land-grabbing

Peru leaks: oil company rewrote environmental law

Leaked e-mails between the leaders of Peru's Energy & Mines Ministry (MEM) and Environment Ministry (MINAM) reveal that Australia's Karoon Energy International provided "technical support" in the proposed reform of the Hydrocarbon Regulation that would eliminate requirement for an environmental impact study before oil exploration. In one e-mail. MEM chief Eleodoro Mayorga was directly reproached by MINAM head Manuel Pulgar Vidal for bringing Karoon into the process. This was among some 3,500 messages hacked by Anonymous Perú from the account of ex-prime minister René Cornejo, dubbed by the press "Cornejoleaks." Karoon has operations at Bloc 238 in the northern coastal department of Tumbes. (La Republica, Panorama via Celendin Libre, Aug. 12; Peru21, Aug. 11)

Mexico: Atenco campesinos face new land dispute

While historic leaders of the community protested nearby, an assembly in San Salvador Atenco, a town in México state northeast of Mexico City, voted on June 1 to allow the sale of almost 2,000 hectares of communal land to private parties. Members of the Front of the Peoples in Defense of the Land (FPDT) charged that they had been barred from the assembly, which they said was packed with people who were not participants in the ejido (communal farm) that legally controls the land. According to the FPDT, the June 1 vote was engineered by current ejido president Andrés Ruiz Méndez, a member of the governing centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), as part of the Ciudad Futura ("Future City") development plan for the region, which includes a new international airport for Mexico City and will disrupt the area's traditional farming practices.

Greater Addis Ababa plan sparks Oromo protests

Another battle for control over urban space is heating up in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa—concerning plans to expand the city's municipal boundaries and absorb several smaller outlying towns where the traditionally excluded Oromo people are still dominant. The "Integrated Development Master Plan" has sparked a wave of protests, principally by Oromo students. Official figures say seven have been killed by police in the protests since late April, but independent reports claim the death toll is more than 20. 

Mongol herders sentenced for resisting land-grab

A court in China's Inner Mongolia autonomous region on Dec. 31 handed down prison terms to six herders who protested the seizure of local grazing land by a forestry company. Four received suspended sentences and were released, while two remain behind bars because they refused to plead guilty, rights groups and relatives said. The trial took place in Ongniud (Chinese: Wengniute) banner (county), which was the scene of protests last year when traditional lands of the local at Bayannuur gachaa (village) were turned over to the state-run Shuanghe Forestry Co. The six were arrested in June on charges of "sabotaging production management"—apparently a reference to blocking company equipment. The four who were released had to pay "compensation" to the company. The remaining two, named as Tulguur and Tugusbayar, each received terms of two years. The trial was closed to the public, and their relatives were only told of the sentence several days later.  Nearly 200 herders staged protests in front of Ongniud city hall in late December as the case drew to a close. "The verdict is clearly unjust, this is a land dispute and not a criminal case," a lawyer for the defendants told Reuters by telephone, declining to be identified for fear of retribution.

Peru: mineral company evicts campesino family

Peru's Yanacocha mining company is implicated in another forced eviction of a campesino family in the northern Cajamarca region. Campesino Segundo Lindorfo Bolaños Atalaya said that on Jan. 19, a mixed force of National Police and Yanacocha security personnel ejected him from his plot within a predio (collective land holding) at Tragadero Grande, Sorochuco district, Celendín province. Bolaños insisted that, contrary to company claims, his plot of six hectares had never been sold to Yanacocha. The plot lies near Laguna Azul, which Yanacocha hopes to convert into a waste pit for the pending Conga project, a new expansion of its massive gold operations in the area. Bolaños charged that Yanacocha's exploration activities on the Conga site had contaminated his plot, which he has long worked with his family. (Celendín Libre, Jan. 23) 

Honduras: audit faults World Bank loan in Aguán

On Jan. 10 the World Bank's Office of the Compliance Adviser Ombudsman (CAO) released a report criticizing the process through which the bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) granted a $30 million loan in 2009 to the Honduran-based food-product company Corporación Dinant. An audit that the CAO started in April 2012 found that the IFC failed to apply its own ethical standards in issuing the loan, which is to be used in part for growing African oil palms in the Aguán Valley in northern Honduras. The Aguán's largest landowner is Dinant’s founder, the politically well-connected cooking oil magnate Miguel Facussé Barjum. Producing palm oil has become highly profitable, since the oil can be used both for food and as biofuel.

Occupy Phnom Penh dispersed

Four people were killed when Cambodian military police opened fire on garment factory workers marching to demand higher pay in a Phnom Penh  industrial zone Jan. 3. Hours later, police dispersed a protest camp that supporters of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) had maintained since mid-December in the city's Freedom Park. The move came as the government announced emergence measures barring public protests by the CNRP, which accuses the Hun Sen government of rigging elections held in July. The ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) accused the CNRP of using the deadly street clash as a "pretext" to suspend talks over the impasse. The Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Huamn Rights LICADHO decired the police violence as "horrific." (AFP, AP, Jan. 4; Reuters, Xinhua, Jan. 3)

Colombian ambassador to US resigns over land-theft scandal

Colombia's ambassador in Washington has resigned after being implicated in an alleged case of land theft, President Juan Manuel Santos said July 23. The ambassador, Carlos Urrutia, was involved in an ongoing scandal in which he repeatedly faced questions regarding his involvement in the appropriation of some 100,000 acres of land throughout central Colombia. In his resignation letter, Urrutia defended the legality of his actions: "I trust the legality of the legal argument that support the acquisitions. Unfortunately the political discussion has focused more on the background and there is resistance to hearing legal reasons that conclude the acquisitions were executed under the rule of law." Prior to his role as ambassador Urrutia was a major shareholder of the law firm Brigard & Urrutia, which is accused of facilitating the illegal lands transfers.

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