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."
A new spill on Peru's northern trans-Andean oil pipeline has contaminated a rainforest community—the fourth rupture from the 40-year-old pipeline this year. Villagers from the indigenous community of Uchichiangos noticed the new leak early on Aug. 10, according to a representative of the province of Condorcanqui, Amazonas region. Some 90 local residents have been affected, with 12 homes damaged by oil, and 15 hectares of yucca and other crops fouled. Parastatal PetroPerú, which runs the pipeline, has acknowledged the spill in a statement, vaguely blaming it on "third parties."
The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on Aug. 8 affirmed (PDF) a lower court ruling that barred Ecuadoran plaintiffs from collecting a $8.646 billion Ecuadoran judgment against Chevron Corp. The lower court had concluded in 2014 that the Ecuadoran judgment was obtained through corruption and fraud and barred the plaintiffs' attorney, Steven Donziger, from attempting to enforce the judgment or profit from the award anywhere in the world. The appeals court affirmed the lower court's judgment that concluded that Donziger and his team had secretly authored the judgment and offered the Ecuadoran judge $500,000 to sign it. The appeals court also said that the lower court's decision does not invalidate the judgment and does not prevent the enforcement of the judgment outside the US. The dispute arises from allegations by Ecuadoran plaintiffs of Chevron's role in environmental damage in the Amazon rainforest. Chevron disputes these claims, while Donziger maintains his innocence and that he is the victim of a coordinated campaign against him by Chevron.
A New York Times reporter followed a a force of Peruvian marines and rangers in a raid against illegal gold-miners in the Tambopata Nature Reserve, in the country's southern Amazon. Upon finding mining camps along the Río Malinowski, troops slashed bags of rice and plastic barrels of drinking water before setting everything on fire. But, massively outnumbered by perhaps 10,000 illegal miners in the area, they seem to be fighting a losing battle. They soon ran out of dynamite and resorted to a less sophisticated tactic: using mallets to smash the truck engines that miners use to power their derricks.
Peru's northern trans-Andean oil pipeline suffered its third serious rupture of the year June 24, spilling over 1,000 barrels of crude into an expanse of the Amazon rainforest. An area of 16,000 square meters is said to be contaminated in Barranca district, Datem del Marañón province, Loreto region. PetroPerú, the parastatal that runs the pipeline, has instated an emergency "contingency plan" and says it has contained the spill. But a preliminary report by the Dátem del Marañón Health Network, part of the Loreto Regional Health Office (DIRESA) warns that contract workers and local residents involved in the clean-up effort lacked special equipment.. Health risks could include "poisoning and burns" from direct exposure to the oil. (EFE, June 27; La República, RPP, Peru21, Mongabay, June 25; El Comercio, June 24)
Colombia's feared anti-riot force, the ESMAD, used tear-gas June 20 against campesinos occupying lands in the Amazonian department of Caquetá to block oil exploration efforts. Seismic activities are being carried out in the municipalities of Valparaiso and Milan y Morelia by a contractor for firm Emerald Energy. Protest leader José Antonio Saldarriaga said: "We defend our territory, the water and the future for the next generations... It caused us much sadness that 95% has been displaced by violence, and now that we are returning, the multinationals want to displace us for extractive projects." the new blockades come almost a year after three local campesinos were gravely injured in a similar police operation to break up a blockade of seismic exploration workers. UK-based Emerald Energy was purchased by China's Sinochem in 2009. (Contagio Radio, June 21)
The US Supreme Court on June 6 declined to hear an appeal by the government of Ecuador of a $96 million arbitration settlement awarded to Chevron oil company. The high court let stand a 2015 decision by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, upholding the 2013 award in Chevron's favor issued by The Hague's Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Netherlands. Texaco, which was acquired by Chevron in 2001, originally brought suit in Ecuador for breaking terms of oil contracts and international agreements. Chevron initiated the arbitration proceeding at The Hague in 2006, seeking to hold Ecuador's government liable for damages from pollution of the rainforest. Chevron claimed Ecuador violated provisions of a 1997 investment treaty by failing to resolve lawsuits in a timely fashion. With interest, the arbitration award stands at approximately $106 million, Chevron said. Other Chevron cases related to matter before The Hague panel remain pending. (AP, Reuters, OilPrice, June 6; Chevron press release, Aug. 31, 2011)
Peru's President Ollanta Humala declared a 60-day state of emergency in the rainforest region of Madre de Dios in response to reports of mercury poisoning by outlaw gold-mining operations. According to country's Environment Ministry, as many as 50,000 people or 41% of the population of Madre de Dios, have been exposed to mercury contamination. The government plans to send hospital ships and loads of untainted fish to the area, where mercury has contaminated local waterways. Illegal gold production has increased five-fold in Peru since 2012, and it is estimated to provide 100,000 direct jobs in the country, 40% of which are in Madre de Dios. Peru is the world's sixth largest gold producer, but an estimated 20% of its annual output is of unknown origin. (Mining.com, La República, May 24)