country from finding an American company guilty of crimes. And that is legal imperialism, and I think that’s what the district court—the court of appeals found yesterday.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to Brazil. You’re here at the United Nations. What is happening in Brazil? Talk about your work there?
ATOSSA SOLTANI: Well, two-thirds of the Amazon rain forest is in Brazil. And currently, there’s a triple threat in Brazil coming initially from the Belo Monte Dam, which would be the third-largest dam in the world, planned for the Xingu River. You have also a big debate happening in the Brazilian congress over the forestry code, which rules how much a landowner can clear of its forests, under law. And there’s a backsliding. There’s a proposed law that would, you know, rule back the forest code. And then you have a rise, a significant rise, in murders and death threats against activists. So this is a triple threat. It is a critical moment for the Amazon. And the Amazon is important to the entire planet. It is really the engine of the global weather system. It’s the rain machine for the planet. And we cannot afford to lose the Amazon at the rate that it’s going. We’re approaching the tipping point of ecological collapse.
So you have President Dilma Rousseff, who’s the first woman president of Brazil. She’s actually opening up the General Assembly here tomorrow for the first time a woman head of state has done that. And under her, you know, current administration, we’re seeing a significant rise in deforestation rates, in crimes against activists. And now, with the—in June, the license for the Belo Monte Dam was issued, and this is causing significant environmental damage. This dam would be—would destroy 60 miles of the Xingu River. It would displace some 40,000 people. The bulldozers have started to arrive in the city of Altamira. There is chaos ensuing. People are being displaced from their land without compensation or even consent. Their homes are being destroyed. Actually, just recently, there have been people whose houses have been burned by the police. And you have a situation of significant conflict in an area that already has the highest deforestation rate, and crime is up. You know, there’s literally chaos ensuing in the cities and the towns around this dam. And there are many promises the government made that this dam—the environmental impacts of this dam would be addressed, that haven’t been met, and those promises haven’t been met. So, just yesterday, the municipality of Altamira called on the Dilma government to suspend this dam project. And this is a municipality that was previously in favor of the dam. So what we have is, you know, we have a crisis. We have—in this area, which is Pará, the state of Pará, you also have the heightened—where the activists were murdered a few months ago. Six people have already been murdered in recent months.
AMY GOODMAN: Atossa, I wanted to break in, because we’ve just gotten this breaking news from Georgia. Clemency has been denied for Troy Davis. The Board of Pardons and Parole has denied clemency, which means, unless anything changes, he will be executed on September 21st—that’s Wednesday night—7:00 Eastern Standard Time in Jackson, Georgia. Again, clemency has been denied for Troy Anthony Davis.
We’re going to wrap the show right now. I want to thank you very much, Atossa Soltani, for joining us. Latest news out of Brazil is that Brazilian authorities have arrested two brothers in connection with the murders of two Amazon environmental activists, José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife, Maria do Espírito Santo. He predicted he would be killed when he went back to Brazil. He said, “I will protect the forest at all costs. That is why I could get a bullet in my head at any moment.” Those are the words of José, who was executed.
That does it for our broadcast. Again, the latest news in this country, Troy Anthony Davis’s appeal for clemency has been denied. He is set to be executed September 21st, Wednesday, at 7:00 p.m. in Georgia.
Murder in the Amazon June 22, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Brazil, Environment, Latin America.
Tags: amazon rainforest, avaaz, Brazil, brazil government, clear cutting, deforestation, dilma, earth summit, environment, roger hollander
add a comment
The Amazon is in serious
danger, the lower house of the Brazilian congress has approved a gutting
of Brazil’s forest protection laws. Unless we act now, vast tracts of our
planet’s lungs could be opened up to clear-cutting devastation.
The move has sparked widespread anger and protests across the country. And tension is rising — in the last few weeks, several prominent environmental advocates have been murdered, purportedly by armed thugs hired
by illegal loggers. The timing is critical, they’re trying to silence criticism just as the law is discussed in the Senate. But President Dilma can veto the changes, if we can persuade her to overcome political pressure and step onto the global stage as a leader.
79% of Brazilians support
Dilma’s veto of the forest law changes, but their voices are being
challenged by logger lobbies. It’s now up to all of us to raise the
stakes and make Amazon protection a global issue. Let’s come together now in
a giant call to stop the murders and illegal logging, and save the
Amazon. Sign the petition below — it’ll be delivered to Dilma when
we reach 500,000 signers:
People love Brazil! The sun, the music, the dancing, the football, the
nature — it’s a country that inspires millions around the world. This is
why Brazil is hosting the next World Cup, why Rio has the 2016 Olympics and
next year’s Earth Summit, a meeting to stop the slow death of our planet.
