The Amazon

Brazil high court ruling sparks indigenous protest

At their annual protest encampment in Brasilia, some 4,500 indigenous people from across Brazil marching on the Supreme Court building to oppose a recent ruling that could negatively impact demarcation of indigenous territory. The case concerned Provisional Measure 870, signed by President Jair Bolsonaro on his first day in office, shifting responsibility for indigenous reserve demarcations from FUNAI, Brazil’s indigenous agency, to the Agriculture Ministry. MP 870 was challenged as unconstitutional, but Supreme Court Justice Roberto Barroso rejected that challenge—although he did agree that if the Agriculture Ministry failed to carry through with demarcation in future, further legal action could go forward at that time. During the three-day encampment, indigenous groups also protested Bolsonaro’s plan to open indigenous reserves to mining and agribusiness. The Free Land Encampment has been held in Brasilia every year since 2017. (Photo: Mongabay)

The Amazon

‘Silk Road’ to Peruvian Amazon?

Peru is to sign a memorandum of understanding to join China’s Belt & Road international infrastructure initiative, Beijing’s ambassador to Lima said. The announcement coincided with a Beijing summit to promote the initiative, also known as the New Silk Road, where Peru’s trade minister stated that a revision of Lima’s Free Trade Agreement with China will be implemented next year. These announcements come amid growing environmentalist concern over the Hidrovía Amazónica, a Chinese-backed mega-project aimed at further opening Peru’s eastern rainforests to resource exploitation. (Photo: Segundo Enfoque)

The Amazon

Ecuador court win for indigenous territorial rights

The Waorani indigenous people of the Ecuadoran Amazon won a legal victory hailed as historic, as the provincial court of Pastaza blocked the opening of their traditional territories to oil exploitation. The case was brought by 16 Waorani communities, who charged that their right to “free, prior and informed consent” was violated when the government divided much of the province into oil blocs. One, Bloc 22, overlaps almost entirely with Waorani territory. The ruling suspends auctions for Bloc 22 while the case is on appeal. (Photo: Mongabay)

The Amazon

Peru: butcher of Bagua goes out by his own hand

The ongoing political crisis in Peru reached a grisly climax with the suicide of ex-president Alan García as he was being arrested over his suspected involvement in corruption surrounding troubled Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht. García’s last presidency was most significantly marked by Peru’s entrance into the Free Trade Agreement with Washington, and harsh repression against the indigenous protest wave that this set off. This repression was notoriously punctuated by the Bagua massacre of June 2009, when National Police troops attacked an indigenous roadblock—known as the “Amazon’s Tiananmen Square Massacre.” The grievances that animated the 2009 protests are still very much alive—and sparking renewed militant action by indigenous Amazonians. (Photo: La Mula)

The Amazon

Violence escalates in Brazilian Amazon

In the last two weeks, Brazilian Amazonia has seen an alarming increase in targeted killings, with three massacres and at least nine deaths. The Catholic Church’s Pastoral Land Commission defines a massacre as the killing of three or more people. The most recent killings took place when military police attacked a landless peasants’ camp near the hamlet of Vila de Mocotó in Pará state. Days earlier, four were killed when hooded gunmen evicted a squatter camp at Seringal São Domingos, near the intersection of the borders of Acre, Amazonas and Rondônia states. Days before that, Dilma Ferreira Silva, a social leader with the Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB), her husband, and a friend, were killed by hooded motorcyclists in Baião municipality, Pará state.  (Photo via Earth Island Journal)

The Amazon

Land-rights defender assassinated in Brazil

A social leader seeking restitution for local peasants displaced by a hydroelectric mega-project in the Brazilian Amazon was slain by unknown assailants in an attack on her home. Dilma Ferreira Silva, 47, was a leader of the Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens (Movement of People Affected by Dams, MAB), founded after construction of the massive Tucuruí hydro project on the Río Tocantins. Built during Brazil’s military dictatorship, the project resulted in the forced displacement of some 30,000 local residents. She was slain along with her husband and a family friend when men arrived on motorcycles at their home in the settlement of Salvador Allende, Baião municipality, Pará state. The three were overpowered, tied up, and stabbed to death.

