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Brazil moves to end tension over land disputes

BRICS Post | February 20, 2014

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s government is taking measures to avert a confrontation over disputed territory between Amazon Indian tribes and farmers who are believed to have encroached on their historic lands.

It says it will begin to forcibly evict non-indigenous people occupying reserves and protected forests who have been ordered off the land by local courts.

The disputes go to the heart of the delicate balance between economic growth and conservation as companies pursue forest and mineral expansion into the traditional Amazon forest heartland.

In mid-January, Brasilia redeployed hundreds of soldiers and police, backed by tanks and helicopters, to enforce a June 2013 court order to evict nearly 7,000 farmers and ranchers from the Awá-Guajá reserve in the northeastern state of Maranhão.

Earlier this week, the government said it hoped to have all farmers and ranchers evicted from the area by April. There are concerns that recent clashes between indigenous peoples and ranchers could have a spillover effect into more states.

Last June, Minister of Justice Jose Eduardo Cardozo ordered the deployment of an elite military unit to Sidrolandia in southern Mato Grosso state, after indigenous peasants were killed by landowners’ employees.

The number of land disputes – and the ensuing violence, seizures and confiscations – have increased in the past several years, a 2012 report by the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI) said.

“Problems facing the indigenous population include murders, death threats, lack of health care and education, and delays in registering land ownership,” CIMI says in its report.

In the meantime, Rousseff has promised to suspend demarcating borders in disputed zones and said new rules will soon be in place.

Land disputes, and often the violent confrontations that ensue, have for decades posed challenges to Brazil’s government.

Advocates from the Landless Farmers Movement have for the past three years pressured Rousseff to expedite land redistribution to landless and indigenous farmers.

Rousseff is herself also being pressured by landowners.

In April 2012, Brazil’s Congress caved in to land lobbyists and voted greater flexibility regarding how much forest land farmers are required to conserve.

While Brazilian laws since 1965 call for protection of forests – including some 13 per cent of the land allocated as preserves for indigenous populations, the Congress vote weakened the means to enforce them.

There was no provision, for example, that forced landowners to reforest land that they had already cleared.

Although Rousseff vetoed portions of the bill, including a segment that issued amnesty to illegal loggers, and sent it back to Congress for a rewrite in May 2012, deforestation has dramatically surged since.

February 20, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Environmentalism, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bowman Expedition 2.0 Targets Indigenous Communities in Central America

By Joe Bryan | Public Political Ecology Lab | July 23, 2013

The Lawrence World-Journal recently reported the Defense Department’s decision to fund the latest Bowman Expedition led by the American Geographical Society and the University of Kansas Geography Department. Like the first – and controversial – Bowman expedition to Mexico, this latest venture will be led by KU Geographers Jerome Dobson and Peter Herlihy and will target indigenous communities.

Like previous Bowman Expeditions, the expedition’s goal is to compile basic, “open-source,” information about countries that can be used to inform U.S. policy makers and the military. This time, however, they won’t be focused on a single country. Instead they’ll be working throughout Central America, a region that Herlihy and Dobson have elsewhere called “The U.S. Borderlands.” What is this Expedition about? And why is the Defense Department funding academic research on indigenous peoples?

As with the expedition to Mexico, Herlihy and Dobson are focused on land ownership. Echoing a growing list of military strategists, Herlihy and Dobson contend that areas where property rights are not clearly established and enforced by states provide ideal conditions for criminal activity and violence that threaten regional security.

Herlihy and Dobson propose to use maps made with indigenous communities of their lands to clarify this problem, ostensibly with an eye towards securing legal recognition of their property rights. In their expedition to Mexico, Herlihy and Dobson turned over their findings to Radiance Technologies, an Alabama-based military contractor specializing in “creative solutions for the modern warfighter.”  It’s not clear whether this new expedition will do the same, though the program funding it, the Minerva Research Initiative, evaluates proposals according to their ability to address national security concerns.