Our love is not misplaced — the Amazon Is vital to life on earth –
20% of our oxygen and 60% of our freshwater comes from this magnificent
rainforest. That’s why it’s so crucial that we all protect it.
Brazil is also a rapidly developing country, battling to lift tens of
millions out of poverty, and the pressure to clear-cut and mine for profit on
its political leaders is intense. This is why they’re dangerously close to
buckling on environmental protections. Local activists are being murdered,
intimidated and silenced, it’s up to Avaaz members across the world to stand
with Brazilians and urge Brazil’s politicians to be strong.
us have seen in our own countries how growth often comes at the expense of our
natural heritage, our waters and air get polluted, our forests die.
Brazil, there is an alternative. Dilma’s predecessor massively reduced
deforestation and cemented the country’s international reputation as an
environmental leader, while also enjoying huge economic growth. Let’s come
together now, and urge Dilma to follow in those footsteps — sign the
petition to save the Amazon, then forward this email to everyone:
In the last 3 years, Brazilian Avaaz members have taken massive leaps
towards the world we all want: They won landmark anti-corruption legislation,
and have lobbied their government to play a leadership role at the UN, protect
human rights and intervene to support democracy in the Middle East, and help
protect human rights in Africa and beyond.
Now, as brave Brazilian
activists are being killed for protecting a critical global resource,
let’s come together, and build an international movement to save the
Amazon and herald Brazil as a true international leader once more. Sign
the petition, then forward this email to everyone:
Emma, Ricken, Alice, Ben, Iain, Laura, Graziela, Luis
and the rest of the Avaaz Team
BBC — Brazil
passes ‘retrograde’ forest code:
– Another Amazon activist killed in logging conflict:
– Majority of Brazilians reject changes in Amazon Forest Code:
Science Insider — Furor Over Proposed Brazilian Forest Law:
– Death in the Amazon: a war being fought for us all:
Washington Post — Brazil’s lower house approves looser forest
Brazil’s forest bill threat to Amazon
Support the Avaaz
community! We’re entirely funded by donations and receive no money from
governments or corporations. Our dedicated team ensures even the smallest
contributions go a long way — donate
Avaaz.org is a 9-million-person global
campaign network that works to ensure that the views and values of the
world’s people shape global decision-making. (“Avaaz” means “voice” or “song” in
many languages.) Avaaz members live in every nation of the world; our team is
spread across 13 countries on 4 continents and operates in 14 languages. Learn
about some of Avaaz’s biggest campaigns here, or follow us on
Facebook or Twitter.
This message was sent to
email@example.com. To change your email address, language, or other
information, contact us via this form. To
unsubscribe, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or click
To contact Avaaz, please do not reply to this email.
Instead, write to us at www.avaaz.org/en/contact or
call us at +1-888-922-8229 (US).
Tags: roger hollander, Latin America, Brazil, environment, amazon, deforestation, amazon rainforest, agribusiness, benjamin dangl, brazil government, environmental protection, deforesting, chico mendes, jose claudio ribeiro da silva, maria de espirito santo da silva, amazon jungle, catholic land pastoral
add a comment
Roger’s note: this article demonstrates the inadequacy of electing self-proclaimed left wing governments. Once in power, Brazil’s Lula, and now his successor Dilma Rousseff come under tremendous pressures to advance “economic growth.” Unfortunately such pressures a rarely resisted since counter pressures do not compare in strength to the massive media and corporate campaigns to promote such growth. In the end, these governments, despite their campaign promises, end up with the same Neo-Liberal economic strategies as their right wing predecessors. This is not to say that the election of such “leftist” governments in Latin America (Venezuela, Ecuador, Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, Nicaragua, etc.) is insignificant. It represents popular pressures from below to resist the reach of the US imperial tendrils. But the election of such governments is not enough, it is only a first step toward a genuine liberation from the imperialist and capitalist destruction of the social and natural environments. In the case of the article below, we are talking about the Amazon Rainforest, the very lungs of the world.
