The Amazon
Loreto

‘Law of Genocide’ introduced in Peru

In the midst of the political crisis gripping Peru, reactionary elements in the country’s Congress have launched an initiative to repeal the 2006 law establishing reserves to protect isolated indigenous peoples in the Amazon rainforest. AIDESEP, Peru’s trans-Amazonian indigenous alliance, is calling Law Project 3518/2022 the “Law of PIACI Genocide”—a reference to the Spanish acronym for Indigenous Peoples in Isolation or Initial Contact. The AIDESEP statement also charges that the congressional Commission on Decentralization & Regionalization submitted the bill without first seeking clearance from the Commission on Andean & Amazonian Peoples, which holds authority in the matter. AIDESEP believes that the PIACI population in Peru is roughly 7,500 people—5,200 in isolation and 2,300 in a process of initial contact, mostly in the regions of Loreto and Madre de Dios. But a new alliance in support of oil, timber and other extractive industries, the Coordinator for the Development of Loreto, asserts that their existence is “not proven.” (Photo of Loreto rainforest via Pixabay)

Planet Watch
Chiquitania

Podcast: climate change and the global struggle III

In Episode 151 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes a tellingly ironic juxtaposition of simultaneous news stories: the COP27 global climate summit in Egypt and the World Cup games in Qatar—where mega-scale stadium air-conditioning betrays the fundamental unseriousness of our civilization in addressing the impending climate apocalypse. The COP27 agreement for a “loss and damage” fund stopped short of demands for climate reparations—a critical question for island nations that stand to disappear beneath the waves, flood-devastated Pakistan, and indigenous peoples of the fire-ravaged Bolivian Amazon. Petro powers like Russia and Saudi Arabia formed a bloc to bar any progress on limiting further expansion of oil and gas exploitation, while the Ukrainian delegation called for a boycott of Moscow’s hydrocarbons, and pointed to the massive ecological toll of Russia’s war of aggression. Meanwhile, the world population reached 8 billion, providing an excuse for groups like PopulationMatters to proffer the Malthusian fallacy even as the rate of population growth is actually slowing. Worldwide indigenous and peasant resistance to hydrocarbon exploitation points to a revolutionary answer to the crisis. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image: Bolivian campesino volunteer fire-fighter. Credit: Claudia Belaunde via Mongabay)

The Amazon
santacruz

Bolivia: soy boom fuels Santa Cruz unrest

Bolivia’s eastern lowland city of Santa Cruz has been rocked by roadblocks and street clashes since an indefinite paro (civil strike) was called by right-wing opposition groups last month. With the open support Santa Cruz departmental governor Fernando Camacho, strikers are demanding that a new census be held next year rather than in 2024, as is currently scheduled. The last census was in 2012, and the region’s population has swelled with an influx of migrants since then. At issue is greater funding for the department, and more slated congressional seats ahead of the 2025 elections. Resentment against the central government is in large part driven by the designs of the region’s land barons to expand the agricultural frontier into the expansive terrains declared off-limits as protected areas, reserves for indigenous peoples, or the titled holdings of campesino communities. A boom in soy and beef for export is especially fueled by Chinese investment and market demand. (Photo: Pixabay)

Southern Cone
Lula

Tough congress for Brazil’s new indigenous caucus

In Brazil’s general elections, five self-identified indigenous candidates won seats as federal deputies and two as senators—the highest number in the country’s history. The most celebrated victory was that of SĂ´nia Guajajara, a leader of her own Guajajara people in MaranhĂŁo state who has emerged as a voice for indigenous peoples on the national stage, and now takes a seat as deputy. But this new “Bancada do Cocar” (Feathered Headdress Caucus) will face tough odds in a generally more conservative National Congress. More seats were won by supporters of the reactionary outgoing president Jair Bolsonaro, and especially the Bancada Rural (Rural Caucus, dominated by the agribusiness lobby), in both the lower and upper houses. (Photo of indigenous leaders with president-elect Lula da Silva via Mongabay)

The Amazon
VRAE

Protests as US troop mission approved for Peru

Peru’s Congress, at the behest of President Pedro Castillo’s government, voted to approve the entry of US military troops for participation in anti-drug and anti-terrorism operations. But the vote was protested by voices within Castillo’s own Partido PerĂş Libre (PPL), with legislator Kelly Portalatino calling it a “sign of submission.” Previous such US troop missions have seen operations in the Valley of the ApurĂ­mac and Ene Rivers (VRAE), a key coca cultivation zone. Campesinos of the VRAE Federation of Agrarian Producers (FEPAVRAE) have just announced a region-wide indefinite paro (civil strike) in protest of ongoing government coca-eradication campaigns. (Photo: FEPAVRAE)

The Amazon
COICA

Indigenous peoples issue urgent call for Amazon

More than 500 indigenous leaders from across the Amazon, meeting in Lima, issued an urgent call for the world to act against the destruction of the planet’s largest rainforest. The statement, “Amazonia Against the Clock,” was approved by the Coordinating Body of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA), at a summit of representatives from nine countries. The statement invokes the Emergency Motion 129 issued last September in Marseille by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), calling for “permanent protection” of the remaining 80% of intact rainforest by 2025. (Image via Twitter)

