The Supreme Court of Canada on Sept. 4 ruled in favor of Ecuadoran villagers seeking to enforce a multi-billion dollar judgment against the Chevron Corporation. In 2011, the 30,000 villagers secured the $17.2 billion judgment in an Ecuador court for environmental damage to rainforest in the Lago Agrio region. Damages were subsequently reduced by an appeals court to $9.5 billion. The new 7-0 ruling means that the Ecuadorans may pursue the judgment against Chevron in Canada through its subsidiary, Chevron Canada Ltd. Chevron has put up a vigorous legal battle to avoid the fine, arguing that, because the damage was perpetrated by Texaco between 1972 and 1990, before it was bought out by Chevron in 2001, and because Texaco signed an agreement with Ecuador to absolve it of responsibility after a $40 million cleanup effort, Chevron should not be required to pay out for its former competitor.
A Guarani-Kaiowa indigenous leader was shot dead Aug. 29 at Douradina municipality in Brazil's Mato Grosso do Sul state, one week after his community occupied part of their ancestral lands. Community leaders had warned of an imminent attack, after their encampment was surrounded by gunmen in 30 vehicles. Semião Vilhalva of the Nanderu Marangatu community was killed when the gunmen, hired by local ranchers, finally stormed the encampment—reportedly in the presence of government agents. The encampment was re-established after the attack, but suffered a second assault on Sept. 3. "They came in and began to shoot everywhere," said one Guarani leader.
In new protests over the Bloc 192 oil-field in the north Peruvian Amazon, some 20 indigenous Achuar and Kichwa warriors occupied the local air-strip of multinational Pluspetrol, in Trompeteros, Loreto region. They also seized a pumping station at nearby Pavayacu. The protesters are demanding better compensation for the use of their lands, and opposing the new contract for development of the field to Canadian company Pacific Stratus Energy, a subsidiary of Pacific Rubiales. A civil strike was also declared in Iquitos, the region's principal city, where barricades were built on major streets, paralyzing traffic. The Iquitos protesters, supported by the region's president, want the oil bloc to be taken over by state-owned PetroPeru. "The only thing foreign companies have done is pollute and foment distrust among local populations," said Loreto president Fernando Meléndez. "We don't see any benefits and remain an impoverished region." The bloc has been exploited for more than 40 years, most recently by Pluspetrol, an Argentine company whose contract expired Aug. 29. The 48-hour paro or civl strike was jointly called by Loreto Patriotic Front (FPL) and the Federation of Native Communities of Alto Tigre (FECONAT). (TerraPeru, Sept. 3, La República, Reuters, Sept. 2; El Comercio, Peru21, Sept. 1; Andina, Aug. 21)
Bolivian National Police on Aug. 18 used batons and tear-gas to break up a road blockade launched a week earlier by Guaraní indigenous residents—and then raided the homes of several people thought to be organizers of the action. At least 10 people were detained on the highway and in the subsequent raids at Yateirenda community, Cabezas municipality, Santa Cruz department.Community leaders accused the police of "disproportionate" force in the raids, terrorizing women, children and elders. and filed a complaint with the Bolivian Permanent Assembly of Human Rights (APDHB). Local Guaraní from Takovo Mora Original Communitarian Territory (TCO) began blocking the Santa Cruz-Camiri highway to demand the right to "prior consultation" on the development of wells at the Chaco gas-fields, run by the parastatal YPFB. The company maintains that the four wells in question are all on private lands and therefore not subject to prior consultation with the TCO. The TCO, in turn, maintains that the wells are within its traditional territory and will impact their lands. (Eju!, Aug. 18; FM Bolivia, Aug. 14; Entorno Inteligente, Aug. 11)
