China in Latin America

Criminal gangs threaten Maya Biosphere Reserve

An Oct. 8 report on Yale University's Environment 360 website, "In the Land of the Maya, A Battle for a Vital Forest" by William Allen, states that "In Guatemala's vast Maya Biosphere Reserve, conservation groups are battling to preserve a unique rainforest now under threat from Mexican drug cartels, Salvadoran drug gangs, and Chinese-backed groups illegally logging prime tropical hardwoods." The Maya Biosphere Reserve covers approximately the northern third of what Allen calls the "Selva Maya," Central America's largest remaining expanse of rainforest, which stretches across the northern half of Guatemala and also extends into the Mexican state of Chiapas to the west and the country of Belize to the east. More taditionally, the forest is called El Petén within Guatemala and the Selva Lacandona on the Mexican side of the border. Allen cites Guatemala's National Council for Protected Areas (CONAP) to the effect that international criminal networks are now the biggest threat to the Selva Maya. Cattle ranching and logging have long been eating into rainforest—but now in a convergence with organized crime:

Peru: Cajamarca regional strike remobilizes

Despite recent statements indicating that the planned mega-scale Conga gold mine in Peru's northern Cajamarca region will be suspended, Yanacocha mining company has started work on a reservoir at Laguna Chaugallón near the proposed concession area, apparently in preparation for the project—sparking a new wave of protests from local campesinos. Wilfedo Saavedra, leader of the Cajamarca Defense Front, said that the regional paro (civil strike) to oppose the project would remobilize on Sept. 21, when comuneros (communal peasants) from Bambamarca province will blockade operations at the site. "We will return to protest because the Newmont company has received permission to complete the first part of the project, which consists of construction of the reservoirs," Saavedra said, referring to the US-based Newmont Mining Company which is the majority holder in Yanacocha.

Peru: peasants protest Chinese mining project

The campesino communities of Ayavaca and Huancabamba in Peru's northern Piura region held assemblies Aug. 16 and issued a statement pledging to resist recently announced plans by Chinese mining company Zijin to move ahead with the long-contested Río Blanco copper project. The communities cited the need to protect threatened watersheds, wetlands and cloud forests in the high Andean region, noting that they have been officially listed as "fragile ecosystems" under Peruvian law. The local jalca ecosystem, which exists only in Peru's northern Andean regions near the border with Ecuador, is richer in water than the more arid high plains known as punas elsewhere in the country. Read the statement: "Ayavaca and Huancabamba are today more alert than ever and ready to commit our lives for the defense of water for future generations." (Megaproyectos, Aug. 16; CONDESAN)

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