Tags: agnico eagle mines, amazon rainforest, belo monte, belo monte dam, belo sun, Canada, canadian mining, environment, environmental rights, gold mining, indigenous rights, open-pit mining, roger hollander
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Roger’s note: it may be that Canada has a young hip looking (if vacuous) Prime Minister and a reputation for being more peace loving and less aggressively capitalistic than the United States, but that image is belied by Canadian mining companies in Africa and Latin America.
On the banks of Brazil’s lower Xingu River, a toxic controversy looms large, threatening to heap insult upon the grievous injuries of the nearby Belo Monte hydroelectric dam. In early February, the Canadian company Belo Sun received the final operational licence for its proposed Volta Grande mine from the Pará state environmental agency (SEMA-PA). The sprawling nearly 620 square-mile concession would become Brazil’s largest open-pit gold mine, straddling the territories of three indigenous peoples and other traditional communities that are already reeling from the many social and environmental impacts of Belo Monte.
Since field research for the mine began in 2008, the peoples of Xingu have publicly decried the occurrence of human and environmental rights violations in the lead-up to the mine’s construction. They have also warned of the likely negative social and environmental impacts that the mine project will cause, and recently they and their allies have taken these complaints to the courts.
First, they have denounced that some of the land on which the mine will be constructed was purchased illegally, given that it is land that the federal government designated for agrarian reform in the 1980s. Second, the mine is close to the village of Ressaca, a community of 300 families, all of whom would be displaced and have not been relocated by the company as required.
Third, local communities fear that the project may well end in a tragedy, like the Samarco Mariana dam collapse in 2015, given that Belo Sun intends to use a mining waste storage dam similar to the one used in Samarco. And even if the mine did not suffer a major catastrophe, the environmental and health impacts of the liberal application of cyanide, arsenic, and other toxic chemicals frequently employed in gold mining would lead to dire implications for communities already dealing with the dramatic changesto their way of life caused by the Belo Monte dam.
In a small piece of good news for communities, on February 21st a judge issued a 180-day injunction on the license in response to a legal complaint filed by the local public prosecutor’s office. In doing so, Judge Álvaro José da Silva Souza recognized that the license issued by SEMA-PA had ignored the community’s complaints, that the allegations of illegal land purchases warrant further investigation, and that the company had not fulfilled its promises to properly relocate the families that would be displaced by the mine. As Judge da Silva said in issuing the injunction, “I understand it to be completely absurd and unjustifiable that the families are currently still at the mercy of their own luck.”
The ruling gave the company 180 days to develop a plan to reallocate impacted communities. The company insists that it will appeal the decision.
Public hearing airs concerns and condemnations
Such concerns were front and center at a March 21st public hearing in the city of Altamira, where Belo Monte’s affected communities aired their grievances to a panel of government and corporate representatives, including from Belo Sun.
After attending the hearing, local analysts described the companies’ neglect of the affected communities as an intentional tactic meant to give them no recourse but to accept meager resettlement plans far from the river and their traditional livelihoods.
During the hearing, Janete Carvalho, an environmental licensing agent from the Brazilian indigenous agency (FUNAI), recalled the toxic legacy of the 2015 Samarco disaster on the Doce River, which killed nineteen people and left another 700 homeless, as a warning to those threatened by Belo Sun. “The closest indigenous territory to Samarco is more than 300 kilometers away and the Krenak people still do not have enough clean water to live,” she stated. “Any accident by Belo Sun will create a situation of ethnocide. The risk is unacceptable.”
FUNAI representatives reiterated that their office does not recognize the mine’s original environmental impact studies and demanded that a new, more rigorous, analysis be conducted that respects the communities’ right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent.
“We would like prior consultation to be conducted,” said Chief Gillarde Juruna of Miratu village, located only six miles from the mine’s epicenter. “I was born and raised in that region. We never asked for any project and now there are two of Brazil’s largest projects there. We have no guarantees.”
To address these irregularities, FUNAI filed a lawsuit against Belo Sun in February charging that its installation license was issued by completely ignoring the indigenous agency and its demands that the project’s impact assessment and licensing adhere to a specific study of its impacts on nearby indigenous communities. That case is currently pending.
“Who are you lying to, Belo Sun?”
At the close of the contentious hearing, public prosecutor Humberto Alcântara Ferreira Lima raised serious concerns about the true size and scope of the Volta Grande mine. He revealed a major discrepancy between the mine’s projected gold production as reflected in the license granted by SEMA-PA (pending resolution of Judge da Silva’s injunction) and what the company is telling its investors it will extract. Licensed on the basis of a 2012 estimate that the project will yield roughly 37.7 million tons of gold, Belo Sun has separately touted different projection numbers to its investors: 88.1 million tons in 2013 and most recently 116 tons in February of this year.
“What is the real dimension of Belo Sun’s Volta Grande gold mining project?” asked Mr. Lima. “The one disclosed to Brazilian public institutions or the one disclosed the company’s shareholders, which is more than three times as large? Who are you lying to: the investors or the [licensing agencies]?”
Like Belo Monte, Belo Sun is likely to cause more harm than good
One thing is clear: Belo Sun’s mega-mine is shrouded in irregularities and incalculable risk, much like its neighbor, the Belo Monte dam. Like Belo Sun, local communities and allies warned of the serious environmental and social impacts of Belo Monte, and, unfortunately, those dire warnings have proved prescient. And also like Belo Monte, the corporate interests behind the mine demonstrate neither concern nor prudence, rushing instead to initiate operations at any cost.
Belo Sun is owned by Canada’s Forbes & Manhattan, a private merchant bank. Canadian mining giant Agnico Eagle Mines is the company’s largest shareholder, with a 19% ownership of Belo Sun. Known for its notorious Malartic urban gold mine in Quebec, Agnico is subject to no fewer than 4,000 violations of environmental laws and regulations and is subject to a CAD $70 million lawsuit for its impacts on local residents.
The struggle to preserve what is left of the lower Xingu’s environment and communities from another catastrophic mega-project is not over. Even as political and economic forces line up behind Belo Sun and the region’s untapped riches, the local communities and their allies prepare to resist them. Amazon Watch has been standing with the communities of the Xingu for many years, and we will we not give up our support for them now!
