The Andes
yaku

Indigenous candidate upsets Ecuador elections

Ecuador is heading to a run-off presidential race in April after leftist candidate Andrés Arauzof the Union of Hope (UNES) coalition won a first-round victory, following years of economic austerity made more painful by the pandemic. However, in a surprise development, his rival leftist Yaku Pérez Guartambel of the indigenous-based Pachakutik party emerged neck-to-neck with conservative banker Guillermo Lasso of the right-wing Creating Opportunities (CREO) party. The vote is still too close to call which challenger Arauz will face in the April run-off. Pérez portrays UNES and CREO alike as parties of the right that have embraced an economic model based on resource extraction. (Photo: Revista Crisis)

The Andes
paro

Peru: high court rules ‘social protest’ protected

In a decision made very timely amid new mobilizations against oil and mineral operations on peasant and indigenous lands, Peru’s high court struck down a provision of the country’s penal code that rights advocates said criminalized the right to “social protest.” The ruling by the Constitutional Tribunal voided an amendment to Article 200 of the Penal Code that had been instated under Legislative Decree 1237, issued by then-president Ollanta Humala in September 2015. The decree expanded the definition of “extortion” to apply not only to use of force to gain “economic advantage” but also “advantage of any other nature.” This expanded definition has been used to bring criminal charges against protesters who have blocked roads or occupied oil-fields or mining installations. (Photo: IDL)

The Andes
Chumbivilcas

Peru: campesino ecological defenders acquitted

Following a trial lasting years, a criminal court in Peru’s Cuzco region finally absolved 10 campesinos from Chumbivilcas province of charges related to a 2011 protest against the ANABI mineral project, which they say threatens the headwaters of the Rio Yahuarmayo. The defendants‚ÄĒnine men and one woman‚ÄĒare followers of the Tupac Amaru Agrarian Federation of Cuzco (FARTAC). They had been charged with “disturbance,” “deprivation of liberty,” “aggravated property damage,” and other offenses typically used against protesters in Peru. If convicted, they could have faced up to 30 years in prison. The ANABI gold and copper mine is in neighboring Apur√≠mac region, but the minerals are transported through Chumbivilcas on unimproved roads, raising dust that contaminates local lands and waters. (Photo: Wayka)

Southern Cone
Salar de Atacama

Chile: lithium interests under pressure by uprising

Chilean company Sociedad Quimica y Minera (SQM), under pressure from the government amid falling prices and rising protests, committed to define by year’s end the destination for lithium from its lease area at the Salar de Maricunga. SQM, one of the world’s top producers, already has a larger lithium mine in production at another area of salt-flats, the Salar de Atacama‚ÄĒbut operations there were suspended for several days¬†as campesinos blocked roads to the site as part of the popular uprising in Chile. Leaders of the Consejo de Pueblos Atacame√Īos, representing 18 indigenous communities, pledged to resist any expansion of lithium operations in the area, citing threats to local water sources.¬†(Photo via¬†El Ciudadano)

The Andes
lithium fields

Bolivia: lithium interests at play in Evo’s ouster?

Bolivia’s government issued a decree cancelling a massive joint lithium project with German multinational ACI Systems Alemania‚ÄĒjust days before the ouster of President Evo Morales. The move came in response to protests by residents in the southern department of Potos√≠, where the lithium-rich salt-flats are located. Potos√≠ governor Juan Carlos Cejas reacted to the cancellation by blaming the protests on “agitators” seeking to undermine¬†development in the region. Plans for lithium exploitation were first announced over a decade ago, but have seen little progress‚ÄĒin large part due to the opposition of local communities, who fear the region’s scarce water resources will be threatened by mining.¬†(Photo: Wikipedia)

The Amazon
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 Andes

Venezuela further opens oil sector to China

The Venezuelan government has announced an expansion of Chinese investment in the country’s oil industry, with the aim of increasing production by 120,000 barrels per day.¬†The investment, placed at $3 billion, will underwrite the construction of a new oil blending plant inaugurated this month as the first part of the two-stage plan. The “Jose” plant, in Barcelona, Anzo√°tegui state, is to be run by Sinovensa, a joint venture 49% owned by the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and 51% by Venezuela’s PDVSA state oil company. The facility will blend extra-heavy grades from Venezuela’s Orinoco Oil Belt into the exportable Merey crude, primarily for Asian markets.¬†(Photo via¬†VenezuelAnalysis)

The Amazon

‘Silk Road’ to Peruvian Amazon?