The Amazon

‘Historic’ win against illegal mining in Peru

The Supreior Court of Justice for Peru's rainforest region of Madre de Dios upheld a lower court ruling that nullified mining concessions as well as the titling of agricultural properties and granting of water rights to third parties on the territory of the indigenous community of Tres Islas, without prior consultation with that community. The regional government of Madre de Dios is ordered to comply with the ruling, as is the National Water Authority and the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation. The National Police are called upon to enforce the ruling if necessary. Peru's International Institute of Law and Society, which represented Tres Islas in the case, hailed the ruling as "historic." (Photo: La Mula)

The Amazon

Brazil to open indigenous reserves to mining

For many years, international and Brazilian mining companies have sought access to the mineral wealth lying beneath indigenous lands. Finally, the government of Jair Bolsonaro seems determined to give them that opportunity. While Brazilians were distracted by Carnival celebrations, the new Minister of Mines and Energy, Admiral Bento Albuquerque, announced plans to permit mining on indigenous reserves—without the consent of the inhabitants. Speaking at the annual convention of the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada (PDAC), a major event in the mining world that attracts tens of thousands of attendees, Albuquerque said that Brazil’s indigenous people would be given a voice but not a veto in the matter. The opening of indigenous ancestral territories to mining, he predicted, would "bring benefits to these communities and to the country." (Photo: Mongabay)

The Amazon

Peru: ‘Operation Mercury’ militarizes Amazon

Peru's central government is pouring troops into the rainforest region of Madre de Dios in an all-out effort against thousands of illegal gold-miners operating in remote areas. Under "Operation Mercury"—named for the mercury poisoning caused to local waters by the mining—three High Mobility Temporary Mixed Bases, manned by military and National Police personnel, are to be established within the buffer zone of Tambopata National Reserve. Cabinet officials were flown into the remote area to inaugurate the first base, dubbed "Alpha." Peru is the top gold producer in Latin America and the sixth worldwide, but experts estimate that up to 25% of annual gold production in the country comes from illegal mining. The Andean Amazon Monitoring Project estimates that gold mining has deforested more than 18,000 hectares of Madre de Dios in recent years. (Photo: Andina via Gestión)

The Amazon

Peru: emergency threatened over pipeline paralysis

Lizardo Cauper, president of Peru's alliance of Amazonian peoples, AIDESEP, issued an urgent call for authorities to open dialogue with indigenous communities in the northern region of Loreto rather than militarizing the area in response to mounting social conflicts and attacks on the North Peruvian Pipeline. Noting that the aging pipeline is in chronic disrepair, with repeated spills contaminating the rainforest, Cauper said: "We have made a call that, in place of militarization, they put in place a new pipeline. But it is not enough to have a new pipeline, but to respond to the demands of the people who are living around these oil activities." Regional authorities have called upon Lima to declare a state of emergency in response to paralysis of the pipeline, which delivers crude from rainforest oilfields over the Andes. (Photo: Andina)

The Amazon

US accuses Peru of violating FTA forestry provisions

The White House is accusing Peru of violating its commitment to protect the Amazon rainforest, threatening to hold Lima in violation of the US-Peru Free Trade Agreement . Robert Lighthizer, President Trump's top trade negotiator, announced that he is seeking consultations with Lima to address concerns about its recent move to curtail the authority of Peru's auditor for timber exports, the Organism for the Supervision of Forestry Resources (OSINFOR), established as a provision of the trade agreement. The move move had been demanded by Peru's logging industry following an OSINFOR seizure of illegal timber. The White House needs support from congressional Democrats to pass the pending US-Mexico-Canada Agreement, Trump's replacement for NAFTA, which is supposed to have tougher labor protections. The forestry annex in the Peru agreement was conceived as a model for a new inspection system that could include confiscation at the border of goods found to violate treaty provisions, and the prosecution of companies that import noncompliant products. (Image via Sierra Club)

The Amazon

Bolsonaro starts term with assault on indigenous

On his first day in office, President Jair Bolsonaro issued a measure taking away responsibility for indigenous land demarcation from the indigenous affairs agency, FUNAI, and handing it over to the Agriculture Ministry. In the same decree, Bolsonaro shifted authority over regularization of quilombos (Afro-Brazilian collective lands) from the agrarian reform institute, INCRA, to the Agriculture Ministry. The measure greatly weakens FUNAI, taking away its most important function. In practice, key areas of indigenous and quilombo policy will now be in the hands of agribusiness advocates—a long-time demand of the Bancada Ruralista (agribusiness lobby) in Congress. Bolsonaro is openly calling for abolition of Brazil's large indigenous reserves, a move with grave implications for the Amazon rainforest and global climate. (Photo: Kayapo women in Brazilian Amazon, via FUNAI)