Ecuador Election: No Good Option for the Amazon March 31, 2017Posted by rogerhollander in Ecuador, Latin America, Right Wing, Uncategorized.
Tags: alianza pais, amazon rainforest, democracy, Ecuador, Ecuador Election, ecuador oil, guillermo lasso, indigenous, kevin koenig, lenin moreno, Rafael Correa, roger hollander, yasuni
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Roger’s note: This is a good, if limited, analysis of the Ecuadorian presidential run-off election that takes place this Sunday. In the first round of voting, the Government candidate, Lenin Moreno, needed 40% of the vote to avoid a second round. He won by a large amount against the rest of the field, but with 39.3% of the vote, he fell short of election.
Ten years of the Correa government has left the Ecuadorian left in shambles. The coalition that brought Correa to power — the Indigenous and campesino communities, the environmentalists, most of the social movements and labor unions — have been shut out and for the most part are considered “enemies” by Correa, and not only to him personally, but to the Ecuadorian state.
Watching the Indigenous organizations and most of the political lefts coming out in support of the Banker, Guillermo Lasso, is almost surreal. Lasso was the chief economic advisor (Superminister of Economy and Energy) to Jamil Mahuad, whose presidency was responsible for the infamous “banking holiday” in 1999 where thousands of Ecuadorians lost their life savings. Mahuad had to flee the country and landed at Harvard University’s Kennedy School, where he lectures on economics in spite of the fact that he is on INTERPOL’s wanted list (I am not making this up).
Candidate Lasso is connected to right wing governments throughout the region and to the alt-right Roman Catholic Opus Dei. Regardless of what he has told the Amazonian Indigenous in order to gain their support (a la Trump), his election would certainly mean a return to the pre-Correa belt-tightening neo-Liberal corruption that plagued the country for decades. For these reasons it is mind-boggling to see much of the left behind his candidacy.
Whether he wins or loses on Sunday, the Lasso phenomenon is another example of that notion that presidential elections in our so-called democracies do not give genuine options for social justice, that voters get fed up with existing governments and vote in whatever opposition option they are given, even those oppositions that are contrary to the self interest of those who vote them in (again, a la Trump).
Photo credit: Amazon Watch
By KEVIN KOENIG
All over the capital city of Quito and throughout the small towns in the countryside, campaign propaganda is everywhere. Posters choke telephone poles, flags hang from windows, awnings, and corner stores, entire houses are painted with the respective colors of Alianza PAIS – Ecuador’s governing party of the last ten years – and those of the opposition CREO party, which is running on the promise of change. This Sunday, Ecuadorians will take to the polls and vote again for president, and the stakes couldn’t be higher for the country’s Amazon rainforest and its indigenous inhabitants.
The April 2nd run-off election pits Guillermo Lasso, a right-wing former banker against the former vice president of the outgoing and controversial current president, Rafael Correa. It will be the first time in recent memory that Correa, the country’s longest-standing elected president, won’t be on the ballot. The Alianza PAIS ticket is led by both vice presidents who served under Correa: Lenin Moreno and Jorge Glas.
Ten years ago, Correa embarked on what he dubbed a “Citizens’ Revolution,” the largest expansion of public sector spending in the country’s history, which included investments in schools, hospitals, roads and other infrastructure development like port expansions and hydroelectric dams. The administration also greatly expanded subsidy programs for housing and monthly cash payments to the country’s poor.
But it has all come at a price. To implement these popular measures, and to maintain the national economy after being shut out of the finance world due to a debt default, Correa borrowed heavily from China, amassing loans for more than US $15 billion. But many of these loans must be paid in oil, committing the majority of the crude the country extracts to China through 2024. As oil prices have dropped, the quantity of oil needed to repay those loans has increased, essentially guaranteeing new oil drilling in Ecuador’s pristine, indigenous rainforest territories in the Amazon.
In other words, Correa made poverty reduction depend upon the exploitation of natural resources in one of the most ecologically and culturally important places on the planet. Correa once promised to “drill every drop of oil” in the Amazon, ignoring the ecological and cultural harm this would cause as well as the “resource curse” and likelihood of corruption (which has occurred in Ecuador) resulting from relying heavily on oil, gas, or mineral extraction as the mainstay of a country’s economy.
For his part, opposition leader Guillermo Lasso, a former banker from the port city of Guayaquil, promises a return to U.S.-aligned, right-wing policies and reliance upon traditional lending institutions like the IMF and World Bank. However, these very same institutions deserve much of the blame for the country’s historic natural resource dependence and austerity policies favoring export-led development and “free trade,” and these policies provoked a full-fledged banking collapse that forced the country to dollarize its economy in 2000. The backlash against these neoliberal policies by civil society and the indigenous movement led to the ousting of several presidents and a period of great political instability that set the stage for the ascendancy of Correa and his self-described “revolutionary” agenda.
Despite this history, in this campaign Lasso has endorsed the platform of CONFENAIE, the indigenous Amazonian confederation, which calls for an end to new oil and mining concessions, an amnesty for indigenous leaders currently facing charges of terrorism for leading anti-government protests, respect for the right to Free, Prior, Informed Consent (FPIC), and several other legal reforms affecting indigenous rights. This endorsement came after direct pressure on all the candidates from CONFENAIEand Yasunidos, an active environmental coalition that made a series of viral videos pressuring them to take strong stances on environmental protection and indigenous rights, especially in Yasuní National Park in the Amazon.
How he would implement such policies while also fulfilling his neoliberal campaign promises is an open question. If Ecuador elects him, it risks a return to past policies that were historically hostile to indigenous rights, including a likely re-opening to multinational companies that have run roughshod over the environment and human rights, as exemplified by the notorious Chevron-Texaco case.
Moreno, for the most part, has been largely silent on these issues, and so Ecuadorians and observers are left to expect a continuation of Correa’s extractivist policies.