Published on Wednesday, June 1, 2011 by CommonDreams.org
Early in the morning on May 24, in the northern Brazilian Amazon, José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife Maria do Espírito Santo da Silva got onto a motorcycle near the nature reserve they had worked on for over two decades. As the couple rode past the jungle they dedicated their lives to protecting, gunmen hiding near a bridge opened fire, killing them both.
Brazilian law enforcement officials said that the killing appeared to be the work of hired gunmen, due to the fact that an ear was cut off each of the victims. This is often done to prove to whoever paid for the killings that the job was carried out.
The murder took place the same day the Brazilian Congress passed a change to the forestry code that would allow agribusinesses and ranchers to clear even more land in the Amazon jungle. Deforestation rose 27 percent from August 2010 to April 2011 largely due to soybean plantations. The levels will likely rise if the changes to the forestry code are passed by the Senate.
Ribeiro knew he was in danger of being killed for his struggle against loggers, ranchers and large scale farmers who were deforesting the Amazon. In fact, just six months earlier, in November 2010 at an environmental conference in Manaus, Brazil, he told the audience “I could be here today talking to you and in one month you will get the news that I disappeared. I will protect the forest at all costs. That is why I could get a bullet in my head at any moment. … As long as I have the strength to walk I will denounce all of those who damage the forest.”
The life and death of Ribeiro has been rightly compared to that of Chico Mendes, a Brazilian rubber tapper, union leader and environmentalist who fought against logging and ranching, winning international attention for his successful campaigns against deforestation. In 1988, Mendes was murdered by gunmen hired by ranchers.
Just two weeks before he was killed, Mendes also spoke hauntingly about the likelihood that he would be murdered for his activism. “I don’t want flowers, because I know you are going to pull them up from the forest. The only thing I want is that my death helps to stop the murderers’ impunity…”
Yet since the murder of Mendes, impunity in the Brazilian countryside has become the norm. In the past 20 years, over 1,150 rural activists have been killed in conflicts related to land. Of these murders, less than 100 cases have gone to court, only 80 of the killers have been convicted, and just 15 of the people who hired the gunmen were found guilty, according to Catholic Land Pastoral, a group monitoring land conflicts. Impunity reigns in rural areas due to the corruption of judicial officials and police, and the wealth and power of the ranchers, farmers and loggers who are often the ones who order the killings.
The recent murder of Ribeiro and Santo combined with the danger posed by changes to the forestry code are devastating indications of the direction Brazil is heading in the Amazon. For some, the expansion of logging, ranching and soybean operations into the Amazon are inevitable steps toward economic progress. But for others, a different kind of progress is necessary if the planet is to survive. As Chico Mendes explained just days before his death in 1988, he wanted to “demonstrate that progress without destruction is possible.”
Benjamin Dangl has worked as a journalist throughout Latin America and is the author of the new book, Dancing with Dynamite: Social Movements and States in Latin America (AK Press). For more information, visit DancingwithDynamite.com. Email Bendangl(at)gmail(dot)com
Tags: Brazil, catholic bigotry, catholic church, civil unions, gay marriage, gay rights, gay rights revolution, homophobia, human rights, katie soltis, Latin America, lgbt, same sex civil union, same-sex marriage
add a comment
The Brazilian Supreme Court’s recognition of same-sex unions in early May marks the latest victory for gay rights in Latin America. The Court’s ruling grants equal legal rights to same-sex civil unions as those enjoyed by married heterosexuals, including retirement benefits, joint tax declarations, inheritance rights, and child adoption.While the Supreme Court did not go so far as to legalize gay marriage, gay rights groups such as Rio de Janeiro’s Rainbow Group have nevertheless praised the decision as an “historic achievement.”1 The decision passed 10-0 with one abstention, but the justice who abstained had previously spoken in favor of same-sex unions.
An Unlikely Victory
As the world’s largest Roman Catholic country, Brazil was an unlikely venue for such a promising gay rights victory. The Roman Catholic Church has actively fought proposals for same-sex unions in Brazil, arguing that the Brazilian Constitution defines a “family entity” as “a stable union between a man and a woman.”2 The Catholic Church responded to the recent ruling with outrage. As Archbishop Anuar Battisti put it, the Supreme Court’s decision marked a “frontal assault” on the sanctity of the family.3
The Catholic Church is losing its power in Brazil, which helped pave the way for the Supreme Court’s recent decision in favor of homosexuals. Nevertheless, homophobia retains a tenacious grip on Brazilian society. Despite the fact that the nation boasts the world’s largest gay pride parade, the LGBT movement has been unable to achieve fundamental progress and quell discrimination at a societal level. For instance, Marcelo Cerqueira, the head of the Gay Group of Bahia, claims the country is “number one when it comes to assassination, discrimination and violence against homosexuals.”4 Additionally, in a disconcerting report, the Gay Group of Bahia found that 260 Brazilian gay people were murdered in 2010, exemplifying the level of hostility towards homosexuals.5 Because of this discriminating environment, gay rights activists traditionally have had little success in Brazil. Most notably, Congress disregarded proposals for gay rights legislation for nearly ten years.