The rationale for these Expeditions has been parsed in film, print, and by academics (myself included), revealing them to be little more than intelligence gathering efforts carried out by civilian professors and their graduate students. Zapotec communities visited by the previous expedition to Mexico have further denounced Herlihy’s and Dobson’s efforts as “geopiracy,” (and again here) that replay some of colonialism’s oldest tactics of extracting information from communities for people (the U.S. Army) who live elsewhere. Zapotec communities in Oaxaca have also accused Herlihy of failing to inform them of the U.S. Army’s role in funding the Expedition and process data collected by it.

Military funding for the latest Bowman Expedition raises the question of what the U.S. military wants to know about Central America. Moreover, why is it funding research on indigenous peoples? It’s hard to imagine that the U.S. military has much interest in the nuances that distinguish, say, Tawahka communities from Emberá ones. Nor does the military appear concerned with the chronic insecurity of land rights, which continues to be one of the primary threats faced by indigenous communities. A far more likely answer lies with the military’s growing interest in collecting information about the “cultural” or “human” terrain that they can use as needed for a variety of purposes, from managing risks posed by natural disasters to planning military interventions.

Maps of the sort produced by the Bowman Expeditions are certainly useful for this task compiling information about who lives where and place names, to give two examples. But maps can only describe the territory. What they cannot describe are the intricacies of the “terrain” such as the social networks through which access to land and resources are negotiated or the history of struggles over land.

The U.S. military is more familiar with this terrain than one might think. Beginning with the “Banana Wars” of the early 20th Century, the U.S. military has intervened more times in Central America that just about any other region in the world. Indeed the Marines’ first resource on counter-insurgency, the “Small Wars Manual,” drew extensively from their experiences navigating the indigenous Mayanagna and Miskito communities in pursuit of Augusto Sandino’s anti-imperialist forces in Nicaragua.

In the 1980s, U.S. military advisors once again traversed the indigenous areas of Central America for tactical gain. In eastern Nicaragua and Honduras, they helped train and organize Miskito-led armed groups as part of the proxy battle strategy of the Contra War. In Guatamala they targeted Maya communities as bastions of guerilla support with genocidal consequence. Dense forests and other isolated areas throughout the region further provided cover for airstrips also used for illicit shipments of cocaine and weapons orchestrated by the Reagan Administration in support of the Contras.

Herlihy knows this history well.  He’s been mapping the forested areas in eastern Honduras used by the Contras and Miskito armed groups since the late 1980s.  Herlihy’s (and Dobson’s) main military contact, Geoffrey Demarest, knows this history too. A graduate of the School of the Americas, he served as a military attaché to Guatemala.  He’s since become an expert on counter-insurgency, publishing extensively from his experience in Colombia and its relevance for current wars. More recently, he enrolled in the Geography Ph.D. program at KU under Dobson’s supervision.

Still, what is the national security interest in Central America that a Bowman Expedition there can help address? Indigenous land ownership has already been extensively mapped in much of the region as part of property reforms supported by the likes of the World Bank. Several countries in the region now also have promising laws on the books recognizing indigenous and black land rights.

Yet neither maps nor legal reforms have been enough to stop the region from becoming a major transshipment route for cocaine en route to the United States. The State Department estimates that more than 80 percent of cocaine bound for the U.S. passes through Honduras. Some of this trafficking makes use of infrastructure created by counter-insurgency campaigns in the 1980s.

In 2011, Herlihy once again mapped the Honduran Mosquitia as part of another U.S. Army-funded Bowman Expedition.  Shortly thereafter, in 2012, the region was targeted by the DEA who made use of counter-insurgency tactics developed in Iraq to fight traffickers. Among those lessons of Iraq applied in the Mosquitia was the use of forward operating bases immersed in the region’s physical and cultural terrain of the Mosquitia. Two of those bases, El Aguacate and Mocorón, were repurposed bases constructed during the Contra War. The campaign fits a broader pattern of escalating militarization of Central America further illustrated by this map compiled by the interfaith Fellowship of Reconciliation.