In the first round, most Amazonian provinces chose Lasso, in a clear rejection of Correa’s efforts to expand oil and mining projects on indigenous lands, his crackdown on indigenous rights that has seen several leaders jailed and persecuted, and a state of emergency that lasted 60 days in the ongoing conflict between the Shuar, the government, and the Chinese mining conglomerate Explorcobres.
Nationally, the polls for the run-off election currently show a statistical dead heat, with Moreno at 52.4% and Lasso at 47.6%, with a margin of error of 3.4% and roughly 16% of voters undecided. Moreno’s lead is surprising, given that first-round voting split the conservative vote among several candidates who were predicted to coalesce around Lasso for the run-off. Each side has accused the other of dirty tricks: Lasso has accused the governing party of using state-run media and coffers to support its campaign, and Alianza PAIS has promoted allegations made public last week that Lasso has suspicious investments in several offshore businesses and properties. Each side has warned of possible fraud and both predict widespread protests after Sunday’s vote.
Regardless of who wins, the response to the escalated social conflicts over extractive industry projects, rollback of indigenous rights, and criminalization of civil society protest will be an early and pressing challenge for the incoming administration. Further oil and mineral development will only make the country’s economy more vulnerable to fluctuations in the world oil market, whose recent crash has Ecuador reeling. This, combined with the country’s extreme wealth disparity, means that further income from oil alone will not solve the problems of poverty in Ecuador. The country must create a diverse economy that addresses wealth inequality in order to reduce poverty.
How the new president responds will serve as an indicator of whether Ecuador can transition to a post-petroleum economy, save what remains of its pristine rainforests, and respect the rights of its indigenous inhabitants, or whether it will continue to see the Amazon and the indigenous peoples there as solely a source of short-term financial gain.
As Domingo Peas, an Achuar leader, told me today, “No matter who wins, our agenda is the same: a platform based on indigenous rights, territorial protection and defense, and solutions that maintain our forests intact, keep the oil in the ground, and show the world how frontline indigenous peoples have been protecting the sacred for millennia.”
The future of Ecuador’s Amazon – one of the most ecologically and culturally important places on the planet – hangs in the balance.
Tags: amazon, amazon rainforest, climate change, Ecuador, ecuador oil, environment, fossil fuel, global warming, Rafael Correa, rainforest, roger hollander
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Roger’s note: Like all so-called leftist governments, with virtually no exceptions (Chile under Allende, and we saw what happened there), as stewards of the capitalist state they supposedly rule, it becomes expedient if not necessary, to move to the right, which means to accommodate the basic needs of capital. In the case of Correa’s Ecuador, the proposed destruction, ecological and cultural, of the rain-forest, is justified as an anti-poverty endeavor. In the face of falling oil prices, it is virtually a suicidal move (for the country, if not for the ruling elite). Exchanging US (IMF/World Bank) debt for Chinese debt will ensure the impoverization of the county in the long run. This while contributing to global warming and the possible of genocide of the self-imposed isolated indigenous tribes in the Ecuadorian Amazon.
Last week, the Ecuadorian government announced that it had begun constructing the first of a planned 276 wells, ten drilling platforms, and multiple related pipelines and production facilities in the ITT (Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini) oil field, known as Block 43, which overlaps Yasuní National Park in Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest. Coupled with the recent signing of two new oil concessions on the southern border of Yasuní and plans to launch another oil lease auction for additional blocks in the country’s southern Amazon in late 2016, the slated drilling frenzy is part of a larger, aggressive move for new oil exploration as the country faces daunting oil-backed loan payments to China, its largest creditor.
Yasuní National Park is widely considered one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. It has more species per hectare of trees, shrubs, insects, birds, amphibians, and mammals than anywhere else in the world. It was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1989, and it is home to the Tagaeri-Taromenane, Ecuador’s last indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation.
The controversial drilling plans were met with protest at the headquarters of state-run Petroamazonas’ Quito office, the company charged with developing the field. Ecuador averaged a spill per week between 2000 and 2010, which doesn’t bode well for drilling in a national park.
Despite touting the new perforation, the government is on the defensive, trying to downplay impact on the park. It points to the fact that the well site, Tiputini C, is technically outside of Yasuní’s limits. But, as the first wildcat well of hundreds planned, the government’s rhetoric is misleading at best.
Correa also boldly claimed that drilling in the adjacent Block 31 concession was not inside the boundary of Yasuní National Park, which was followed by a press conference from Environmental Minister Daniel Ortega who reiterated that claim. But activists are crying foul.
“The government is lying,” said Patricio Chavez, a member of Yasunídos, a national collective dedicated to defend Yasuní National Park. “They have no idea what they’re talking about. We’re not sure whether they make these statements because they honestly don’t know their own country or they’re trying to intentionally confuse people.”
In fact, Block 31 is in the heart of Yasuní National Park, with the two oil fields clearly in the middle of the block. The Ministry of Hydrocarbons’ own map shows a pipeline extending to the Apaika field – in the middle of the block and the heart of the park.
Conveniently for the government, though, both Block 31 and Block 43 are highly militarized and entrance by the public is forbidden. But satellite images and investigative undercover missions into the area not only show oil activity underway but also the construction of illegal roads in violation of the environmental license.
But don’t be fooled. In fact, there are currently eight oil blocks that overlap Yasuní National Park, which calls into question the relevance of its “national park” status with so much drilling either underway or planned.
“The park and its indigenous peoples are under siege,” said Leo Cerda, a Kichwa youth leader and Amazon Watch Field Coordinator. “If this is how a national park is treated, imagine what drilling in an ‘unprotected’ area looks like.”
Expanding drilling activity in the park has left the nomadic Tagaeri-Taromenane virtually surrounded. Recent conflicts between the two clans and their Waorani relatives has led to several killings and other inter-ethnic violence. While there are different theories as to the roots of the confrontations, dwindling territory, scarce resources, noise from oil activity, and encroachment by outsiders are all likely factors. Regardless, so much pressure on the park and its inhabitants is having predictable and tragic consequences.
The drilling plans have been a flashpoint since 2013 when President Rafael Correa pulled the plug on the Yasuní-ITT initiative, a proposal to permanently keep the ITT fields – an estimated 920 million barrels of oil – in the ground in exchange for international contributions equaling half of Ecuador’s forfeited revenue.