The Supreme Court’s recent ruling was therefore a major turning point after a history of protracted, unsuccessful struggles. The judicial decision was made in response to two lawsuits, one of which was filed by Rio de Janeiro Governor Sérgio Cabral and the other by the Office of the Attorney General. While Congress repeatedly ignored requests for equal rights for gay Brazilian citizens, the Supreme Court argued that “Those who opt for a homosexual union cannot be treated less than equally as citizens.”6 In this way, by appealing to the judicial system, the LGBT movement was able to achieve success despite deep-seated hostility throughout Brazilian society and in other branches of the government.
Latin America’s Gay Rights Revolution
Professor Omar Encarnación of Bard College calls the recent string of gay rights legislation in Latin America a “gay rights revolution.”7 Brazil’s ruling came on the heels of several other noteworthy gay rights victories in Latin America, such as Uruguay’s legalization of same-sex civil unions in 2007. Shortly thereafter, in 2010, Argentina became the first Latin American nation and eighth nation worldwide to legalize gay marriage. Other landmark decisions in the past few years include Uruguay’s decision to allow all men and women, regardless of sexual orientation, to serve in the military and Mexico City’s legalization of same-sex civil unions.
The recent surge in gay rights victories throughout Latin America is altogether stunning, considering the region has generally been regarded as very homophobic. The Catholic Church has traditionally been a formidable enemy to gay rights movements in the region, but the secularization of much of Latin America has led to the impressive expansion of opportunities for gay rights movements.
Yet this success of gay rights movements throughout Latin America cannot be attributed solely to the declining importance of religion in the region. It is equally important, if not more so, to recognize the vital roles played by gay activist groups and the dynamic strategies these groups employ. For instance, gay rights groups in Brazil were able to reverse legislation banning gays from the workplace by forming partnerships with progressive businesses. In recent years, the use of social media has provided much of the gay movement’s momentum by enhancing activist groups’ ability to communicate and spread information. For instance, as Javier Corrales notes, by simply posting a video of a hate crime in San Juan or of a gay wedding in Argentina on YouTube, gay rights groups have been able to reach thousands of people and garner support.8 These innovative strategies have brought success despite a notably hostile environment towards homosexuals.
Through a comparison with the United States, we can see how remarkable the success of gay rights in Latin America has been. Latin America is marked by a much more homophobic environment than the U.S., according to a survey conducted by Mitchell Seligson and Daniel Moreno Morales.9 However, although the U.S. has lower levels of societal discrimination towards gays, it is hard to imagine that the United States would completely legalize same-sex civil unions or gay marriage on a national scale. The fact that this legalization occurred in several Latin American nations, despite the formidable opposition there, makes these recent rulings even more significant.
Furthermore, the recent victories for gay rights exemplify the considerable progress toward the region’s consolidation of democracy. The three Latin American countries that have now legalized same-sex unions—Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay—were each ruled by repressive military regimes just over two decades ago. Even Colombia, which is one of the region’s worst human rights violators, granted same-sex unions equal rights regarding social security benefits and inheritance rights in 2007. The fact that gay liberation movements have been successful in these unlikely places is a testament to how far these countries have progressed in recent years.
References for this article can be found here
Clinton’s Latin American Blunders March 5, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Honduras, Latin America.
Tags: Brazil, democracy, diplomacy, falklands, foreign policy, hillary clinton, honduras coup, honduras repression, Latin America, malvinas, mark weisbrot, porfirio lobo, roger hollander, zelaya
Offensive remarks on Honduras, gratuitous insults in Brazil – Hillary Clinton’s Latin American tour has not been a success
by Mark Weisbrot
Hillary Clinton‘s Latin America tour is turning out to be about as successful as George W Bush’s visit in 2005, when he ended up leaving Argentina a day ahead of schedule just to get the hell out of town. The main difference is that she is not being greeted with protests and riots. For that she can thank the positive media image that her boss, President Obama, has managed to maintain in the region, despite his continuation of his predecessor’s policies.
