The Caribbean
Kenyan soilders

Kenya-led intervention force approved for Haiti

The UN Security Council voted to approve a multi-national armed force led by Kenya to combat violent gangs in Haiti—marking the first time in nearly 20 years that foreign forces are to be deployed to the Caribbean nation. Kenya’s foreign minister said that his country wants to go beyond tackling the gangs, helping to strengthen infrastructure and restore democracy in Haiti, where elections have been repeatedly postponed due to the violence. But many have voiced skepticism about deployment of the force, asking how it will work if Kenyan troops don’t speak French or Kreyol, and questioning the wisdom of sending personnel from a military criticized at home for human rights abuses. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The Andes
Ecuador

UN: poverty, oppression at root of Ecuador crisis

UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty & Human Rights Olivier De Schutter issued a report citing impoverishment and exploitation as the “root cause” of the fast-mounting violence and instability in Ecuador. Criminal groups exploit the desperate while gang wars deepen desperation, in a “vicious cycle linking insecurity and poverty.” Following a 12-day visit to the country, De Schutter warned against a purely militarized response to the crisis that ignores social and economic factors. (Image: Nicolas Raymond via Flickr)

The Amazon
yasuni

Win for rainforest in Ecuador elections

Winning 60% support in Ecuador’s election is a ballot measure to permanently bar oil drilling from YasunĂ­ National Park, a world biodiversity hotspot in the Amazon rainforest. Parastatal PetroEcuador must now halt extraction at Bloc 43, which lies near the heart of the reserve. Likewise approved by a wide margin was a referendum on halting copper, gold and silver mining activity in the ChocĂł Andino de Pichincha, a biosphere reserve outside of Quito. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

The Andes

Oil intrigues behind Ecuador auto-golpe

President Guillermo Lasso dissolved Ecuador’s opposition-controlled National Assembly—just one day after his impeachment trial began. Lasso is to rule by decree until new elections are held. In the impeachment proceeding, Lasso stood accused of extortion and embezzlement related to alleged corruption at parastatal oil company Petroecuador and hydrocarbons transporter Flopec, allowing unprofitable contracts to benefit “third parties.” The country’s oil industry has been in crisis for nearly a year, repeatedly placed under force majeure by protests and sabotage of the trans-Andean pipeline. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Planet Watch
paramilitaries

Podcast: against global paramilitarism

In Episode 168 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg examines the suddenly booming global phenomenon of paramilitarism—the official armed forces of a given state or its repressive apparatus seeking an extension in the private sector, citizen militias, or irregular forces. This is a method generally resorted to when state power is in crisis, and contributes to a general militarization of society. Examples from Russia, West Africa, Sudan, Burma, Ecuador, Israel and finally Texas point to a dangerous and ultimately fascistic new model of both imperialism and internal policing and repression. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: Contagio Radio)

The Andes
paro

Oil spike sparks national uprising in Ecuador

Ecuador’s national indigenous alliance CONAIE announced an “indefinite” paro (general strike), in response to a sudden jump in petrol prices. Things escalated when CONAIE leader Leonidas Iza was arrested in Cotopaxi province, where he was apparently participating in a blockade of the Panamerican highway. He was held at a military base, but released the next day following angry protests over his detention and a CONAIE call for “radicalization” of the campaign. Roadblocks are reported in at least 14 of the country’s 24 provinces, including Pichincha, where the capital Quito is located. CONAIE has presented the government of President Guillermo Lasso with a list of 10 demands. These include, in addition to a drop in fuel prices, a  moratorium on new oil and mineral leases, and reparations to communities impacted by extractive projects. (Photo: Kawsachun News)

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
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 Andes
Quito police

Ecuador: president extends state of emergency

Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso extended the country’s state of emergency by a second 30 days. The decree is ostensibly an attempt to combat the insecurity generated by drug-related crime and re-establish public order. It provides for the mobilization of military forces to assist the functions of the National Police in several provinces. The emergency was originally declared last month for a period of 60 days, but the duration was reduced to 30 days by Ecuador’s Constitutional Court. The renewed state of emergency will be enacted in nine of the 24 provinces in the country. (Photo via Wikipedia)

The Andes
Yaku PĂ©rez

Ecuador: protests in wake of disputed elections

Hundreds of indigenous protesters rallied outside the offices of Ecuador’s National Electoral Council (CNE) in Quito to demand a recount of the presidential vote. Third-place finisher Yaku PĂ©rez of the indigenous-based Pachakutic party, eliminated from the run-off election to be held in April, led a week-long cross-country march of his supporters from Loja province in the south which repeatedly blocked traffic on the Pan-American Highway before arriving in the capital for the rally. He then led a delegation to the CNE office, carrying boxes with more than 16,000 statements purporting to show irregularities. At the demonstration, his supporters chanted, “Transparency yes, fraud no!” (Photo of Yaku PĂ©rez, on bicycle, 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
Amazon deaths

COVID-19: Amazon indigenous groups fear the worst

Indigenous leaders are warning that a combination of neglect, inadequate preparations, and a lack of lockdown measures is exposing remote and vulnerable communities in the Amazon to potentially devastating outbreaks of COVID-19. The major Amazon River ports of Manaus and Iquitos are among the hardest hit cities in South America, and deaths are already reported from indigenous communities deep in the rainforest, where health services are virtually non-existent. Communities already threatened by wildfires and illegal logging could be pushed to the brink in the coming months. (Photo: InfoRegión)