The initiative failed to attract funds, in part because Annex I countries were unwilling to contribute to an untested supply-side proposal to keep fossil fuels in the ground instead of more traditional demand-side regulations and carbon offsets. Essentially, northern countries – the most responsible for climate change – were unwilling to cough up cash to protect one of the world’s most important places if they weren’t going to get anything in exchange.
Scientists now agree that we need to keep at least 80 percent of all fossil fuels in the ground to avoid a catastrophic 1.5℃ rise in global temperature, so Ecuador’s proposal was apparently ahead of its time. The world dropped the ball, but the blame for the initiative’s stillbirth is shared.
The Correa administration mismanaged the initiative from the outset. It took several years to establish a trust fund where people and governments could contribute. But more detrimental was the administration’s simultaneous tender of multiple oil blocks in the country’s southern Amazon. Why pay to keep oil in the ground in one place if the host country government merely opens up new areas to compensate for lost revenue? Correa’s have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too politics were not very convincing to potential donors.
Public outrage and protest met Correa’s unilateral decision to scrap the initiative. A six-month national mobilization to force a ballot initiative on drilling plans garnered over 700,000 signatures, far more than the required 400,000. But almost half were nullified by Ecuador National Election Council in a process littered with secrecy and fraud.
“When the Yasuní-ITT initiative was launched, the idea was that leaving the oil in the ground would help address environmental and economic problems on the local, national, and global level,” said Esperanza Martinez, President of Ecuador’s Accion Ecologica and founder of the Oilwatch network. “The abandonment of the initiative has come with an aggressive push on Yasuní – on its borders to the north, south, east, and west. But the decision to drill now comes at a time when the world is talking about breaking free of fossil fuel dependence and agreeing on targets to avoid the rise of global temperature.”
Martinez continued, “It makes no sense to drill now – at great biological and cultural risk – when economically Ecuador is losing money with each barrel extracted. There is no justification that drilling in Yasuní is in the economic interest of the country.”
Indeed, it costs Ecuador $39 to produce a barrel of oil. But current market price for its two types of crude are in the low $30s, so Ecuador is losing money on each barrel being pulled from the ground. And when the aboveground ecosystem is one of the most important in the world and drilling activities threaten the ethnocide of isolated peoples, drilling at a loss is bewildering. Of course, there is no price per barrel that would justify drilling in such an environmentally pristine and culturally sensitive area with the extinction of a people at risk.
A major factor in Ecuador’s drive to expand drilling in Yasuní and beyond, despite the current oil market context of abundant and cheap oil, is the country’s outstanding debt to China. According to a Boston University/Inter-American Dialogue Database, Ecuador has obtained 11 loans, totalling about $15.2 billion, much of which must be paid back with petroleum.
But the move into Yasuní coincides with an equally aggressive push to open new areas south of Yasuní in a large, roadless pristine swath of forest that extends out to the Peruvian border.
Two blocks, 79 and 83, were recently concessioned, and drilling deals were signed with Andes Petroleum, a Chinese state-run firm. Faced with adamant opposition from both the Sápara and Kichwa peoples whose legally-titled territory overlaps these oil blocks, the government has sought to divide the indigenous communities.
Speaking at an Inter-American Human Rights Commission hearing on Monday, Franco Viteri, President of CONFENAIE (Confederation of Amazonian Indigenous Peoples of Ecuador), described efforts of the government to divide the legitimate indigenous organizations with the aim of circumventing resistance to resource extraction and advancing Andes Petroleum’s drilling plans.
“The objective of the government is to create acceptance – or the appearance of acceptance – of resource extraction. That’s what the government wants because we are resisting resource extraction projects like oil and mining throughout the Amazon region.”
Manari Ushigua, President of the Sápara federation, whose territory is almost totally engulfed by Blocks 79 and 83, also addressed the government’s intentions.
“The goal of the Ecuadorian government is to divide us and open our land to oil extraction. We live in peace, with the natural world, with our spirits. But our elders are few. We are on the verge of extinction.”
The government has also announced plans to launch a new oil licensing round in late 2016 which would sell off several other oil blocks in Ecuador’s southern Amazon. However, the last auction, known as the 11th Round, was a widely recognized failure. Offering thirteen blocks, the government only received four bids, two of those from the same company – Andes. Clearly, the Chinese state-run firm wants to make sure that its sole shareholder, the Chinese government, gets paid back for its generous lending to Ecuador. And because the payments are in oil, it explains why Ecuador is forced to expand drilling, even if it’s at a loss. China can then turn around and sell the barrels of oil in the open market for a substantial profit.
Ecuador’s new oil boom is ill-timed. While several years ago the country was the vanguard of what is now a worldwide movement to #keepitintheground, Correa’s “Drill, baby, drill!” policies place its frontier forests and indigenous peoples at great risk. As I’ve written before, Ecuador’s pipe dream of prosperity from perforating wells like ITT have failed to pan out, instead trapping the country in a downward spiral of debt, dependency, and environmental destruction.
However, the movement to #keepitintheground in Ecuador is growing. Ecuador’s 11th Oil Round failed mostly because communities on the ground vowed resistance and indigenous leaders traveled to every oil expo at which the government sought to sell its Amazon oil blocks to the highest bidders – including Quito, Houston, Paris, and Calgary – and let any interested company or investor know that their lands were not for sale. Indigenous peoples across Ecuador’s Amazon have again vowed to keep the companies out and they are asking for our solidarity. Let’s join them!
The World Cup Exposes Brazil’s Injustices June 6, 2014Posted by rogerhollander in Brazil, Economic Crisis, Latin America, Sports.
Tags: amazon rainforest, belo monte, bianca jagger, biodiversity, Brazil, brazil demarcations, brazil indigenous, brazil protests, brazilian amazon, climate change, dilma rouseff, environment, favelas, jonqueally, roger hollander, world cup
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Roger’s note: How wonderful it was to see Lula, the leader of the workers’ party win the Brazilian presidency, and now followed by Dilma, another lifetime labor leader in the presidency. And is it a surprise, that despite a leftist government, the rule of Capital continues to dominate in Brazil? Mining interests, lumber interests, big agriculture, and all the rest of the world of corporate capital, they know how to handle politicians of all stripes and have their way over the interests of poor and indigenous peoples, not to mention the environment. Is it not once again obvious that something more that electing leftist politicians to high government office is going to be what it takes to ensure genuine social and political equality?