But she has been even more diplomatically clumsy that Bush, who at least recognised that there were serious problems and knew what not to say. “The Honduras crisis has been managed to a successful conclusion,” Clinton said in Buenos Aires, adding that “it was done without violence.”
This is rubbing salt into her hosts’ wounds, as they see the military overthrow of President Mel Zelaya last June, and subsequent efforts by the US to legitimise the dictatorship there as not only a failure but a threat to democracy throughout the region.
It is also an outrageous thing to say, given the political killings, beatings, mass arrests, and torture that the coup government used in order to maintain power and repress the pro-democracy movement. The worst part is that they are still committing these crimes.
Today nine members of the US Congress – including some Democrats in Congressional leadership positions – wrote to Clinton and to the White House about this violence. They wrote:
“Since President Lobo’s inauguration, several prominent opponents of the coup have been attacked. On 3 February, Vanessa Zepeda, a nurse and union organiser who had previously received death threats linked to her activism in the resistance movement, was strangled and her body dumped from a vehicle in Tegucigalpa. On 15 February, Julio Funes Benitez, a member of the [water and sewage workers] trade union and an active member of the national resistance movement, was shot and killed by unknown gunmen on a motorcycle outside his home. Most recently, Claudia Brizuela, an opposition activist, was murdered in her home on 24 February. Unfortunately these are only three of the numerous attacks against activists and their families … “
Clinton will meet on Friday with “Pepe” Lobo of Honduras, who was elected president after a campaign marked by media shutdowns and police repression of dissent. The Organisation of American States and European Union refused to send official observers to the election.
The members of Congress also asked that Clinton, in her meeting with Lobo, “send a strong unambiguous message that the human rights situation in Honduras will be a critical component of upcoming decisions regarding the further normalisations of relations, as well as the resumption of financial assistance.”
This was the third letter that Clinton received from Congress on human rights in Honduras. On 7 August and 25 September members of Congress from Hillary Clinton’s own Democratic party wrote to her to complain of the ongoing human rights abuses in Honduras and impossibility of holding free elections under these conditions. They did not even get a perfunctory reply until 28 January, more than four months after the second letter was sent. This is an unusual level of disrespect for the elected representatives of one’s own political party.
For these New Cold Warriors, it seems that all that has mattered is that they got rid of one social democratic president of one small, poor country.
In Brazil, Clinton continued her cold war strategy by throwing in some gratuitous insults toward Venezuela. This is a bit like going to a party and telling the host how much you don’t like his friends. After ritual denunciations of Venezuela, Clinton said “We wish Venezuela were looking more to its south and looking at Brazil and looking at Chile and other models of a successful country.”
Brazilian foreign minister Celso Amorim responded with diplomacy, but there was no mistaking his strong rebuff to her insults: he said that he agreed with “one point” that Clinton made, “that Venezuela should look southwards more … that is why we have invited Venezuela to join MERCOSUR as a full member country.” Clinton’s rightwing allies in Paraguay’s legislature – the remnants of that country’s dictatorship and 60 years of one-party rule – are currently holding up Venezuela’s membership in the South American trade block. This is not what she wanted to hear from Brazil.
The Brazilians also rejected Clinton’s rather undiplomatic efforts to pressure them to join Washington in calling for new sanctions against Iran. “It is not prudent to push Iran against a wall,” said Brazilian president Lula da Silva.” The prudent thing is to establish negotiations.”
“We will not simply bow down to an evolving consensus if we do not agree,” Amorim said at a press conference with Clinton.
Secretary Clinton made one concession to Argentina, calling for the UK to sit down with the Argentine government and discuss their dispute over the Malvinas (Falklands) Islands. But it seems unlikely that Washington will do anything to make this happen.
For now, the next crucial test will be Honduras: will Clinton continue Washington’s efforts to whitewash the Honduran government’s repression? Or will she listen to the rest of the hemisphere as well as her own Democratic members of Congress and insist on some concessions regarding human rights, including the return of Mel Zelaya to his country (as the Brazilians also emphasised)? This story may not get much US media attention, but Latin America will be watching.
© 2010 Guardian News and Media Limited
Mark Weisbrot is Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), in Washington, DC.
