UN Indigenous Peoples’ Day: Uncontacted Amazon tribe faces annihilation

The Kawahiva's land is being targeted by illegal loggers and cattle ranchers

On UN Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Survival International is calling for the full demarcation and protection of the land of the Kawahiva people, an uncontacted tribe in the Amazon that is at extremely high risk of extinction. 

With the eyes of the world on Brazil during the Rio Olympics, campaigners are hoping that more will be done to secure their land for them, and to give them the chance to determine their own futures.

Many powerful people in the region, including José Riva – dubbed “the most corrupt politician in Brazil” – are targeting the tribe’s land. The Indians are acutely vulnerable to the threat of forced contact from these loggers and ranchers. 

In April 2016, pressure from Survival International supporters helped push the Brazilian Minister of Justice to sign a decree ordering the full mapping out and protection of the tribe’s land.

But despite this, the Minister’s demand has not been carried out. Until the Brazilian indigenous affairs department enacts the demarcation, the tribe faces annihilation. 

First contact has been catastrophic for many Brazilian tribes. Jirusihú, from the Zo’é people in the northern Amazon, who were forcibly contacted by evangelical missionaries in the 1980s, said: “After the outsiders came, Zo’é became sick and some died. Back then… there was diarrhea and there was pain. Fever killed many, many Zo’é.” 

Source : Survival International

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A disastrous spate of oil spills in the Peruvian Amazon have gone from bad to worse in recent days, leaving Indigenous tribes frantically trying to clean up the mess left by the nation's state-owned oil company. 

The catastrophic ruptures in Petroperu's Northern Peruvian Pipeline occurred on January 25 and February 3 and have threatened the water supply of nearly 10,000 indigenous people, says Amazon Watch. 

On February 22, Petroperu officials confirmed to Reutersthat the oil has poured into two critical Amazon River tributaries that eight Achuar tribes depend on for water. According to the news agency, these two tributaries of the Amazon River, the Chiriaco and Morona rivers, are now filled with 3,000 barrels of oil. 

Critics charge that the spills continued to spread and caused far worse damage after the responsible company, Petroperu, failed to act to contain the oil released by the pipeline breakages. 

A third pipeline rupture was rumored on February 19, reports Amazon Watch, but the state-owned petroleum company took to Twitter to deny those reports. 

The devastating spills occurred mere months after Indigenous activists staged massive protests against Peru's oil industry in September. 

Over the weekend, local activist Marco Arana Zegarra posted horrific images of the oil's spread in the Chiriaco tributary: 

Waterways flow with black sludge and trees and flowers are rendered nearly unrecognizable by a thick coating of oil in video footage of the spills: 

"At least this time," observed Zegarra, "Petroperu has given Indigenous populations suits to wear for cleaning up oil."  

Petroperu president German Velasquez "denied reports the company paid children to clean up the oil," reports the Guardian, but then he went on, perhaps damningly, to say that "he was evaluating firing four officials, including one who may have allowed children to collect the crude." 

"It’s important to note that the spills...are not isolated cases. Similar emergencies have emerged as a result of defects in sections of the pipeline," the national environmental regulator said, according to the Guardian.

The regulator "ordered Petroperu to replace parts of the pipeline and improve maintenance," states Reuters. The Guardian reports that Petroperu will face fines of up to $17 million if it is proven that the oil spills have affected the health of locals. 

"This environmental disaster is just the latest in a long history of oil and gas leaks in the area," laments Indigenous rights group Survival International, observing that "[m]ore" than 70% of the Peruvian Amazon has been leased by the government to oil companies." 

The group translates a call to actionby AIDESEP, an organization that fights for indigenous people in the Peruvian Amazon, in which it pleads for "international public opinion, the media, NGOs and civil society to pay attention to this serious event that puts in danger the lives of thousands of people living in the area who have traditionally been neglected." 

Source : Common Dreams 3/2/2016


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Argentina Mapuche Group Burns Machinery In Patagonia As Part Of Land Claim

 Members of the Mapuche Ancestral Resistance burned two excavator machines belonging to English businessman Joe Lewis to demand their ancestral land be returned to the indigenous community. 