On June 12th the World Cup kicks off in Brazil; the country has been beset by protest in the run up to the tournament.
Last year up to a million people demonstrated across Brazil: protesting the vast expense of the World Cup, calling for better public services and an end to corruption. On June 3rd, the police were accused of heavy handedness as protestors gathered outside the World Cup Stadium in Goiania, during a friendly football match between Brazil and Panama. The demonstrators condemn the 15 billion dollars spent on the tournament which could have gone towards social services and improving living standards for the poor of Brazil. It’s the latest in a long line of demonstrations.
But now Brazil’s poor favela residents and the indigenous and tribal people have joined forces. On May 28th in Brasilia, 1,500 residents of the favelas, indigenous people, students and many other Brazilians from all walks of life took to the streets, gridlocking them for hours. Some occupied the roof of the Brazilian Congress, including members of the indigenous Guarani tribe who carried banners saying, ‘Guarani resiste, Demarcacao ja!’ ‘The Guarani are resisting. Yes to demarcation!’
Police fired tear gas and stun grenades into the crowd. One policeman was reportedly shot in the leg with an arrow.
At first glance the inhabitants of Brazil’s urban slums, the favelas, and the indigenous people of the Brazilian Amazon may not seem to have a common cause. But both groups face violence with impunity from police and the military, poverty, land insecurity, neglect by the authorities. The Brazilian government is brushing them under the carpet.
On June 9th the legendary Chief Raoni Metuktire and his nephew Chief Megaron Txucarramãe, members of the Mebengôkre Kayapó tribe in the Brazilian Amazon, will arrive in London to gather support for the Kayapó and for all the tribes across Brazil in their struggle to protect their ancestral lands and way of life. They are urging the Brazilian government to demarcate the region known as Kapôt-Nhinore, which is sacred to the Kayapó. They will be holding a press conference on June 9th – I will be there to speak in their support, as Founder and Chair of the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation (BJHRF).
It is a critical time for indigenous rights in Brazil. The Kayapó, and all the indigenous peoples of the Amazon are threatened; by mega-dams, illegal mining, logging, occupation by settlers and ranchers, and by companies and large corporations, by proposed legal reform and constitutional amendments which if allowed to go ahead will strip the tribes of their territorial rights, and endanger their livelihoods and cultures.
Throughout my life I have campaigned on behalf of indigenous peoples all over the world: in South America, Asia and Africa. I have witnessed the suffering of many of these ancient tribes, murdered, threatened, abused, forced from their homes and deprived of their way of life. Millions of indigenous people have become refugees in their own land and we don’t know how many thousands have lost their lives.
The values of indigenous people have shaped my relationship to the earth, and our responsibilities towards her. During my thirty years of campaigning for human rights, social justice and environmental protection, I have campaigned on behalf of many indigenous tribes in Latin America: the Miskitos and Mayangna in Nicaragua, the Yanomami, the Guarani, and the Surui Paiter in Brazil, the Cofán, Siona, Secoya, Kichwa, and Huaorani tribes in Ecuador, and the Quechua in Peru. I learned from their wisdom, and also from their courage. Traditional indigenous cultures use natural resources sustainably: forests, grasslands, rivers and wildlife, and preserve biodiversity. Protecting the rights of indigenous peoples is essential to our survival and that of the planet. Over and over again, indigenous peoples have been proven to be the best custodians of biodiversity in their ancestral lands.
Brazil’s 1988 constitution recognises that the Indians have an ‘Original’ and inalienable right to occupy and use their traditional lands. If it can be shown that the tribe historically occupied and used that area of land, it is theirs by right – it should become demarcated land.
Kapôt-Nhinore has already been surveyed by the indigenous agency FUNAI for demarcation, but the process has been stalled by bureaucracy, and is threatened by proposed changes to Brazil’s demarcation laws and constitution.
In the past Brazil had an average of thirteen demarcations per year. Under President Dilma Rousseff this number has sunk to three a year. The demarcation process has been crippled by an unrelenting barrage of legislative proposals from Congressmen representing large agribusiness, mining corporations and the dam industry, designed to wrest the land from the indigenous tribes and open it to development. It is unconscionable. I urge President Rousseff to halt the Proposed Constitutional Amendment (PEC215) which would further delay the process for demarcations and claims: and would result in few, if any further demarcations being approved.
Brent Millikan of International Rivers states, ‘constitutional amendment PEC 215 would transfer authority for demarcation of indigenous lands from the Executive branch to the Congress.’ Demarcation would become a political decision; power of the Executive being transferred to the Legislature, an abuse of the separation of powers, a foundation stone of the Constitution. Since the Congress is today dominated by the Bancada Ruralista – the large landowners’ lobby – it is highly unlikely that any demarcation would be granted. Even if it were, finding time for Congress to debate each demarcation would mean even more delays introduced into the process. Because the change would effectively be retrospective, Congress would also acquire the power to reduce or reverse territories (TI’s) which have already been demarcated.
I urge President Rousseff to halt PEC 215 and the other proposed amendments to the Brazilian Constitution and laws which are eroding the indigenous peoples’ right to their ancestral lands. Some proposals would open up indigenous territories for mineral and oil extraction – mining companies have already begun to lodge claims to the territory. Some would not only permit, but effectively force the indigenous people to allow cattle ranching and agriculture on their land. If allowed to go ahead, these changes could destroy the forest and traditional lives of the Kayapó and many other tribes across Brazil.
I call on the Brazilian government to enforce the Kayapó’s rights to their land, which are enshrined in the 1988 Constitution. I appeal for protection for the hundreds of tribes in the Brazilian Amazon who are continually threatened by landowners, illegal mining, logging, occupation by settlers and ranchers, and by companies and large corporations which continue to trade in produce from illegally farmed crops on indigenous territory, by reckless development projects which threaten their lives and livelihoods. Otherwise indigenous people will continue to be murdered, abused and pushed off their ancestral land.
