In a communiqué entitled "And We Break the Siege," signed by Insurgent Subcomandander Moisès, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) in Mexico's southern state of Chiapas on Aug. 17 announced an expansion of their zone of autonomous self-governing territory. The statement said the EZLN has created seven new "Caracoles" (regional self-governing bodies) and four new Zapatistas Rebel Autonomous Municipalities (MAREZ). These 11 new bodies add to the five Caracoles and 27 MAREZ already in existence, bringing to 43 the number of self-governing territories within the Zapatista autonomous zone. The new rebel entities are within the "official" municipalities of Ocosingo, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chilón. Tila, Amatenango del Valle, Motozintla and Chicomuselo. The Zapatistas have named their new campaign of expanding their territory in Chiapas "Samir Flores Soberanes," after the indigenous leader who was assassinated in Morelos state this year. (Roar, Excelsior, TeleSur)
The Colombia office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Aug. 11 urged the government to effectively protect the lives and physical and cultural integrity of the Nasa indigenous people amid a wave of assassinations in their territory in the southern department of Cauca. The statement noted attacks on members of the Nasa Indigenous Guard over the past 24 hours, in which two were killed—Gersain Yatacué in the community of Toribio and Enrique Güejia in the community of Tacueyo. These brought to 36 the members of the Nasa people killed so far this year, according to Alberto Brunori, the UN human rights officer for Colombia. That is nine more than in the same period last year, which Brunori said points to an "alarming situation" in Cauca. (Prensa Latina, Aug. 11)
Violent tensions are flaring in Bolivia's capital between rival factions of one of the country's coca-grower unions, which oversee sales to the legal market. Clashes broke out in early August between two factions of the Departmental Association of Coca Producers of La Paz (ADEPCOCA)—one loyal to President Evo Morales and his ruling Movement Toward Socialism (MAS), the other to imprisoned union leader Franklin Gutiérrez. The former group staged "parallel" elections for new union leaders in late July, but the latter refuses to recognize the poll, and continues to demand the release of Gutiérrez and other imprisoned unionists. The first clashes on Aug. 2 came as MAS supporters besieged the ADEPCOCA headquarters in the Villa Fátima district of La Paz, demanding that the Gutiérrez supporters surrender the offices.
A Special Report on Climate Change was released by the UN Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on Aug. 8, focusing on greenhouse gas emissions and its links to desertification, land degradation and food security. The report warns that the "rise in global temperatures, linked to increasing pressures on fertile soil," risks "jeopardizing food security for the planet." According to the report, about a quarter of the Earth's ice-free land area is subject to human-induced degradation, such as soil erosion and desertification. The effects of global warming have led to "shifts of climate zones in many world regions," further exacerbating land degradation, and leading to extreme weather conditions such as floods and droughts. The reports warns: "The stability of food supply is projected to decrease as the magnitude and frequency of extreme weather events that disrupt food chains increases."
Brazilian authorities are investigating the murder of an indigenous leader in the northern state of Amapá, in the Amazon region, where violence has escalated since a group of some 50 heavily armed men—believed to be garimpeiros, or outlaw gold-miners—reportedly invaded the Wajãpi indigenous reserve. On the morning of July 23, indigenous chief Emyra Wajãpi was found stabbed to death close to Waseity village where he lived, according to the Council of Wajãpi Villages (APINA). Three days later, the group of armed men appeared in the neighboring Yvytotõ indigenous village and threatened residents, forcing them to flee to the nearby village of Mariry, according to APINA.
A member of the Congolese environmental and human rights organization RIAO-RDC was killed by a security guard of the Canadian palm-oil company Feronia Inc on July 21, near the company's Boteka plantation in Bempumba, Eqauteur province, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The killing follows months of intimidation directed at members of RIAO-RDC, who are supporting local communities in filing a grievance against the company for its occupation of their lands. Joël Imbangola Lunea operated a motor-boat to transport people and goods between local villages and the city of Mbandaka. He was also a community activist and member of the NGO Information & Support Network of the DRC (RIAO-RDC), and was involved in mediating land disputes in the area. He was killed when his boat, filled with passengers and their luggage, was approached by a security guard who accused him of transporting stolen palm oil from the plantation. He was beaten and finally strangled to death, his body thrown into the Moboyo River. The security guard is now said to be in hiding.
International rights groups are demanding accountability from China in the death of Ji Sizun, the most recent victim of the ongoing crackdown on dissident lawyers in the People's Republic. On July 10, two months after being released from prison, Ji, 69, died from unknown illnesses, guarded by state security in a hospital in his native Fujian province. He had reportedly been ill-treated in detention. One of China's most prominent "barefoot lawyers," or self-taught legal advocates, Ji spent most of the past 10 years in prison. His release in April came after serving four and a half years on dubious charges of "gathering a crowd to disrupt public order" and "picking quarrels." Upon release, reportedly in a comatose state, he was taken straight to the intensive care unit of Xiangcheng District Hospital in his hometown of Zhangzhou. Police allowed only very limited visits by his family, prevented his friends from visiting, and warned family and friends alike not to speak publicly about his condition.
Thousands of illegal gold-miners (garimpeiros) have invaded Yanomami Park, one of Brazil's largest indigenous reserves, demarcated in 1992, and covering 96,650 square kilometers of rainforest in the states of Roraima and Amazonas, near the border with Venezuela. An incursion of this scale has not occurred for a generation, bringing back memories among Yanomami elders of the terrible period in the late 1980s, when some 40,000 garimpeiros moved onto their lands and about a fifth of the indigenous population died in just seven years due to violence, malaria, malnutrition, mercury poisoning and other causes.