The Amazon
uncontacted

COVID-19 threatens Amazonian peoples

As the coronavirus spreads around the globe, with more than 200 deaths already reported in Brazil, an evangelical Christian organization has purchased a helicopter with plans to contact and convert isolated indigenous groups in the remote Western Amazon. Ethnos360, formerly known as the New Tribes Mission, is notorious for past attempts to contact and convert isolated peoples, having spread disease among the Zo’é living in northern Pará state. Once contacted in the 1980s, the Zo’é, lacking resistance, began dying from malaria and influenza, losing over a third of their population. Ethnos360 is planning its conversion mission despite the fact that FUNAI, Brazil’s indigenous affairs agency, has a longstanding policy against contact with isolated groups. Their so-called “missionary aviation” contact plan may also violate Brazil’s 1988 constitution and international treaties. (Photo: “Uncontacted” tribe in Acre state photographed from FUNAI helicopter in 2011. Via Mongabay.)

The Amazon
Bagua defendants

Peru: high court upholds acquittal of Bagua defendants

More than 10 years after the Bagua massacre in the Peruvian Amazon, sparked when National Police troops attacked a roadblock by indigenous protesters, a magistrate at the penal chamber of Peru’s Supreme Court of Justice absolved 53 of the protesters, who had faced criminal charges. A lower court had cleared the accused protesters, all indigenous Amazonians, in September 2016. Last year, the high court confirmed this ruling on charges of homicide, assault and theft of police firearms. But charges of riot, disruption of public services and illegal firearm possession remained outstanding until this second decision. Peru’s Legal Defense Institute, which represented the defendants, also called on the high court to review the light sentences given to six National Police officers, including three generals, who were convicted by a police tribunal in relation to the massacre but are now all free. (Photo: IDL)

The Amazon
Sierra del Divisor

Court bars oil exploitation in Peru’s Sierra del Divisor

A court in Peru’s Loreto region issued an order blocking all oil exploration or exploitation within a vast area of the Amazon rainforest along the Brazilian border, citing the presence of isolated or “uncontacted” peoples in the zone and the impossibility of obtaining their “prior consultation.” The order affects three oil blocs within Sierra del Divisor National Park. The case was brought in 2017 by the Regional Organization of Indigenous Peoples of Oriente (ORPIO), challenging the move by state agency PeruPetro to auction leases for the blocs. (Photo: Mongabay)

South Asia

Modi and Bolsonaro: twin threat to tribal peoples

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Brazilian President Jair Messias Bolsonaro met in New Delhi, pledging a “new chapter” in cooperation between their two countries, especially naming counter-terrorism and exploitation of minerals, hydrocarbons and other natural resources. The juxtaposition of security concerns and extractivism is telling, as both leaders prepare to repress opposition to their plans to open the traditional territories of indigenous peoples to industrial interests. (Photo: Survival International)

The Amazon
Amazon burning

ICC receives request to investigate Bolsonaro

Groups including Brazil’s Human Rights Advocacy Collective (CADHu) and the Dom Paulo Evaristo Arns Commission for Human Rights (Comissão Arns) submitted a written recommendation to Fatou Bensouda, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), reporting the need for a preliminary examination into genocide and systematic attacks against indigenous people by the government of President Jair Bolsonaro. (Photo: pixundfertig/Pixabay via Jurist)

The Amazon
Pachamama

‘Dubia Cardinal’ rages against Pachamama

Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, one of the two remaining “dubia cardinals” who dissented from a perceived liberal tilt in the Catholic Church, praised the men who stole the controversial “Pachamama statues” from a church in Rome during last month’s Amazon Synod and threw them into the Tiber River. The German cardinal hailed the perpetrators as “courageous prophets of today.” The statues, representing the Earth Mother deity of many traditional peoples in South America, had been used in events and rituals during the Amazon Synod, which brought together 185 bishops from across the Amazon Basin. The Synod was also attended by indigenous leaders, and issued a final statement stressing the threat of climate change and the need for a concept of “ecological sin.” (Photo: National Catholic Reporter)