Among the most monstrous of these projects is the Belo Monte Dam, which is under construction on the Xingu River in the Brazilian state of Pará, in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon. Belo Monte will be more than a dam; it is a megadam, the third largest in the world, which will displace 20,000 people and change the Amazon basin forever. It is a grave human rights violation and an environmental crime
I have campaigned against Belo Monte for many years. In March 2012 I went on a fact finding mission to the Xingu. Construction on the dam had then just begun. I travelled down the Xingu River in a small boat. I was accompanied by my courageous friend Antonia Melo, co-ordinator of Xingu Vivo, a collective of local NGOs opposed to Belo Monte, and Ruy Marques Sposati. We saw the great red scarred coffer dams, the beginnings of Belo Monte, rearing out of the river. I met with indigenous leaders, with local communities, NGOs, government officials, extractavists – and the Bishop of the Xingu, Dr Erwin Krautler, whose concern and care for the people affected by Belo Monte was evident. I was distraught by the suffering I witnessed in the area. I published my findings in a report on the Huffington Post: The Belo Monte Dam, an Environmental Crime. I urge you to read it. The people of the Xingu need our support.
And Belo Monte is only part of the plan: on 25 April 2014 it was disclosed in Lima, Peru that 412 dams are planned across the Amazon. 256 of them are in Brazil, 77 in Peru, 55 in Ecuador, 14 in Bolivia, six in Venezuela, two in Guyana, and one each in Colombia, French Guyana and Surinam. Five of the six rivers which run through the world’s largest tropical forest will be dammed – and damned. All over Brazil, even now, the Amazon’s waterways are being blocked and diverted. The river system that provides a fifth of the world’s fresh water is being dammed, polluted and fouled up.
It is imperative that indigenous rights, including the right to free, prior and informed consent, be respected in places like the Tapajós basin, in the heart of the Amazon, where the Brazilian government plans to construct up to 29 large dams, following the same destructive model as Belo Monte.
To the Kayapó each river, the sky, the rocks, all plants, trees and animals have a spirit. The Xingu River is sacred. At least five dams are planned upstream of Belo Monte. If these dams are built, it will be a grave human rights violation and cause irreparable environmental destruction in the Kayapó lands. Already the Kayapó are seeing the impact of the influx of some of the 100,000 workers and migrants who are flooding into the area, bringing overcrowding, disease, alcoholism, violence and prostitution. Anthropologist Paul Little released a report in April 2014, ‘Mega-Development Projects in Amazonia: A geopolitical and socioenvironmental primer.‘
The weight of these socio-environmental impacts is distributed in an extremely unequal manner. The majority of the benefits derived from the construction of mega-development projects accrue to… large multinational corporations, the administrative apparatus of national governments and financial institutions. The majority of negative impacts of these same mega-development projects are borne by indigenous peoples, who suffer from the invasion of their territories, and local communities, which suffer from the proliferation of serious social and health problems.’
In 2009 the Kayapó wrote a letter to Electrobras, the parastatal energy company that is partnering with huge construction companies such as Odebrecht, Andrade Gutierrez and Camargo Correa to build mega-dams in the Amazon and elsewhere in Latin America and Africa.
‘We do not accept Belo Monte or any other dam on the Xingu,’ they said. ‘Our river does not have a price, our fish that we eat does not have a price, and the happiness of our grandchildren does not have a price. We will never stop fighting: In Altamira, in Brasilia, or in the Supreme Court. The Xingu is our home and you are not welcome here.’
The Brazilian Amazon is one of the wonders of the world. It is critical to survival of the people of Brazil, and people throughout the world. A quarter of all land animal species are found in the Amazon. The rainforest absorbs around 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year. It is vital in the race against climate change. I urge President Rousseff to save it, and put a stop to Belo Monte and the other dams.
The plight of the Kayapó illustrates the failure of governments all over the world to protect indigenous peoples and their ancient way of life. The Kayapó have a rich and ancient culture. Their name for themselves, Mebengôkre, means ‘people of the space between waters,’ but the name ‘Kayapó’ was given to them by outsiders. It means ‘those who look like monkeys,’ probably from the traditional ceremonial dance in which the men wear monkey masks. I appeal to the Brazilian government to affirm the Kayapó’s rights to their sacred land in Kapôt-Nhinore, and to do everything in its power to protect them.
President Dilma Rousseff has a choice. I urge her to seize this leadership opportunity, to halt PEC215 and the other unconscionable, unconstitutional amendments and changes to law which will threaten indigenous peoples’ rights to their land across Brazil. If these proposals go ahead, hundreds of tribal cultures may disappear and Brazil will lose an irreplaceable part of its heritage.
Chevron Pollutes, Here’s What the People Did Back September 16, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in California, Energy, Environment.
Tags: amazon rainforest, chevron, chevron ecuador, chevron shareholders, ecuadorian amazon, environment, fossil fuel, pollution, richmond california, roger hollander, sen eberlein
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The oil giant is becoming notorious as shareholders, mayors, and indigenous people criticize its actions.
The heat is on for Chevron. The oil giant has for decades shirked responsibility for a multitude of toxic transgressions. Now, a diverse coalition of stakeholders burned by the oil giant’s dirty business is using people power to push back.
Last month, 3,000 protesters marched on Chevron’s refinery in Richmond, Calif., to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the explosion and toxic cloud that sent 15,000 residents to local hospitals with respiratory problems.
A lawsuit by Richmond’s mayor accuses Chevron officials of ignoring public safety concerns.
Seventy activist groups, as well as labor unions, nurses, and city residents, took to the front gates of the refinery, expressing outrage at Chevron for ignoring its own inspectors’ recommendations to replace the corroded steel piping and calling out the company for its continued refusal to make safety improvements.
Sunflowers in hand as symbols of soil detoxification, protesters like Doria Robinson of Urban Tilth, a local group that operates more than a dozen community gardens in Richmond, spoke about the devastating effects of the toxic plume on the local ecology.
