Brazil's far-right Jair Bolsonaro campaigned on a plan to privatize vast swaths of the Amazon rainforest, turning it over to agribusiness and mining. In addition, he seeks to expand hydro-power and other energy mega-projects the region. Since his election, Bolsonaro's team has announced that his administration will merge the ministries of agriculture and the environment into a new "super ministry" to oversee the plan. Brazil has some 720 indigenous reserves, ranging from a single hectare to nearly ten million hectares. Bolsonaro says he wants to put all of those lands—13% of Brazil's territory—on the auction block. "Minorities have to adapt to the majority, or simply disappear," he said on the campaign trail, adding that under his administration, "not one square centimeter" of Brazil will be reserved for the country's indigenous peoples. (Photo: Kayapo women in Brazilian Amazon, via FUNAI)
Speaking at the fifth International Andino-Amazonian Forum for Rural Development in Cobija, Bolivia, a member of the delegation from Ecuador accused the Quito government of masking the despoliation of indigenous territories in populist phrases. Mónica Chuji, a community leader from the Ecuadoran rainforest, accused former president Rafael Correa of invoking the indigenous concept of Sumaj Causay or Vivir Bien (Good Living) in his new constitution only to "folklore-ize it [folklorizaron] so it ends up being a cliché without content." She said there is a "divorce between the discourse and the reality" as the Ecuadoran Amazon is opened to "mega-corporations that destroy our territories with the protection of successive governments." She also charged the government with persecution of indigenous leaders who protest or resist. (Photo: Agencia de Noticias Fides)
The Constitutional Court of Ecuador issued a long-awaited ruling in favor of those affected by the transnational oil company Chevron, which operated through its subsidiary Texaco in Ecuador between 1964 and 1990. Chevron will now have to pay $9.5 billion for the repair and remediation of social and environmental damage that, according to audits and expert reports, were a result of oil company operations in the Amazonian provinces of Sucumbíos and Orellana. The court found that Chevron deliberately dumped billions of gallons of toxic oil waste on indigenous lands in the Amazon rainforest. (Photo via Mongabay)
In a joint anti-drug operation code-named Armagedon, Peruvian military and National Police troops carried out a series of raids in the remote Putumayo river valley along the Colombian border this week, arresting some 40, destroying four cocaine laboratories, and seizing large quantities of cocaine sulfate and harvested cannabis. The majority of those detained were Colombian nationals, and authorities said they suspect the presence of "dissident" FARC units, who are trying to establish the zone as a staging ground to keep alive their insurgency. More than 350 troops have been deployed in the operation, with five helicopters and three planes as well as boats. The operation is being coordinated with Colombian security forces, who are carrying out similar missions on their side of the Río Putumayo. (Photo via El Comercio)
In a decision being hailed as "historic," Colombia's Supreme Court of Jutsice ruled in favor of a group of 25 young people and children who brought suit against the state to demand it take measures to assure their right to inherit a healthy environment. They asserted that their future food security and access to water is threatened by continued deforestation in the Amazon and other ecological degradation. In its ruling, the court also noted Colombia's responsibilities on a global level to halt deforestation, as carbon dioxide releases from forest loss contribute to the greenhouse effect. The youth in the case were represented by lawyers from Colombia's Environmental Justice Network. (Photo: Contagio Radio)
Legal proceedings continue in Bagua, a town on the edge of the rainforest in Peru's Amazonas region, against 25 Awajún and Wampis indigenous activists over deadly violence at a pumping station for the North Peru Oilduct in June 2009. Station 6 had at that time been under occupation by indigenous activists opposed to expansion of oil operations into their Amazonian homelands. Violence broke out at the occupied pumping station on June 5, 2009, when word reached the activists there of that morning's Bagua massacre, precipitated by National Police attacking an indigenous roadblock. Ten agents of DINOES, the National Police elite anti-riot force, were slain in the clash at Station 6. Prominent indigenous leader Alberto Pizango, already cleared of charges connected to the violence at Bagua, is now among those being tried for the bloodshed at Station 6. (Photo: Radio Reina de la Selva)
Human Rights Watch released a report charging that Ecuador's former president Rafael Correa abused the criminal justice system to target indigenous leaders and environmentalists who protested mining and oil exploitation in the Amazon. The report details use of criminal prosecution to silence ecological opposition, and the closure of one environmental organization by presidential order. The report credits new President Lenin Moreno with making positive change, opening a dialogue with environmentalists and indigenous leaders. But abusive prosecutions initiated by his predecessor remain in motion. (Photo: HRW)
After three years of investigation, Bolivia's Public Ministry reached a decision not to bring criminal charges against Adolfo Chávez, former leader of the Confederation of the Indigenous Peoples of the Bolivian Oriente (CIDOB), and 21 others linked to a corruption scandal in a case many saw as politically motivated. Chávez and the others were accused of illegally misappropriating monies made available through the government's Development Fund for Indigenous Peoples. But he claimed he was targeted for his opposition to the government's development plans for the Isiboro Secure Indigenous Territory and National Park (TIPNIS), in the eastern rainforest. In October, Chávez testified before the Inter-American Human Rights Commission that coca-growers in the TIPNIS loyal to the ruling Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) were attacking the reserve's indigenous inhabitants. (Photo: ANF)
Peru's creation of Yaguas National Park—covering nearly 870,000 hectares of rainforest along the remote border with Colombia—is being hailed as a critical advance for protection of global biodiversity. The territory in the Putumayo river basin is roughly the size of Yellowstone National Park, but with more than 10 times the diversity of flora and fauna. Despite new areas brought under protection, forest is still being rapidly lost in Peru. A recent analysis of satellite images by th Andean Amazon Monitoring Project (MAAP) found 143,425 hectares of forest were lost across the Peruvian Amazon during 2017. (Image: Inhabit.com)
In a setback to Chevron's effort to evade a $9.5 billion liability owed to rainforest communities, Canada's Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and Ecuadoran indigenous leaders signed a protocol to hold the corporation accountable for dumping billions of gallons of toxic oil waste and for ongoing violations of indigenous rights. The agreement was signed by AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde and Jamie Vargas, president of Ecuador's indigenous federation, CONAIE.
Members of the Gavião, Gamella, Krenyê and Tremembé indigenous peoples blocked the main road through São Luís, capital of Brazil's Maranhão state, to press demands for long-delayed demarcation of their ancestral lands—now being overrun by illegal loggers and their paramilitary enforcers. The action, which halted traffic on the artery for several hours, came as some 100 indigenous activists had been camping for three weeks outside the São Luís headquarters of the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI).
Peruvian authorities turned down a bid to renew Frontera Energy's oil contract for Bloc 192 in the upper Amazon after the oilfield was occupied by indigenous protesters, prompting the Canadian company to declare force majeure. Local communities launched the occupation to demand that they be consulted before a decision was made on renewing the contract.