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)

The Andes
Bambas

Peru: pueblos divided on Bambas mega-mine

Chinese-owned MMG Ltd¬†announced that it has secured approval from Peru’s Ministry of Energy & Mines (MINEM) to expand its copper mine at Las Bambas, despite ongoing outrage from local campesino communities. The country’s fourth-largest copper mine and the world’s ninth-largest, Las Bambas has been repeatedly shut down by peasant protests since it opened in 2016. The most recent blockades were launched in February by residents of several pueblos, to oppose excavation of a second open pit at the facility. Ahead of approval of the expansion, MINEM secured a pledge by some 20 communities to lift their blockades and refrain from further protest actions in exchange for agricultural aid. However, the pueblo closest to the Chalcobamba pit rejected the deal. Huancuire pueblo, Apur√≠mac region, said the community had agreed to take all necessary “legal and social” measures to prevent excavation of a second pit. (Photo: Wikimedia)

Central America

Honduras transition in the New Cold War

Hondurans elected self-proclaimed¬†“democratic socialist”¬†Xiomara Castro to be the country’s first woman president. The wife of Manuel Zelaya, the populist president who was removed in a coup in 2009, Castro pledges to revive his program‚ÄĒand take it much further, instating far-reaching reforms. Castro also announced that she will “open diplomatic and commercial relations with continental China,” which was widely taken as meaning a switch of diplomatic recognition. Honduras is currently one of only 14 countries that recognize Taipei rather than Beijing.¬† It is tragic to see the Central American republics, in their struggle to break free of Washington’s orbit, acquiesce in Beijing’s design to incorporate Taiwan into its own orbit‚ÄĒor, more ambitiously, its national territory. ¬†(Map:¬†Perry-Casta√Īeda Library)

The Amazon
bloc 58

Peru: indigenous opposition to Chinese gas project

A new coalition of Amazonian indigenous groups and environmentalists has come together in Peru to demand oversight and accountability in the development of a huge new hydrocarbon exploitation bloc in the rainforest. The China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) won exploitation rights in 2017 at Bloc 58, in the Upper Urubamba zone of Cuzco region, after explorations revealed some 3.9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves, enough to increase Peru’s total gas reserves by nearly 28%. But Bloc 58 overlaps with the traditional territories of the Ash√°ninka and Machiguenga¬†indigenous peoples. The newly formed¬†Amazon Indigenous Platform for Monitoring Chinese Investment in Peru is demanding that exploitation proceed at Bloc 58¬†only in compliance with the internationally recognized right to “prior and informed consent” of impacted indigenous peoples. (Photo via Andina)

Mexico
torreon

Mexico: apology for 1911 massacre of Chinese

Mexico’s President Andr√©s Manuel L√≥pez Obrador officiated over a ceremony in Torre√≥n, Coahuila, where he issued an apology for the 1911 massacre of more than 300 members of the city’s Chinese community at the hands of revolutionary troops. The president said the objective of the apology was to ensure “that this never, ever happens again.” Also on hand was Coahuila Gov. Miguel √Āngel Riquelme, who said racist ideas fueled “genocidal killings” during a “convulsive” period of Mexico’s history. Also attending the ceremony was Chinese Ambassador Zhu Qingqiao. (Photo of 1911 taking of Torre√≥n via Wikipedia)

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 Amazon
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)