Members of the Mapuche Ancestral Resistance, an organization that fights for the rights of the indigenous Mapuche community, this morning burned two excavator machines belonging to English businessman Joe Lewis in Río Negro Province. The machines were laying down power lines between a hydroelectric plant owned by Lewis and the city of El Bolsón. 

According to Rionegro.com, police found leaflets signed by the resistance group demanding the following: 

-The release of group member Facundo Jones Huala who was arrested in May following an international capture request from Chile, where a warrant was issued for his arrest after he occupied land the Mapuche claim as their own.

-The eviction of oil, mining and hydroelectric companies from Patagonia.

 -And end to the repression of Mapuche communities. 

Joseph “Joe” Lewis is a 79-year-old British businessman whose net worth is estimated at US $5.3 billion, placing him among the 300 richest people on the planet, according to Forbes magazine. Among his different ventures in Argentina, he is the largest stock owner of electricity-supplying company Edenor. 

Between 1996 and 1997, Lewis bought a 12,000-hectare plot of land in Patagonia, less than 45 kilometers away from the city of El Bolsón, in Río Negro Province. Although he is not the first millionaire from abroad to acquire massive amounts of land in the country, his case was

especially controversial because his land purchase included the Lago Escondido (“Hidden Lake”), widely considered one of the country’s most beautiful landmarks. 

Following the purchase, Lewis ordered the public access road to Lago Escondido be closed, sparking a feud with Argentines in general, but specially with El Bolsón residents and Mapuche indigenous groups. Both groups had different claims and took different approaches to get what they wanted. 

El Bolsón residents demand that Lewis re-open the public access road — called “sendero Tacuifi” — so that they may use the lake again. Ever since he arrived, citizens and numerous NGOs staged public protests, presented formal accusations against him and organized music festivals to “defend the right of free shores and against the concentration of land among foreigners.” 

The judiciary listened to these demands and ruled in 2009, 2012 and 2013 that the road should be re-opened. However, Lewis never complied with these orders. Moreover, former Provincial Governor Carlos Soria had promised to have a bulldozer take down the wire fence preventing the access, but never followed through. His successor, Alberto Weretilnek, didn’t make any progress either, but people from El Bolsón aren’t giving up: A month ago, a group of citizens showed up at the Tacuifil road again. However, they were forced to retreat when they were “greeted” by armed security personnel working for Lewis. 

The Mapuche indigenous community’s claim to the lake is a bit more comprehensive: the lake lies within what the Mapuche consider to be their ancestral land. 

As a result, certain Mapuche groups have taken action to recover the land. The Mapuche Ancestral Resistance group has already been accused of setting a mountain shelter on fire and attacking a truck driver for, in their words, “delivering goods to the rich people who own” the plots of land their consider theirs. 

La Vaca outlet reported in May that police violently evicted a group of Mapuches who had settled on land belonging to the Benetton family, the largest foreign private owner of land in the country with 1.5 million hectares: “They dragged away women and children and took them away in cars without license plates,” Martiniano Jones Huala, a spokesperson for the Mapuche group, told La Vaca. 

Mapuches argue the Argentine government has been handing over their land to foreigners ever since the country annexed the Patagonia region in the so-called conquista del desierto (“conquest of the desert”) in the late 19th century. The “conquest” under then President Julio Argentino Roca killed thousands of indigenous groups who lived there. 

In 1896, Roca donated 900,000 hectares to the British company Argentine Southern Land so it could develop a railroad to improve the country’s export system. In 1982, the company translated its name to the Spanish Compañía del Sud Argentino and staffed its board with 60 percent Argentines. But the company was acquired by the Bennetton family in 1991 for US $50 million, who’ve owned the land ever since. 

According to National Senator Magdalena Odara, the “national register of rural land revealed that 6 percent of our country’s land is owned by foreigners. However, this data is an average, since there are regions like Ituzaingó, in Corrientes Province, which are half owned by foreigners. 21 percent of Bariloche is owned by foreigners.” 

Source : Mapuche mailinglist in English/Dutch


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