Meeting June 2 in Puerto Ayacucho, Amazonas state, Venezuela's Coordinating Body of Indigenous Organizations of Amazonas (COIAM) issued a statement protesting President Nicolás Maduro's Decree No. 841 of March 20, which creates a commission to oversee bringing illegal gold-miners in the rainforest region under government control. The program falls under the Second Socialist Plan for the Nation, charting development objectives from 2013 through 2019, with an emphasis on the "Orinico Mineral Arc." But the mining has caused grave ecological, cultural and health impacts on the Yanomami and other indigenous peoples of the area. COIAM is demanding a moratorium on all mineral activity in the Guayana administraive region, which covers the southern Orinoco basin in Amazonas and the adjacent states of Bolívar and Delta Amacuro. (See map.) (Sociedad Homo et Natura, June 9; COIAM, June 2; Survival International, Nov. 7, 2013)
Amnesty International called on Peru's authorities to ensure that all those suspected of criminal responsibility in the Bagua violence are brought to justice, in a statement issued June 5, the fifth anniversary of the incident that left 33 people dead. Demonstrators and police were killed when troops fired on a road blockade launched to protest against a series of laws allowing for the exploitation of natural resources on indigenous lands. During the violence, 23 National Police officers were killed, along with 10 civilians. Hundreds more were injured. So far only protesters have been brought to trial. "If the Peruvian authorities are truly committed to bringing to justice those suspected of criminal responsibility for these deaths, it is not enough to punish the protesters and ignore possible abuses by the police," said Guadalupe Marengo, Amnesty's Americas deputy program director.
A new report issued by Peruvian NGO Environmental and Natural Resrouces Law (DAR) counts 412 hydro-electric dams to be built across the Amazon basin and its headwaters if current plans go ahead, potentially leading to the "end of free-flowing rivers" and contributing to "ecosystem collapse." Of the 412 dams already in operation, under construction or proposed, 256 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, said anthropologist Paul Little at the launch of the English version of the report, "Mega-Development Projects in Amazonia: A Geopolitical and Socioenvironmental Primer." (PDF). The report finds: "This new wave of dam building in the headwaters of the Basin is a 'hydrological experiment' of continental proportions, yet little is known scientifically of pan-Amazonian hydrological dynamics, creating the risk of provoking irreversible changes in rivers." (The Guardian's Andes to the Amazon blog, May 6)
Ecuador's government on May 6 turned down a petition for a referendum on plans to open Yasuni National Park to further oil exploration. The National Electoral Council determined that not enough signatures were collected—a claim rejected by the group Yasunidos, which led the drive. Electoral authorities validated 359,781 of the 850,000 signatures collected, well under the 583,323 needed under Ecuadoran law. The electoral council said it found numerous duplicate or otherwise invalid signatures. "Almost seven out of 10 signatures were thrown in the bin," Yasunidos said on its Twitter feed. "The council talks about irregularities. We talk about fraud." Yasunidos vowed to take its complaint to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. (Plan V, Ecuador, May 7 via UDW; BBC News, May 6)
Brazilian police have closed down a notorious security firm accused of killing at least two Guarani leaders, and brutally attacking hundreds more. Gaspem was described as a ‘private militia’ by public prosecutors who had called for the closure last year. Ranchers reportedly paid Gaspem 30,000 reais (US$ 13,400) each time it evicted Guarani Indians from their lands, which are now occupied by sugar cane and soya plantations, and cattle ranches. The company's owner, Aurelino Arce, was arrested in 2012 in connection with the murder of Guarani leader Nísio Gomes. For years, the Guarani have been appealing for the company to be shut down. A judge's decision to force the company to close marks a huge victory for Guarani communities across the central state of Mato Grosso do Sul.
Emilio Marichi Huansi, the apu or traditional chief of the indigenous Shawi community of Santa Rosa de Alto Shambira (Pongo de Cainarachi district, Lamas province, San Martín region), was assassinated April 5—two days before the opening a meeting of apus that had been called by the Shawi Regional Federation of San Martín (FERISHAM) to discuss the process of demarcating and titling the group's ancestral territories. FERISHAM said in a statement that he was killed by sicarios (hitmen) and that he had received threats from local "mafias" and "traffickers in land" who oppose the process of demarcation. (Kaos en La Red, April 12; Servindi, April 10)
Chevron Corporation on March 18 filed (PDF) for reimbursement of attorneys' fees against attorney Steven Donziger and others in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York. Chevron prevailed earlier this month in its lawsuit against Donziger for fraud and racketeering and demands compensation for over $32 million the company allegedly spent in attorneys' fees associated with the trial. The racketeering trial was brought by Chevron in retaliation for a 2011 lawsuit between the same parties in which Donziger prevailed. That lawsuit, brought by Donziger and litigated in Ecuador, found Chevron liable for 8.6 billion for polluting large areas of the Ecuadorian rain forest. Chevron subsequently brought and prevailed on charges that the Ecuadorian lawsuit was a "multinational criminal enterprise" intended to defraud and extort "one of the best-known companies in the world."
A judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York on March 4 ruled (PDF) that US courts may not be used to collect $9.51 billion in fines and legal fees from an Ecuadoran court's judgment against Chevron. Judge Lewis Kaplan wrote in his near 500-page ruling that the punishment inflicted against Chevron was not justified, and that the Ecuadoran court's judgement "was obtained by corrupt means." Kaplan asserted that fraudulent evidence had been introduced in the case, and that lawyers arranged to write the opinion against Chevron themselves by coercing a judge. Hewitt Pate, Chevron vice president, stated regarding the judgment, "We are confident that any court that respects the rule of law will likewise find the Ecuadorian judgment to be illegitimate and unenforceable." Lawyers for Ecuadoreans reported that they will be filing an appeal, saying the decision "constitutes a mockery of the rule of law and will not serve to reduce the risk the oil company faces in the imminent collection of the sentence dictated against it by the Ecuadorean justice system."