The Amazon
Trujillo Arana

Indigenous leader slain in Venezuelan Amazon

A Venezuelan indigenous leader who fought against incursions by Colombian armed groups and outlaw gold miners into the country’s southern rainforest was shot dead in Puerto Ayacucho municipality, capital of Amazonas state. Virgilio Trujillo Arana, a member of the Uwottujja people, was the leading force in creation of the Sipapo Territorial Guards in Autana municipality, Amazonas. The Territorial Guard patrols were launched with support from the Amazonas Indigenous Peoples’ Regional Organization (ORPIA). (Photo: SOS Orinoco)

The Amazon
cofan

Ecuador: indigenous rainforest defenders honored

Two indigenous leaders in Ecuador who successfully fought against mining on their ancestral lands were awarded the prestigious Goldman Prize for environmental activism. Alex Lucitante and Alexandra Narváez of the Cofán indigenous people organized patrols, and used drones and camera traps to document gold mining operations within their traditional territories. Their evidence was crucial in securing a legal victory that resulted in 324 square kilometers of rainforest being protected from mining. The Cofán community sued the Ministry of Mines, asserting that the concessions violated their right to prior consultation. The SucumbĂ­os provincial court ruled for the Cofán in 2018, ordering a halt to the mining operations. In a review of the case this February, Ecuador’s Constitutional Court upheld the decision and widened its scope, holding that the state has an obligation to ensure that indigenous communities undergo a consultation process before any extractive activity is approved on or near their territories. (Photo: Goldman Environmental Foundation)

The Amazon
Ato Pela Terra

Brazil: bill to open indigenous reserves to mining

Under the slogan “Ato Pela Terra” (Stand for the Earth), thousands of protesters, including some 150 indigenous leaders from eight ethnic groups, gathered for the biggest environmentalist demonstration ever held in Brazil’s capital, protesting a series of bills dubbed the “death package” by critics. The package being pushed by President Jair Bolsonaro would open indigenous reserves to a wide range of economic activities, including mineral exploitation. This measure, assailed as unconstitutional, is actually opposed by the Brazilian Mining Institute (IBRAM), which issued a statement calling it “inappropriate” and warning that it would give legal cover to informal “garimpo” mining in the Amazon rainforest. But Bolsonaro maintains the measure is mandated by the Ukraine war, which has threatened supplies of strategic minerals, including the key fertilizer ingredient potassium. Brazil, the world’s top soy producer, imports 80% of its fertilizer—20% from Russia, its biggest supplier. (Photo via Twitter)

The Amazon
OCP

Pipeline rupture in Ecuador’s Amazon fouls river

Ecuador’s trans-Andean Heavy Crude Pipeline (OCP) ruptured amid heavy rains, spilling oil into a sensitive area of Napo province and contaminating several rivers draining into the Amazon Basin, including the Napo, Piedra Fina, Quijos and, most seriously, the Coca. The contamination also penetrated Cayambe-Coca National Park. Pipeline operator OCP Ecuador didn’t announce that it had stopped pumping through the stricken line until the following day, and at first denied that any waterways had been contaminated. This was repudiated in a statement from the Confederation of Amazonian Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONFENIAE), which cited reports from impacted Kichwa communities and tweeted a video showing crude polluting the Rio Coca. (Photo: Ecuador Ministry of Environment via EcoWatch)

The Amazon
Guiana shield

French troops hunt outlaw miners in Guiana

France has dispatched hundreds of army troops to the overseas territory of French Guiana, to hunt down outlaw gold miners who have destroyed thousands of hectares of rainforest along the Maroni River. But apprehending the garimpeiros is nearly impossible; they abandon their camps and dredges and melt into the jungle as the troops approach. Some 9,000 illegal miners are believed to be operating at around 150 sites across the territory—up from little more than 100 a decade ago. The garimpeiros, however, are the smallest links in a chain, paid a pittance—while the dealers they sell the gold to race up and down the river in speedboats. “We’re only catching the little guys,” admitted French Guiana’s public prosecutor Samuel Finielz. (Map of Guiana Shield: WikimediaCommons)

The Amazon
Peter Gorman

Podcast: entheogenic adventures with Peter Gorman

In Episode 99 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg interviews an old friend and colleague—legendary journalist, naturalist and adventurer Peter Gorman, who reflects on his long years collecting (and personally sampling) psychoactive and shamanic plants, from the Peruvian Amazon, to the Rif Mountains of Morocco, to the Palani Hills of southern India. Now approaching 71, Peter is about to head back down to the Amazon to revisit the remote Matsés indigenous people, who he first contacted in 1985. His latest collection of first-hand accounts is Magic Mushrooms in India & Other Fantastic Tales. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo courtesy of Peter Gorman)