land-grabbing

Mexico: clashes over power plant in Morelos

Communal farmers from the pueblo of San Pedro Apatlaco in Mexico's Morelos state clashed Aug. 30 with federal riot police at a protest over construction of an aqueduct bringing water to a new gas-fired power plant under construction at nearby Huexca, Yecapixtla municipality. The clash took place as police tried to clear a bridge the protesters were occupying, linking the municipalities of Cuautla and Ayala through Apatlaco pueblo (which lies in Ayala). The farmers were attempting to bar a crew from the Federal Electric Commission (CFE) from blocking off a common area long used by residents for the aqueduct right-of-way. Troops from the new federal anti-riot force, the Unified Command (Mando Unico), were brought in to clear the bridge. Some 15 protesters were detained, with injuries reported on both sides. Opponents say the aqueduct will pass through more than 100 eijidos (agricultural collectives) and communcal lands, and that the affected communities were not consulted. There were similar protests two years ago over construction of the gas pipeline feeding the plant, part of the Morelos Integral Project (PIM). (El Sol de Cuautla, Diario de MorelosLa Jornada, Educa, Aug. 31; La Unión de Morelos, Excelsior, Aug. 30)

Iran: Ahwazi farmers protest land-grab

Dozens of Ahwazi Arab farmers held a demonstration in front of the headquarters of Iran's state sugar refinery, the Amir Kabir Company, near the regional capital Ahwaz on Aug. 25, protesting the parastatal's confiscation of over 1,000 hectares of agricultural land. The farmers from two villages, al-Shemria and Tel-Aswad, brought documents they said prove their ownership of the lands, which were seized for sugar-cane farming with no warning, legal justification or compensation. Representatives of the firm clashed with protesters after security forces threatened the demonstrators with arrest if they failed to leave the area around the entrance to the headquarters building.

Colombia: terror targets indigenous leaders

Village leaders report that a total of 18 indigenous campesinos in the north of Colombia's Cauca department have been killed this year, in a presumed paramilitary campaign of intimidation. In one case last month, a pregnant woman was among three slain when they were stopped on the road between the towns of Caloto and Santander de Quilichao. She was headed with her family on motorbikes to a local hospital when they were ambushed by gunmen and left dead on the road. Paramilitaries have left pamphlets in local villages warning them to drop their campaigns for restitution of usurped lands. (RCN, Aug. 23; Contagio Radio, July 22; Extra, Cauca, July 15))

Brazil Olympics amid invisible terror

More than 20 land rights activists have been killed in Brazil so far this year, with most deaths linked to conflicts over logging and agribusiness—ongoing terror amid the Olympics spectacle. According to data from Brazil's Pastoral Land Commision (CPT), 23 activists have been killed in 2016 for trying to protect forests from illegal logging and the expansion of cattle ranches and soy plantations. Fifty land rights campaigners were killed in Brazil last year, up from 29 in 2014, according to the UK-based advocacy group Global Witness. Released as the Olympic Games opened in Rio de Janeiro, the figures indicate a crackdown on land rights campaigners in South America's biggest country, with indigenous people particularly affected. "For many visitors to the Rio Olympics, Brazil is synonymous with its vast, plentiful rainforests and traditional ways of life," said Global Witness campaigner Billy Kyte in a statement. "Yet the people who are trying to protect those things are being killed off at an unprecedented rate."

FARC threatens to disavow renegade units

A threat to the Colombian peace talks emerged this month, as some FARC units unilaterally attacked government forces and declared their non-compliance with the ceasefire—in repudiation of the guerilla army's high command. On July 8, a unit of the FARC's 55th Front attacked troops of the army' 2nd Mobile Brigade in the vereda (hamlet) of Candilejas, Uribe municipality, Meta department. An uncertain number of casualties on the guerillas' side was reported. The government's chief peace negotiator, Humberto De la Calle, said the attack was "an error on the part of the FARC," and that the guerillas' chief negotiator Iván Márquez had taken responsibility for it. (El Colombiano, July 12; El Tiempo, El Espectador, July 11) 

China: victory for anti-pollution protesters

The mayor of Xiantao in central China's Hubei province announced suspension of a waste incinerator project after a wave of protests—but residents continue to take to the streets in defiance of authorities. Mayor Zhou Wenxia in a rare public address announcing the suspension June 26 urged residents not to attend "illegal gatherings" or engage in "irrational actions." Some 10,000 people nonetheless filled the streets. Protests have conintued since then, with several injured in clashes with riot police. Authorities have flooded Xiantao with riot troops and placed restrictions on use of instant messaging and the Internet to organize "illegal gatherings" and demonstrations.

Peru: incoming admin threatens communal lands

Peru's president-elect Pedro Pablo Kuczynski has unveiled a platform that calls for privatizing and "individualizing" communal lands to facilitate mineral and agribusiness development. On June 10, PPK's "virtual" minister for Economy and FinanceAlfredo Thorne, told Lima's Radio Capital: "A big part of the properties where the mines are located are today communal property. These properties must be individualized, to give the individual the power to use his land, or to sell it to a mining company or sell it for agriculture." He said he is already working on a map of Peru's properties, to begin "interchanging communal titles to individual titles."

Pressure on Mexico to free peasant ecologist

An indigenous Mexican ecological defender is now in his seventh month behind bars, despite calls for his relase from Amnesty International, Greenpeace and other human rights and environmental groups. Ildefonso Zamora was arrested by México state police last November, in connection with a 2012 robbery. But Amnesty finds "the charge is unsubstantiated and seems to be politically motivated." A leader of the Tlahuica indigenous people, Zamora served as president of the communal lands committee at his pueblo of San Juan Atzingo. In this capacity, he had long protested illegal logging on usurped communal lands in México state's Gran Bosque de Agua—which protects the watershed that supplies Mexico City. Amnesty notes that the prosecution's witnesses described the events "using the exact same words, as if reading them from a script." The rights group says this points to fabricated testimony, and demands that he be immediately and unconditionally released.

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