The Amazon

Ecuador: oil lease threatens ‘uncontacted’ peoples

Ecuador’s Environment Ministry approved plans to drill for oil in a sensitive area of Yasuni National Park, where isolated or “uncontacted” indigenous peoples are believed to be living. The Ishpingo site is the last field of the controversial Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) project within the borders of the park. Ishpingo is the most contested of the three ITT fields, as it overlaps with the reserve’s Intangible Zone, created to protect two “uncontacted” communities of the Tagaeri and Taromenane peoples. (Photo via Mongabay)

The Amazon

Peru: acquitted Bagua defendants may face retrial

Defense lawyers for the 53 indigenous activists who were cleared of charges in the 2009 Bagua massacre were ordered to testify before a Peruvian Supreme Court magistrate, as the high court’s penal chamber considers a request from the government for a retrial in the case. The defendants were acquitted by a lower court in 2016 in the slaying of National Police troops in the clash at Bagua, which began when police attacked an indigenous roadblock during a protest campaign against oil and resource exploitation in the rainforest. Peru’s Prosecutor General and Public Ministry have called upon the Supreme Court to review the acquittals. Attorney Juan José Quispe said that if a retrial is ordered, the defendants will boycott the proceedings. He asserted that a retrial would violate the International Labor Organization’s Convention 169, on the rights of indigenous peoples.  (Photo: Wayka)

The Amazon

Peru: more indigenous protests over oil spills

A new rupture on the disaster-plagued North Peruvian Pipeline fouled local water sources that several indigenous communities depend on in Peru’s rainforest region of Loreto. The communities of Nuevo Progreso and Saramiriza are demanding emergency potable water deliveries. The rupture came days after indigenous protesters occupied the Bloc 192 oil-field, halting operations by Canadian company Frontera Energy. Protesters seized four tank batteries at the installation to press their demands for clean-up and reparations following the numerous spills in the area. (Photo: PetroPeru via Gestión)

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

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 Andes

Forgotten voices in Venezuela crisis

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)

North America

Canada’s high court deals blow to treaty rights

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the federal government does not have a responsibility to consult with First Nations before introducing legislation, even in cases when it would impact their lands and livelihood. The 7-2 ruling ends a challenge by the Mikisew Cree First Nation of Alberta to a 2013 reform of Canada’s environmental laws by the administration of then-prime minister Stephen Harper. The reform altered the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Fisheries Act, the Species at Risk Act, and the Navigable Waters Protection Act, reducing the number of projects that require environmental assessment studies and narrowing the scope of those assessments. The Mikisew Cree contended that the reform violated constitutionally-protected treaty rights of Canada’s indigenous First Nations. (Photo of Mikisew Cree Chief Archie Waquan via CBC)

The Andes

Peru: Fujimori pardon revoked; struggle continues

Peru's Supreme Court revoked the pardon of ex-dictator Alberto Fujimori, ordering him back to prison. His supporters in Congress are drafting a law to make the pardon permanent, but this is on dubious constitutional grounds and violates international human rights treaties. Meanwhile, survivors of the Fujimori-era "dirty war" continue to seek justice for the crimes of that period. One campaign is to block right-wing candidate Daniel Urresti, accused in the assassination of journalist Hugo Bustíos, from running for mayor of Lima. (Photo: Diario Uno)

Europe

Podcast: Toward Lakota-Tatar solidarity

In Episode 17 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses growing repression against the Tatar people of the Crimea, and the abrogation of their autonomous government by the Russian authorities since Moscow's illegal annexation of the peninsula. This is a clear parallel to violation of the territorial rights of the Lakota people in the United States through construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the legal persecution of indigenous leaders who stood against it. The parallel is even clearer in the cases of the Evenks and Telengit, indigenous peoples of Siberia, resisting Russian construction of pipelines through their traditional lands. Yet the US State Department's Radio Free Europe aggressively covers the Tatar struggle, while Kremlin propaganda organ Russia Today (RT) aggressively covered the Dakota Access protests. Indigenous struggles are exploited in the propaganda game played by the rival superpowers. It is imperative that indigenous peoples and their allies overcome the divide-and-rule game and build solidarity across borders and influence spheres. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.

Planet Watch

Canada: court halts Trans Mountain pipeline plan

Canada's Federal Court of Appeal overturned the government's approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. A number of groups challenged the approval, including several First Nations and two municipalities, asserting that the indigenous communities that would be impacted by the expansion were not adequately consulted on the project. Following the Federal Court's decision, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said she is pulling her province out of Canada's national climate change plan until construction resumes. (Photo: Robzor)

Mexico

Will AMLO fight for Mexico’s indigenous peoples?

Turkey's TRT World runs a report recalling the Chontal Maya blockades of the Pemex oil installations in Mexico's southern state of Tabasco in 1996, to protest the pollution of their lands and waters. This is a struggle that is still being waged today by the Chontal of Tabasco, but back in 1996 the figurehead of the movement was Andrés Manuel López Obrador (known as AMLO)—now Mexico's left-populist president-elect. The report asks if AMLO as president will remain true to the indigenous struggle that first put him on Mexico's political map. In a segment exploring this question, TRT World speaks with Melissa Ortiz Massó of the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre and CounterVortex editor Bill Weinberg