The Amazon
Forest Guardian

‘Forest Guardian’ assassinated in Brazilian Amazon

A young indigenous Guajajara leader was murdered in the Brazilian Amazon, raising concerns about escalating violence against forest protectors under the government of President Jair Bolsonaro. Paulo Paulino Guajajara, 26, was shot in the head and killed in an ambush in the Araribóia Indigenous Reserve, in the northeast state of Maranhão. Paulo was a member of “Guardians of the Forest,” a group of 120 indigenous Guajajara that organize volunteer patrols to fight illegal logging in the Araribóia reserve, one of the country’s most threatened indigenous territories. (Photo of Paulo Paulino Guajajara via Mongabay)

The Amazon
Chiquitano

Forest devastation sparks protest in Bolivia

Hundreds of thousands marched in Bolivia’s eastern lowland city of Santa Cruz, calling for President Evo Morales to be “punished” at the polls in the upcoming elections. Although the march was called by the city’s Comité Cívico, a voice of the right-wing opposition, a key issue was the devastation of the country’s eastern forests in the wildfires that have swept across the Amazon Basin over the past months. Comité Cívico leaders accused Morales of failing to respond adequately to the fires. Last month, the Comité held a mass assembly in Santa Cruz, where they declared a state of “national disaster” over the fires. (Photo: InfoBae)

The Amazon

‘Development’ deal to ‘protect’ (=destroy) Amazon

The US and Brazil announced an agreement to promote private-sector development in the Amazon rainforest. US officials said a $100 million fund will be established to “protect biodiversity” by supporting businesses in hard-to-reach areas of the forest. As if to drive home how cynical all this is, just days later Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro in his address to the UN General Assembly unabashedly asserted his right to go on destroying the Amazon, saying it is a “fallacy” to describe the Amazon as the heritage of humanity and a “misconception” that its forests are the lungs of the world. (Image via Veganist)

The Amazon

Bolsonaro to The Hague?

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro failed to attend the summit of leaders of seven South American countries with Amazon Basin territory to address the devastating fires now consuming the rainforest. Duque claimed a medical emergency, and was represented by his foreign minister at the meeting in Colombia’s Amazonian city of Leticia. Just before the Leticia summit opened, a group of international attorneys specializing in human rights and environmental law announced that they will file a complaint against Bolsonaro for crimes against humanity and the environment at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The attorneys, including the former French ambassador for human rights François Zimeray, will seek to have Bolsonaro indicted for his failure to respond to the fires in a timely manner. (Photo via Mongabay)

Africa
Africa fires

Central African forests burning faster than Amazon

Central Africa’s rainforests are currently being consumed by a vast system of forest fires dwarfing even those that are ravaging the Amazon. Hundreds of thousands of hectares have been engulfed by flames over the past weeks—to comparatively little notice in the world media. French newspaper La Voix du Nord states, “In Angola, the Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Zambia, thousands of fires consume phenomenal amounts of vegetation.” Since the beginning of 2019, it is the DRC that has recorded the most fires, far ahead of Brazil. NASA attributes the fires to “widespread agricultural burning,” as farmers employ slash-and-burn methods to clear land for crops. (Photo: FIRMS)

The Amazon

Amazon forest fires spread to Bolivia

President Evo Morales announced that Bolivia has contracted a Boeing 747 “Supertanker” to help extinguish huge forest fires in the Amazon have that have spread over the border from Brazil. He has also mobilized army helicopters to evacuate affected communites deep in the rainforest. Although Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has been openly encouraging the destruction of the Amazon, dropping barriers to the clearing of forest by agribusiness and resource interests, he is now floating the baseless conspiracy theory that the fires were set by NGOs that oppose his government in an effort to discredit him. Indigenous and environmental groups in Bolivia, however, accuse the supposedly left-wing Evo Morales of more quietly instating similar policies. (Image: Planet Labs Inc via Mongabay)