“We had to tear out all of the food we were growing because we didn’t know if it was contaminated or not,” Robinson recalled. “It was absolutely devastating.”
A day earlier, Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin announced that the city had filed a lawsuit against Chevron, listing 14 other toxic gas releases since 1989 and accusing officials of maximizing profits and executive pay while ignoring public safety concerns.
Putting additional pressure on one of the biggest extractors of fossil fuel in the world, 350.org brought its Summer Heat campaign to the rally. They also brought author and activist Bill McKibben, who addressed the crowd and encouraged civil disobedience. More than 200 activists were arrested—including a 90-year-old grandmother. The arrests stopped only when the police ran out of zip cuffs.
Summer Heat came on the heels of another recent rally at the company’s Annual General Meeting, where Chevron shareholders got an earful at corporate headquarters in San Ramon, Calif.
“Just how many shareholders wish to be dragged to hell by the company’s lawyers?”
Concerned with issues ranging from its response to the $19 billion environmental disaster in the Ecuadorian Amazon, to the company’s unprecedented election-related spending, to its refusal to invest in renewable energy, several hundred protesters gathered to urge Chevron to clean up its act.
Servio Curipoma, who lost both his parents to cancer caused by billions of gallons of toxic wastewater Chevron/Texaco illegally dumped in the Amazon rainforest, told his tragic story to shareholders and presented Chevron CEO John Watson with a large, symbolic “pink slip.” Watson’s pledge to fight the Ecuador judgment “until hell freezes over” elicited a strong response from Simon Billenness, representative of Investor Voice and Zevin Asset Management. “Just how many shareholders wish to be dragged to hell by the company’s lawyers? This shareholder certainly does not.”
Chevron’s possibly illegal contribution to a conservative SuperPac during the 2012 election, the largest single contribution by a publicly traded company in the wake of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, received a lot of attention. Public Citizen arrived with 26,000 petition signatures and Green Century Management filed a shareholder resolution calling on Chevron to stop spending on elections.
The corporation’s refusal to become a responsible twenty-first-century business has awoken a sleeping giant.
“It is concerning that Chevron’s board of directors insists on spending unprecedented and increasing amounts in the election process,” said Lucia von Reusner, shareholder advocate for sustainable investment firm Green Century. “Chevron is rolling the dice with its spending and the losers are our democracy and shareholders.”
Before the end of the annual meeting, activists holding “Corporations are not people” and “Get big money out of politics” signs were greeted by a cheering group of cyclists descending on Chevron’s front gate with flags that read “Go Renewable” and “Free America from the tyranny of oil.”
While there are no signs that Chevron is going to give an inch, it’s safe to say that the corporation’s refusal to become a responsible 21st-century business has awakened a sleeping giant: the people. Keeping the heat on a corporation that made $26 billion in profits last year alone is no small task, but all the money is worth a little less if it no longer buys a polluter’s most coveted assets—public silence and apathy.
Sven Eberlein wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media project that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. Sven is a San Francisco-based freelance writer.
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
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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.
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
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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
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Tags: agribusiness, amazon, amazon jungle, amazon rainforest, benjamin dangl, Brazil, brazil government, catholic land pastoral, chico mendes, deforestation, deforesting, environment, environmental protection, jose claudio ribeiro da silva, Latin America, maria de espirito santo da silva, roger hollander
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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
Miami Herald Catches Chevron in Lie about Ecuador Well Site April 24, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Ecuador, Environment, Latin America.
Tags: amazon rainforest, chevron, Ecuador, environment, miami herald, oil spill, roger hollander, toxic waste
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|Written by Amazon Defense Coalition|
|Wednesday, 20 April 2011 21:04|
|Reporter finds oil sludge in “remediated” pit that’s part of Chevron’s fraud, plaintiffs say
The Miami Herald has caught Chevron in a blatant lie about its sham “remediation” in Ecuador that the company uses to defend against an $18 billion judgment in a case brought by indigenous groups.
In a story published in today’s newspaper [April 19], journalist Jim Wyss said he witnessed “thick oil slicks” only a few feet into the ground of a dirt-covered storage pit at well site Sacha 53 that Chevron told him the day before had been remediated.
Company lawyers have used the well site, as well as others, as examples of Chevron’s “remediation” that supposedly absolves the company of further liability.
After watching a man dig into the ground at the well site, Wyss wrote, “Within a few inches the dirt gives off the pungent odor of petroleum. Within a few feet the dirt glistens with oil residue. When a few handfuls of the soil are dropped into a bucket of water, a thick oil-slick coats the surface.”
The Herald article is significant because Chevron has claimed to U.S. Judge Lewis Kaplan of the Southern District Court of New York that the site is proof that Chevron is the victim of a racketeering scheme cooked up by the plaintiffs and their American and Ecuadorian lawyers.
The plaintiffs claim it is Chevron who is trying to cover up unlawful conduct in Ecuador, which led to the deliberate discharge of billions of gallons of toxic waste into the Amazon, killing off indigenous groups and causing an epidemic of cancer. The so-called Chevron clean-up, which took place between 1995 and 1998, has been found to be fraudulent by an Ecuadorian trial judge who ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.
The judge’s ruling, which came in a 188-page decision issued Feb. 14, was a massive blow to Chevron. The company could be liable for more than $18 billion in damages, with a final determination to be made by an Ecuador appellate court.
In a series of rulings over the last several months, Judge Kaplan – without having visited Ecuador and without even conducting an evidentiary hearing – has found that Chevron’s purported “remediation” might allow him to conclude the judgment from Ecuador is unenforceable in the United States. The plaintiffs in Ecuador have asserted they are free to enforce the judgment in any of dozens of countries around the world where Chevron has assets, regardless of what Kaplan decides.
They also argue that Judge Kaplan has no jurisdiction over the Ecuadorian plaintiffs.
In any event, the report in the Miami Herald is exactly the kind of firsthand evidence that Judge Kaplan is refusing to consider in his proceeding, said Karen Hinton, the spokesperson for the plaintiffs.
