The Amazon

Ecuador: judicial abuse of ecological opposition

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)

Planet Watch

Oil prices surge: vindication is tedious

We've been told for the past several years now that the depressed oil prices were permanent, thanks to fracking and the surge in US domestic production. Now prices are rising again, due to a convergence of crises in major producers: escalating tensions among the Gulf states, labor unrest in Nigeria, deepening instability in Venezuela. The US was able to contain the price spike after the ISIS irruption in 2014 by boosting its own production. This trick isn't going to work forever.

The Andes

Peru and Australia sign free trade pact

Peru and Australia signed a free trade pact that does away with 99% of tariffs on imported goods from Australia, while securing Peruvian exports greater access to Australian markets. The Peru-Australia Free Trade Agreement (PAFTA) was signed in Vietnam, at the 25th summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. Peru's President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, speaking at the summit, reiterated his support for free trade and warned about the dangers of protectionism–comments seemingly aimed at the Donald Trump administration.

The Andes

Peru seeks to overtake Chile in copper production

In ominous news for environmental defenders in Peru, the administration of President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski is planning to revise mining regulations to enable the Andean country to overtake its southern neighbor Chile in copper production. Despite higher-grade ores and lower mining costs than Chile, Peru's government says its potential in copper exploitation is being restricted by too much bureaucracy.

The Andes

Peru: campesina sues Newmont Mining

Peruvian campesina Maxima Acuña de Chaupe and her family are suing Newmont Mining in US federal court, claiming the company used violence and threats to try to evict them from their home to make way for the controversial Conga open-pit gold project. The lawsuit charges Newmont with "instructing, authorizing, aiding and abetting, conspiring in and/or ratifying a violent harassment campaign" against Acuña's family.

The Amazon

China wins contract for Amazon mega-project

Peru's Transport and Communications Ministry signed a contract with Chinese state-owned engineering giant SinoHydro to build the Hidrovía Amazónica, a mega-project aimed at turning the major rivers of the Amazon into arteries for delivering the resources of the rainforest basin to foreign markets. The government claims to have carried out a "prior consultation" with impacted communities along the rivers, having won 40 agreements to proceed with work.

The Andes

Venezuela drops petro-dollar: how meaningful?

Venezuela, under growing pressure from US sanctions, has told oil traders that it is dropping petro-dollars for petro-euros and petro-yuans. Despite the instinct to cheer the decline of US world domination, will this make any real difference—either to Venezuela, still dependent on oil exports in a world of depressed prices, or to Planet Earth, facing biosphere collapse as a result of burning hydrocarbons?

The Andes

Ecuador: protests grip Galápagos

The Galápagos Islands have seen weeks of protest over a newly instated law that gives Ecuador's national government greater control over land use and wages on the popular tourist destination. It also gives the Environment Ministry the power to change the borders of Galápagos National Park. Locals say the law opens the way for foreign investment and private encroachment on the National Park, undermining local businesses and potentially devastating unique wildlife.

The Andes

China enters Peru hydro-electric sector

A consortium led by China Three Gorges Corp has agreed to buy a giant hydro-electric plant under construction in Peru from scandal-mired Brazilian company Odebrecht. The Chaglla complex, slated to be Peru's third largest dam, is the latest addition to a growing string of South American hydro facilities to come under control of Chinese companies.

Central America

Taiwan sacrificed to Central America geopolitics

Panama is the latest Central American nation to switch diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Bejing—under pressure of China's fast-growing economic presence on the isthmus.

The Amazon

Ecuador: drones deployed in Amazon stand-off

Ecuador's government has deployed drones and helicopters to the Amazon village of El Tink, where indigenous residents are blocking roads in a dispute over a mining project.