The application of counter-insurgency tactics gives mapping indigenous areas a more sinister edge. Historically the U.S. military has relied on the designation of “Indian Country” and “tribal areas” to designate areas at the edge of state control, often turning them into free-fire zones where the conventions of war, legal and otherwise, do not apply. Better knowledge of these areas has scarcely reduced incidents of violent conflict as Dobson suggests.  Instead, that knowledge has served as a “force multiplier” – to use General Petraeus’s term – that allows the U.S. military to intervene with greater efficiency. Herlihy and Dobson claim to champion the rights of indigenous peoples, but the money and data trail suggests that is only a secondary concern to U.S. military interests.

So why is the U.S. military funding academic geographers to do research in indigenous areas in Central America instead of relying on its own people to do the work? In Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army has relied on social scientists embedded with combat units as part of the Human Terrain System program to gather similar information. Funding academic researchers to do similar work poses a number of advantages.  For starters, it sidesteps the ethical controversy raised by the Human Terrain System. It also brings the added benefit of relying on “civilian” researchers to access communities who might otherwise be wary of soldiers in military uniform. At the same time, it gives the military precisely the kind of detailed, georeferenced information – the spatial “metadata” – sought by the Human Terrain System for areas that lie far from current combat zones. It’s an approach consistent with what geographer Derek Gregory describes as the “everywhere war” currently waged across society on the whole by covert military teams, surveillance, and drones.  By taking the measure of indigenous communities according to security interests, the Bowman Expeditions stand to perpetuate a role that is far too common in Geography’s history. The Bowman Expeditions have generated some productive debate (see also here, here, and here) in this regard, though in a context of shrinking budgets for university research and education the allure of military money remains powerful enough to trump ethical concerns.

Meanwhile as geographers debate the merits of military funding, indigenous peoples continue facing a long list of violent threats from drug trafficking, illegal logging, loss of lands, and institutional racism. The military-funded Bowman Expeditions merely add to that list. Still, as the Zapotec communities in Oaxaca forcefully remind us, it’s their information and the decision to participate in projects like the Bowman Expeditions – or any other research — ultimately resides with them. Herlihy’s and Dobson’s failure to address those concerns will only diminish their access to this field, undermining the kinds of rights and free exchange of knowledge they profess to support.

~

See Also: U.S. Military Funded Mapping Project in Oaxaca: University Geographers Used to Gather Intelligence?

Military-backed Mapping Project in Oaxaca Under Fire

Joe Bryan is an Assistant Professor of Geography at the University of Colorado at Boulder. For additional resources on the Bowman Expedition, see Zoltán Grossman’s fantastic website.

July 24, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Brazil: Soldiers Sent to Indigenous Occupied Land

By Emily Tarbuck | The Argentina Independent | June 6, 2013

The Brazilian government has announced that it will send around 200 soldiers to land occupied by indigenous groups in Mato Grosso do Sul.

The move comes after a member of the Terena indigenous group was killed whilst police attempted to evict the occupiers last week. The groups believe the land belongs to their indigenous ancestral territory, which is currently recognised as the property of local politician, Ricardo Bacha, and have occupied the land for over two weeks.

The announcement from the government detailed how the soldiers were being sent to the farm in order to prevent the problem from escalating. Brazil’s Justice minister Jose Cardozo said: “We’re not going to put out the flames by pouring alcohol on the bonfire…we must avoid radicalising a situation that goes back a long way in Brazilian history.”

Cardozo also announced that he would be travelling to Mato Grosso do Sul in order to oversee the deployment of soldiers, and that the soldiers from the National Force were being sent in order to support the local police force.

It was revealed that the call for soldier interception came from the governor of Mato Grosso do Sol, André Puccinelli, and that soldiers have been steadily deployed by land and air to the area since Tuesday.

Dozens of other indigenous groups have marched around Mato Grosso do Sul in the Sidronlandia region in support of the Terena people. A date has not been set for the withdrawal of the soldiers.

June 6, 2013 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Brazil: Indigenous Group Member Killed After Police Eviction

By Laura Benitez | The Argentina Independent | June 2, 2013

Indigenous groups have re-occupied farm land in Mato Grosso do Sul, South of Brazil, after being evicted on Thursday.