“The eyewitness account from the Miami Herald, along with massive evidence in the trial, puts the lie to Chevron’s claims to the U.S. court that it remediated the pits,” said Hinton.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs have long asserted Chevron’s remediation, which covered only 16% of the 916 waste pits left by the company, was a fraud used by the company to try to avoid liability for creating what experts believe is the world’s worst oil-related disaster. Two Chevron employees and several Ecuadorian government officials are under criminal indictment in Ecuador for lying about the clean-up results.
In 2002, Chevron had the case moved to Ecuador from U.S. federal court after submitting 14 separate affidavits claiming the court system in the South American nation was fair and transparent. The case was originally filed in New York in 1993.
After the trial in Ecuador began in 2003, testing at dozens of the oil pits left by Chevron in Ecuador began to show extensive levels of cancer-causing toxins. By 2007, when overwhelming evidence began to pour onto the court docket, Chevron changed its tune about Ecuador’s courts and began buying advertising in Ecuadorian newspapers saying it was the victim of a conspiracy.
Meanwhile, Judge Kaplan appears to have adopted Chevron’s view on the remediation agreement, writing in one opinion: “The release by Ecuador seems to have been intended to put an end to any claims or litigation concerning Texaco’s alleged pollution.”
The Miami Herald’s Wyss has a different account. He begins his story this way:
“Donald Moncayo (a plaintiffs’ representative) walks to the edge of a flat grassy field that once held two large pits that brimmed with a stew of water and crude from an oil-drilling operation. He lifts a heavy auger above his head and prepares to plunge it into the ground. “They (Chevron) always show you the shirt the coat and the tie,” he said of the area, called Sacha 53, which is now pastureland and spindly trees. “They never show you the tumor underneath the shirt.”
After describing the oil he saw and smelled only a few feet into the soil, he quotes Moncayo again:
“This is their remediation effort,” Moncayo says. “They’re no better than animals.”
Chevron’s PR representative in Ecuador, James Craig, attempted to explain the oil by asserting it may have “occurred naturally” or the Ecuadorians may have “spiked” the ground. He even claimed that if it Chevron didn’t completely clean the pit, the oil wouldn’t hurt anyone anyway.
In reality, thousands of Ecuadorians have suffered from cancer as a result of the exposure to Chevron’s pollution, according to several independent studies.
Chernobyl in the Amazon February 4, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Ecuador, Environment, Latin America.
Tags: amazon, amazon rainforest, avaaz, chevron, Ecuador, environment, indigenous, john watson, Latin America, oil spill, pollution, rainforest, roger hollander, texaco, toxic waste
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The final judgment is imminent after a long legal battle between oil giant Chevron and brave indigenous peoples of the Ecuadorian Amazon, who are seeking redress for the multinational’s dumping of billions of gallons of toxic waste in the rainforest.
If Chevron is forced to pay billions in damages, it’ll be a big step forward in bringing the world’s polluters to account. Staring defeat in the face, the oil giant has launched an aggressive last-ditch lobbying campaign to derail the lawsuit.
But Chevron’s newly-appointed CEO, John Watson, knows his corporation’s brand is under fire and is growing anxious about the risks of a public shaming campaign — so let’s turn up the heat! Sign the petition calling on Watson and Chevron to clean up their mess in Ecuador, and it will be delivered to them, their shareholders and the US media — click below to take action now:
Over the years, civic action like this has helped to transform the policies of some of the world’s biggest corporations. But most oil and gas multinationals spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year on lobbying and PR to reshape climate and energy policies and deny their environmental and human rights duties — and Chevron is one of the biggest offenders.
From 1964 to 1990, Chevron-owned Texaco deliberately dumped billions of gallons of toxic waste from their oil fields in Ecuador’s Amazon — then pulled out without properly cleaning up the pollution they caused. Facing imminent defeat in the courts, Chevron has turned to legal machinations, powerful public relations firms and lobbyists to intimidate its critics into silence and avoid responsibility for the massive environmental and human disaster it has triggered.
Chevron has repeatedly vowed to refuse to pay for a clean up even if ordered to by the court, saying “We will fight this until hell freezes over. And then we’ll fight it out on the ice.” Its latest strategy: pushing the US government to bully Ecuador into burying the case.
We cannot sit back and watch Chevron make a mockery of justice like this — let´s build a critical mass of support and help the rainforest inhabitants win this round, in the court of public opinion and before the law. Click here to sign the petition and help deliver a deafening message personally to Chevron´s new chief executive John Watson:
Citizens in Ecuador and around the world are joining efforts to stand up to one of the biggest and dirtiest corporations in the world. If we win, it’ll be another big step toward a future of corporate accountability, human rights and environmental protection. Let’s add our voices and spread the word today!
With hope and determination,
Luis, Paula, Benjamin, Pascal, Paul, Alice, Ricken, Graziela and the whole Avaaz team
PS – This campaign is part of a larger effort by Amazon Watch, Rainforest Action Network and other environmental and human rights allies worldwide.
ChevronToxico, the website of Amazon Watch’s Clean Up Ecuador Campaign, includes new video of affected Ecuadorians urging Chevron´s CEO to clean up oil pollution:
Wall Street Journal, “Chevron Plaintiffs Ask U.S. Court for Action”:
Politico, “Chevron’s lobbying campaign backfires”:
The Huffington Post, “Chevron and cultural genocide in Ecuador”,
Los Angeles Times, “Oil, Ecuador and its people”:
“CRUDE. The Real Price of Oil””, Joe Berlinger´s award-winning documentary film that chronicles the epic battle to hold oil giant Chevron accountable for its systematic contamination of the Ecuadorian – official website:
Want to support Avaaz? We’re entirely funded by donations and receive no money from governments or corporations. Our dedicated online team ensures even the smallest contributions go a long way — donate here.
ABOUT AVAAZ Avaaz.org is an independent, not-for-profit global campaigning organization that works to ensure that the views and values of the world’s people inform global decision-making. (Avaaz means “voice” in many languages.) Avaaz receives no money from governments or corporations, and is staffed by a global team based in Ottawa, London, Rio de Janeiro, New York, Buenos Aires, and Geneva. Click here to learn more about our largest campaigns. Don’t forget to check out our Facebook and Myspace and Bebo pages! You can also follow Avaaz on Twitter!