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)
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)
Gilberto Valencia, a young Afro-Colombian cultural worker, became 2019's first casualty of political violence in Colombia, when a gunman opened fire on a New Years party he was attending in his village in Cauca region. As the death toll from around the country mounted over the following weeks, the UN Mission to Colombia warned President Iván Duque that he must address "the issue of the assassinations of social leaders and human rights defenders." Colombia's official rights watchdog, the Defensoría del Pueblo, acknowledges that there was an assassination on average every two days in the country last year—a total of 172, and a rise of more than 35% over 2017. (Photo via Caracol Radio)
Trump, the great enthusiast for dictators, suddenly develops a touching concern with democracy in Venezuela, grasping at the opportunity for long-sought regime change. Predictably overlooked in the world media's Manichean view of the crisis are voices of Venezuela's dissident left that takes a neither/nor position opposed to both the regime and the right-wing leadership of the opposition. Also unheard are voices of indigenous dissent and resistance. In an episode that received little coverage, December saw protests in the remote Orinoco Basin after a leader of the Pemón indigenous people was killed in a confrontation with elite Military Counterintelligence troops. The military operation was ostensibly aimed at clearing the region of illegal mining—while the Pemón themselves had been protesting the mining. The indigenous leaders view the militarization of the region as intended to make way for corporate exploitation under the Orinoco Mineral Arc plan. (Photo: EcoPolitica Venezuela)
Chinese police used tear-gas and baton charges to disperse Tibetan villagers protesting a mine project in Qinghai's Yulshul Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, following two months of demonstrations at the site. Rsidents said the project at a site called Upper Dechung was undertaken without informing the local inhabitants. Several were hospitalized following the police assault, including a 70-year-old man. There are also concerns for the whereabouts of a delegation of some 50 villagers who went to complain to provincial authorities about the mine, and have not been heard from since. The mine was seeminlgy initiated by private interests with little or no government oversight. "Local people suspect corruption is involved in connection with this joint venture," a source told Radio Free Asia. (Photo: AsiaNews)
Amid growing protests against the controversial Hidroituango dam on Colombia's Río Cauca, three opponents of the project were slain by unknown assailants—weeks before a tunnel in the complex collapsed due to a landslide, backing up water behind the dam to dangerous levels and causing cracks to emerge in its facade. Authorities now fear an imminent disaster, posing a grave threat to downstream communities. Several opponents of the project have been assassinated over the years of its construction, leading to demands for an investigation of possible paramilitary collusion by the dam's builders. (Photo via El Espectador)
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)
Thousands have repeatedly filled the streets of Jerada, in northeastern Morocco, as a mounting protest movement demanding jobs and social development for the marginalized region was further fueled by a mining disaster that left two young brothers dead. Mining was for decades Jerada's economic lifeline, employing more than 9,000. Since operations closed in the late 1990, locals have been struggling to survive—often by illegally taking coal from the abandoned pit, and selling it on the black market. Protesters accuse officials of turning the blind eye to the pirate mining despite the growing number of deaths in the improvised operations. They are demanding economic alternatives for the region, and government intervention to close "the mines of death." (Photo: @Riffijnsleed)
Francisco Javier Ricaurte Gómez, one of the most powerful men in Colombia's justice system for the past 15 years, is now the first former chief magistrate of the country's Supreme Court to go to prison. He is the most senior of several top judges and judicial officials convicted in accepting bribes to pervert criminal cases related to paramilitary activity and illegal resource exploitation.
Prosecutors in Brazil have opened an investigation after reports that illegal gold-miners on a remote Amazon river massacred members of an "uncontacted" indigenous band. Two gold-miners have been arrested in the case. The killings allegedly took place last month in the Vale do Javari Indigenous Territory, known as the "Uncontacted Frontier," as it shelters more isolated peoples than anywhere else on Earth.
Community leaders throughout Colombia have spoken out against a proposal by the central government to limit the power of consultas populares, or popular referenda, to bar oil and mineral projects at the municipal level. Some are questioning the constitutionality of the government's plan to "fast track" a sweeping reform of the Organic Law of Territorial Ordering (LOOT) that would strip municipalities of the ability to restrict subsoil exploitation.
Brazil's government issued an order abolishing a vast national reserve in the Amazon in order to open up the area to mineral exploitation. The National Reserve of Copper and Associated (RENCA), covering an area larger than Denmark, straddles the northern states of Amapa and Pará, and is thought to be rich in gold, iron, manganese and other minerals. Opposition Senator Randolfe Rodrigues denounced the move as "the biggest attack on the Amazon of the last 50 years."