Andes: repression ahead of Lima climate summit

On Dec. 3, a group of Shuar indigenous women from Ecuador's Amazon arrived in Quito to demand an investigation in the death of community leader José Tendetza Antún, who was planning on travelling to Peru for the Lima climate summit this month to press demands for cancellation of a mining project. Tendetza represented that Shuar community of Yanúa, El Pangui canton, Zamora Chinchipe province (see map). He disappeared Nov. 28 while on his way to discuss the mine matter with officials in the town of Bomboíza. The community launched a search, and his body was found Dec. 2 by local gold-miners. But the remains were turned over directly to the authorities, and quickly buried. Shuar leaders are demanding they be exhumed, and an autopsy conducted. Shuar leader Domingo Ankuash said based on what the miners said, he believes Tendetza had been beaten to death, and perhaps tortured.

Tendetza was an outspoken opponent of the pending Mirador mining project, and planned to denounce the scheme before the Tribunal on the Rights of Nature that activists are planning for the Lima summit. The Mirador open-pit project is being developed by Ecuacorriente—originally a Canadian-owned firm that was brought by a Chinese conglomerate, CCRC-Tongguan Investment, in 2010. According to opponents, the project will devastate around 450,000 acres (182,000 hectares) of forest.

Other Shuar opponents of the Mirador project have lost their lives as a result of the conflict in recent years, including Freddy Taish in 2013. "The authorities are complicit in this crime," Ankuash asserted. "They will never tell us the truth."

The latest killing highlights the violence and harassment facing activists in Ecuador, following the confiscation last week of a bus carrying climate campaigners who planned to denounce president Rafael Correa at the Lima summit. The bus was stopped by police at least six times before finally being seized. The delegration on the bus particularly sought to denounce Correa's decision to allow oil drilling in the Yasuni protected area. "We believe our presence in the summit would not benefit Correa, because we will question and denounce what he’s doing with Yasuni," said Mateo Martínez, a member of the Yasunidos group, who was on the bus. (The Guardian, Dec. 6; El Universo, Guayaquiil, Dec. 4; The Guardian, Dec. 3)

Protests in Peru
Peru, hosting the climate summit, is facing such issues as well—especially the September murder of Asháninka indigenous leader Edwin Chota, which has won coverage in the New York Times and especially its Dot Earth blog. Winning less foreign coverage is that the repression comes amid an ongoing loosening of environmental oversight in Peru.

On Nov. 5, President Ollanta Humala submitted a bill to Peru's Congress that would approve a joint project with Ecuador to develop the Matapalo hydro-electric dam on the border of the two countries, near the coast, which would impact the Cerros de Amotape National Park. On Oct. 11, Ministry of Culture issued a regulation exempting municipal governments from having to seek Ministry approval for development projects that could impact the "cultural heritage of the nation"—a clear reference to archaeological sites. (Jornal de Arequipa, Nov. 28)

The UN summit, officially the Conference of the Parties (COP 20) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, is to be held at Lima's Westin Hotel and Convention Center in the upscale San Isidro district. It will be paralleled by an activist-organized People's Summit on Climate Change, to open Dec. 8 in Lima's downtown Exposition Park at the invitation of the city's left-wing mayor Susana Villarán, who will officiate at the opening. The activist summit will culminate with a march on Dec. 10 under the banner "System Change, Not Climate Change." (Servindi, Dec. 2; FSRN, Dec. 1)

  1. Statement against ‘financialization of nature’

    Ecuador's Acción Ecológica was among the groups to issue a statement ahead of the Lima summit, "To Reject REDD+ and Extractive Industries," opposing the false alternatives of either destroying the rainforests with breakneck resource extraction or preserving them through their "financialization" under such programs as carbon trading, embraced by the UN process known as REDD+. The statement charges that REDD+ seeks to "turn indigenous territories and agricultural lands into both carbon dioxide 'sinks' and water or biodiversity 'banks'." While alienating indigenous and peasant communities of their territories, REDD+ is actually counter-productive to its stated aim of slowing deforestation, the statement charges.

    [F]rom the perspective of fighting against deforestation, this mechanism is also absurd: the more deforestation and threats to forests there are, the greater the number of REDD+ projects that can be justified and implemented with the goal of selling this 'scarce' carbon commodity. Thus, with REDD+, the forests and soils' capacity to absorb carbon and retain it, and plants' capacity to photosynthesize, breed water, grow and generate biodiversity are being quantified, monetized, appropriated, privatized and financialized, just like any other commodity. The 'environmental services' trade also fuels the impunity of polluters and destroyers: instead of complying with laws that prohibit polluting and deforestation, they can 'compensate' for these ills. This trade also diverts attention from combatting climate change, as it does not attack the cause. The urgent need to stop extracting fossil fuels and halt industrial agriculture and monoculture plantations, and to guarantee respect for the rights of indigenous people, dependent forest people and peasants to manage and control their territories is not on the negotiating agenda. As a result, the spiral continues and grows.

    The statement, online at the No REDD in Africa Network, has been signed by some 20 indigenous, campesino and ecological groups, mostly in Latin America.