Some 100 Guarani activists on Aug. 13 launched an occupation of an auditorium at the Justice Ministry building in Brasilia, demanding a meeting with the minister, José Eduardo Cardozo, as well as cabinet chief Miguel Rosseto and the head of the indigenous affairs agency FUNAI, João Pedro Gonçalves. The protesters, joined by lawmaker Paulo Pimenta of the ruling center-left Workers Party (PT), are demanding urgent demarcation of their ancestral lands. (CIMI, Aug. 13) In one of several ongoing land conflicts involving the Guarani, on June 24 the indigenous community of Kurusu Mba in Mato Grosso do Sul state was attacked by gunmen after re-occupying traditional lands that had been usurped by local ranchers and soy growers. Huts were put to the torch, and an infant was burned to death. Brazil's high court, the Supreme Federal Tribunal, ruled in April that the community should not be evicted from the re-occupied lands until its traditional territories have been demarcated. The demarcation process remains stalled, while attacks on the Guarani continue. (Survival International, June 26; Survival International, April 3)
In late July, Peru's Ministry of Culture announced a "Care Plan" for a band of Mashco Piro indigenous people believed to be living in voluntary isolation in a remote area of Madre de Dios region in the southern Amazon basin. Ministerial Resolution No. 258-2015-MC stated that the Vice-ministry of Inter-Culturality, through its General Directorate of Rights of Indigenous Peoples, would implement the plan, which emphasized establishing peaceful coexistence between the Mashco Piro and other indigenous communities in the area. The plan was sparked by increasingly frequent sightings of the band and two fatalities in confrontations between band members and communities on the edge of its territory. Encroachments on the band's territory by illegal loggers is believed to be pressuring the group to seek new lands. But government plans to initiative "contact" with the group immediately drew harsh criticism from indigenous rights advocates. "We are extremely worried about this situation and its possible disastrous consequences," said Francisco Estremadoyro, director of Lima-based ProPurús, a nonprofit that seeks to protect the peoples and environment in the remote region.
Citing a lack of clear response from Peru's government, a group of some 50 apus (traditional leaders) of indigenous peoples in the Pastaza and Corrientes watersheds on July 18 suspended dialogue in the "consultation" process over expansion of oil operations at Bloc 192, in the northern Amazon region of Loreto. For the past 15 years, the bloc has been under development by PlusPetrol, but next month the government is take bids on its expansion over the next 30 years. Pacific Rubiales and Perenco as well as PlusPetrol are expected to place bids. Indigenous organizations FEDIQUEP and FECONACO have been in talks over the expansion with agencies including PeruPetro, the Culture Ministry, the Mines & Energy Ministry, and the General Directorate of Environmental and Energy Issues (DGAAE). FECONACO president Carlos Sandi charged, "The State seeks to repeat that same history of 45 years of oil exploitation," which for rainforest communities has meant "45 years of oil pollution." Added Magdalena Chino of FEDIQUEP: "Mother Earth is suffering, her breast has gone dry and she is crying for us; the animals are missing... It is easy to make standards that destroy us, but when it comes to making standards to protect us, they say it is too difficult." A representative of the Culture Ministry categorically denied negotiating in bad faith. (Diario Uno, July 20; El Comercio, July 19; Observatorio Petrolero, July 18; RPP, June 25)
Bolivia's Vice-Minister of Government Alfredo Rada was asked by a reporter from TV show "Levántate Bolivia" June 25 how he viewed the controversial highway that would cut through the Isiboro Secure Inidgenous Territory and National Park (TIPNIS) in light of Pope Francis' recent encyclical on the dangers of climate change. Implicitly referencing the repression of protests against the highway in 2011, which resulted in suspension of the project, Rada responded: "At the time I considered, and still consider, that TIPNIS has been one of the errors of the government." (ANF, June 25; ENS, June 18) Just weeks earlier, President Evo Morales made a statement indicating that the highway project would be revived. At a ceremony marking the 45th anniversary of founding of Villa Tunari municipality, Cochabamba, which would be a hub on the new highway, Morales said: "This road, compañeros, will be realized." Alluding to the neighboring jungle department of Beni as a stronghold of the right-wing opposition, he added: "First, it will liberate Beni. Second, it will bring greater integration between the departments, we are convinced of this." He claimed the project has the support of the governments of Cochabamba and Beni departments, both now controlled by Morales' ruling Movement Towards Socialism (MAS). (La Razón, June 25)