Gold mining in Peru has razed almost 62,500 hectares of rainforest —an area over ten times the size of Manhattan—between October 2012 and October 2016, according to a new report by the Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP). While the tendrils of gold mining are spreading across the country, the region of Madre de Dios still accounts for the vast majority of mining-related deforestation to date, MAAP researchers write.
The Central of Indigenous Communities of Tacana II Rio Madre de Dios (CITRMD), representing the Tacana people of Pando department in the Bolivian Amazon has issued a letter to the ministries of Justice and Environment requesting urgent government intervention to protect "uncontacted" indigenous peoples threatened by oil operations. The CITRMD said "footprints and broken branches" among other evidence were found within the operations area of BGP, a subsidiary of the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC). September letters by BGP to Bolivia's state oil company YPFB, to which it is contracted, noting this evidence, as well as one physical encounters with "originarios." CITRMD is urging BGP and the government to respect "their wish not to be contacted." (The Guardian, Oct. 27)
Luiz Alberto Araújo, who headed the environment department for the municipal government of Altamira in Brazil's Amazonian state of Pará, was killed by two unknown gunmen Oct. 13. The assailants drove up to his car and fired nine shots into him, in front of his wife and two step-sons. Nothing was stolen and the killing is believed to have been a political assassination. In his endeavors to enforce environmental legislation in the largely lawless Amazonian region, Araújo made powerful enemies. Earlier this year, he provided information to the Federal Police and Federal Public Ministry that prompted them to launch Operaçāo Rios Voadores (Flying Rivers Operation). This crackdown on illegal logging enterprises led to 24 arrests—including that of the ring-leader, Antonio José Junqueira Vilela Filho, known as AJJ. He and his son were accused of illegally invading rainforest lands, extracting valuable timber, and clearing the remaining forest and turning it into cattle pasture.
After 37 days, indigenous protesters in Peru's Loreto region lifted their blockade of the Río Marañon Oct. 7 as the central government acceded to their demand that a high-level delegation be sent to their remote community of Saramurillo, Urarina district. The delegation—led by Rolando Luque, head of the National Office for Dialogue and Sustainability and vice-minister for interculturality Alfredo Luna—met with indigenous communities at a local installation of the state firm PetroPeru. The communities were represented by their spokesman José Fachin, while the region's Bishop Miguel Olaortúa moderated. But things turned heated Oct. 12, when indigenous leaders demanded that presidential advisor on social conflicts Jorge Villacorta leave the table. The conflict began in a dispute over whether indigenous leaders from outlying communities would be paid to attend the next meeting. The meeting broke down into shouting, and a physical altercation threaeted, before Villacorta agreed to leave. The river remains open with the next meeting still pending. The government has declared an "environmental emergency" in the distrcits of Urarinas and Parinari over the recent pipeline spills, shipping in potable water. But local communities are demanding the North Peru Oil-duct be closed until its safety is assured, as well as greater social investment in their jungle zone. (La República, Oct. 13; RPP, RPP, Oct. 12; RPP, Oct. 8; RPP, Oct. 7)
Peru's government announced Sept. 28 that an official delegation will meet with indigenous protesters who have been blockading a main tributary of the Amazon River to protest pollution caused by a recent spate of oil spills. As many as 2,000 protesters have blocked river traffic on the Río Marañon since the start of the month. They have demanded that President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski fly into the rainforest to meet with them. Kuczynski instead said he will send a delegation to meet with the protesters and report back. Protest leaders contend they will only attend the meeting if the delegation includes cabient chief Fernando Zavala. There is also the controversy about where the meeting is to take place. It is now slated for Kuczynski’s hometown of Iquitos, the Amazon riverport which is the major city in Loreto region Protesters want the meeting to take place in the community of Saramurillo in Urarinas district, near where the protests are taking place—10 hours from Iquitos by boat.
Peru launched its first satellite into space this month, to monitor illegal mining, logging and other extractive activities in the country's vast stretch of the Amazon rainforest. The Peru SAT-1, developed with French aid and the most sophisticated in Latin America, was launched Sept. 15 from Kourou Spaceport in French Guiana and monitored from the Satellite Images National Operations Center (CNOIS) in Pucusana, south of Lima. The satellite bears the logo of Peru's space agency, CONIDA, with the words "Kausachun Peru" (Viva Peru in Quechua). (Peru This Week, Nature, Sept. 15)
Following a trial lasting seven years and four months, a court in Peru's Amazonas region on Sept. 22 absolved 52 indigenous leaders in charges related to the 2009 Bagua massacre. Initially, charges were brought against 53, but one defendant died over the course of the proceedings. The Penal Chamber of Bagua district found insufficient evidence that the accused indigenous protesters had handled firearms at the scene of the massace, in which at least 32 lost their lives. The defendants faced charges in the deaths of 12 police officers at the scene. The violence began when National Police troops attacked protesters blocking the road at Devil's Curve on June 5, 2009—yet no police officer or commander has served time for the massacre. The incident came amid indigenous protests over changes to Peru's land tenture system pushed through in preparation for the Free Trade Agreement with Washington and aimed at opening the rainforest to oil exploitation.
More than 20 land rights activists have been killed in Brazil so far this year, with most deaths linked to conflicts over logging and agribusiness—ongoing terror amid the Olympics spectacle. According to data from Brazil's Pastoral Land Commision (CPT), 23 activists have been killed in 2016 for trying to protect forests from illegal logging and the expansion of cattle ranches and soy plantations. Fifty land rights campaigners were killed in Brazil last year, up from 29 in 2014, according to the UK-based advocacy group Global Witness. Released as the Olympic Games opened in Rio de Janeiro, the figures indicate a crackdown on land rights campaigners in South America's biggest country, with indigenous people particularly affected. "For many visitors to the Rio Olympics, Brazil is synonymous with its vast, plentiful rainforests and traditional ways of life," said Global Witness campaigner Billy Kyte in a statement. "Yet the people who are trying to protect those things are being killed off at an unprecedented rate."