Peru is to sign a memorandum of understanding to join China’s Belt & Road international infrastructure initiative, Beijing’s ambassador to Lima said. The announcement coincided with a Beijing summit to promote the initiative, also known as the New Silk Road, where¬†Peru’s trade minister stated that a revision of Lima’s Free Trade Agreement with China will be implemented next year.¬†These announcements come amid growing environmentalist concern over the Hidrov√≠a Amaz√≥nica, a Chinese-backed mega-project aimed at further opening Peru’s eastern rainforests to resource exploitation. (Photo: Segundo Enfoque)

Oceania

Solomon Islands: ‘irreversible’ oil spill disaster

The Solomon Islands' Prime Minister Rick Hou is threatening to "blacklist" the companies involved in a 100-ton oil-spill near a UNESCO World Heritage Site. "The impact on the marine life and the coral is already massive with much of it irreversible," he said. The bulk carrier MV Solomon Trader ran aground a month ago off Rennell Island, while loading bauxite ore in a cyclone. Because of the storm, it took salvage crews several days before they could reach the stricken craft. Compounding the damage, Indonesian-owned Bintan Mining, which chartered the vessel, continued to operate as the oil flowed into the sea, with other ships maneuvering around the wreckage, churning up the oil. Rennell Island, known locally as Mugaba, is home to some 1,840 people, who overwhelmingly rely on fishing for their livelihood. The World Heritage Site covers the world's largest coral atoll. (Photo via Radio Australia)

The Andes

Bolivia next for Latin ‘regime change’ offensive?

US senators Ted Cruz, Bob Menéndez and Dick Durbin introduced a resolution calling on Bolivia's President Evo Morales not to stand for re-election this October. Cruz said Bolivia is going in a "very dangerous direction, aligning itself with illegal and illegitimate regimes, including that of [Nicolás] Maduro in Venezuela. It is important that all parties respect the constitution of Bolivia, which includes term limits." Bolivia saw a wave of strikes and protests after a December ruling by the country's Supreme Electoral Tribunal allowing Morales to run for a fourth consecutive term in the 2019 election. The resolution comes just as Bolivia has announced a new partnership with Chinese company Xinjiang TBEA Group to exploit the country's valuable and largely untapped lithium deposits. China has for years been seeking deals to exploit Bolivia's strategic lithium reserves, in what some see as a global design to establish a "stranglehold" on the planet's rare earth minerals. (Photo via NACLA)

Southern Cone

Chinese ‘spaceport’ military outpost in Argentina?

Announcement of a joint Chinese-Argentine satellite production company comes amid growing concern within Argentina about activities at the Chinese-operated "spaceport" at Bajada del Agrio in Patagonia—and the apparent role of the People's Liberation Army in the facility. The Bajada del Agrio facility played a part in tracking China's recent lunar probe, but is overseen by companies that answer directly to the PLA's General Armaments Department. Only personnel authorized by Beijing have access to the facility, arousing much suspicion about the site in Argentina's news media. (Photo via InfoBae)

Central America
Berta Caceres

Honduras: justice at last for Berta C√°ceres?

A court in Honduras convicted seven men in the 2016 murder of indigenous rights activist Berta Cáceres. Until her assassination Cáceres had been leading a campaign against the Agua Zarca dam, a joint project by Honduran company Desarrollos Energéticos SA (DESA) and Chinese-owned Sinohydro. The dam was being built on the Rio Gualcarque without prior consultation with the Lenca indigenous community that depends on the river for their food and water. Cáceres, who won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015, had received numerous threats for her activism against the dam before she was killed by gunmen at her home in the town of La Esperanza. Two of those convicted are former DESA managers. (Photo by UN Environment/ONU Brasil via Wikimedia Commons)