Why Washington Cares About Countries Like Haiti and Honduras February 3, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Haiti, Honduras.
Tags: Allende, aristide, Brazil, brazil politics, Chile, cia, foreign policy, haiti, Honduras, honduras coup, honduras dictatorship, Latin America, Lula, monroe doctrine, nixon, obama administration, roger hollander
1 comment so far
US interference in the politics of Haiti and Honduras is only the latest example of its long-term manipulations in Latin America
by Mark Weisbrot
In 2004, the US involvement in the coup was much more open. Washington led a cut-off of almost all international aid for four years, making the government’s collapse inevitable. As the New York Times reported, while the US state department was telling Aristide that he had to reach an agreement with the political opposition (funded with millions of US taxpayers’ dollars), the International Republican Institute was telling the opposition not to settle.
In Honduras last summer and autumn, the US government did everything it could to prevent the rest of the hemisphere from mounting an effective political opposition to the coup government in Honduras. For example, they blocked the Organisation of American States from taking the position that it would not recognise elections that took place under the dictatorship. At the same time, the Obama administration publicly pretended that it was against the coup.
This was only partly successful, from a public relations point of view. Most of the US public thinks that the Obama administration was against the Honduran coup, although by November of last year there were numerous press reports and even editorial criticisms that Obama had caved to Republican pressure and not done enough. But this was a misreading of what actually happened: the Republican pressure in support of the Honduran coup changed the administration’s public relations strategy, but not its political strategy. Those who followed events closely from the beginning could see that the political strategy was to blunt and delay any efforts to restore the elected president, while pretending that a return to democracy was actually the goal.
Among those who understood this were the governments of Latin America, including such heavyweights as Brazil. This is important because it shows that the State Department was willing to pay a significant political cost in order to help the right in Honduras. It convinced the vast majority of Latin American governments that it was no different from the Bush administration in its goals for the hemisphere, which is not a pleasant outcome from a diplomatic point of view.
Why do they care so much about who runs these poor countries? As any good chess player knows, pawns matter. The loss of a couple of pawns at the beginning of the game can often make a difference between a win or a loss. They are looking at these countries mostly in straight power terms. Governments that are in agreement with maximising US power in the world, they like. Those who have other goals – not necessarily antagonistic to the United States – they don’t like.
Not surprisingly, the Obama administration’s closest allies in the hemisphere are rightwing governments such as those of Colombia or Panama, even though Obama himself is not a rightwing politician. This highlights the continuity of the politics of control. The victory of the right in Chile, the first time that it has won an election in half a century, was a significant victory for the US government. If Lula de Silva’s Workers’ party were to lose the presidential election in Brazil this autumn, that would be another win for the state department. While US officials under both Bush and Obama have maintained a friendly posture toward Brazil, it is obvious that they deeply resent the changes in Brazilian foreign policy that have allied it with other social democratic governments in the hemisphere, and its independent foreign policy stances with regard to the Middle East, Iran, and elsewhere.
The US actually intervened in Brazilian politics as recently as 2005, organising a conference to promote a legal change that would make it more difficult for legislators to switch parties. This would have strengthened the opposition to Lula’s Workers’ party (PT) government, since the PT has party discipline but many opposition politicians do not. This intervention by the US government was only discovered last year through a Freedom of Information Act request filed in Washington. There are many other interventions taking place throughout the hemisphere that we do not know about. The United States has been heavily involved in Chilean politics since the 1960s, long before they organised the overthrow of Chilean democracy in 1973.
In October 1970, President Richard Nixon was cursing in the Oval Office about the Social Democratic president of Chile, Salvador Allende. “That son of a bitch!” said Richard Nixon on 15 October. “That son of a bitch Allende – we’re going to smash him.” A few weeks later he explained why:
The main concern in Chile is that [Allende] can consolidate himself, and the picture projected to the world will be his success … If we let the potential leaders in South America think they can move like Chile and have it both ways, we will be in trouble.
That is another reason that pawns matter, and Nixon’s nightmare did in fact come true a quarter-century later, as one country after another elected independent left governments that Washington did not want. The United States ended up “losing” most of the region. But they are trying to get it back, one country at a time. The smaller, poorer countries that are closer to the United States are the most at risk. Honduras and Haiti will have democratic elections some day, but only when Washington’s influence over their politics is further reduced.
© Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
Mark Weisbrot is Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), in Washington, DC.