The groups are claiming ownership over part of the farm as they say it forms part of their ancestral lands.

The groups have occupied the land, which is owned by a local politician, Ricardo Bacha, for over two weeks. During the eviction process on Thursday, one of the group members, Osiel Abriel was shot and killed by police.

According to press reports, police officers have claimed that the group became violent during Thursday’s eviction process.

Brazil’s justice minister José Eduardo Cardozo, has called an investigation into the death of Abriel which will determine if an excessive and unnecessary use of force and firearms were used.

“We will very accurately determine what happened. If there were abuses, those responsible will be punished, “he said.

On Friday, 250 people from the group returned back to the farm to re-occupy the land.

Local media have said that although the situation continues to be “tense”, there has been no violence since the re-occupation on Friday.

June 2, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Brazil: Indigenous Group Member Killed After Police Eviction

Argentina: Son of Indigenous Leader Attacked in Formosa

By Avery Kelly | The Argentina Independent | May 6, 2013
MG_3822low-12111
Félix Diaz, leader of the Qom community, speaks to the crowd in January 2011. (Photo Patricio Guillamón.)

Late Saturday night, 4th May, a street gang brutally attacked two youths of indigenous descent in the northern province of Formosa. One of the victims is 21-year-old Abelardo Díaz, the son of Qom leader Félix Díaz.

The boys were surrounded by a mob of about 30 people that abruptly began beating them, allegedly using clubs and other objects to attack Abelardo and his peer Carlos Sosa. Both had to be hospitalised, first taken to a local clinic but later transferred to the Juan Domingo Perón hospital in the provincial capital.

Although most details about the attack are still unknown, the Qom community assumes that it is related to their fight to reclaim ancestral lands, in which Félix Díaz has played a key role. On 18th April, Félix received a court order for his prosecution regarding the ‘theft’ of territory he claims for the Qom people.

Abelardo reported a similar instance in which he was beaten in June of last year, when another group armed with knives attacked him, threatening to slit his throat.

Attacks of indigenous people in the Formosa area are not uncommon. Just four months ago a young man from the Qom community was found unconscious after suffering a beating and later died in the hospital.

After his son’s hospitalisation, Félix stated: “My family continues being victim to this violence generated by the province again and again.” He added, “They criminalise me for ‘usurping’ our historic territories. However they will never break me — I will continue asking for respect for our rights and for true justice.”

Two weeks ago a group of congress members part of the Population and Human Development Commission headed by Antonio Riestra began a series of meetings with representatives from local indigenous groups to discuss the humanitarian situation of these communities in Formosa. During the talks, indigenous leaders called for a return of historic lands, access to healthcare, and bilingual education.

May 6, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Argentina: Son of Indigenous Leader Attacked in Formosa

Evictions in the Polochic Valley, Children of the Earth

Caracolproducciones

Alberto Alonso-Fradejas:

In the last ten years, the expansion of corporate sugarcane and oil palm plantations in northern Guatemala has encroached on the lands of Maya Q’eqchi’ indigenous people—many of whom fled to this region during the country’s 36-year genocidal war. These plantations have already displaced hundreds of families—even entire communities—leading to increased poverty, hunger, unemployment, and landlessness in the region. The companies grabbing land are controlled by European-descendent Guatemalan oligarchs who are benefitting from rising global commodity prices for food, animal feed, and fuel (biodiesel and ethanol). In the face of violent expulsion and incorporation into an exploitative system, peasant families are struggling to access land and defend their resources as the basis of their collective identity as Q’eqchi’ peoples or R’al Ch’och (“sons and daughters of the earth”).

More information:

http://www.congcoop.org.gt/

http://caracolproducciones.org/

http://caracolproducciones.blogspot.com/

http://valledelpolochic.wordpress.com/

April 12, 2013 Posted by | Environmentalism, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Evictions in the Polochic Valley, Children of the Earth

Panama: Indigenous Leader Murdered After Anti-Dam Protest

Weekly News Update on the Americas | April 1, 2013

Onésimo Rodríguez, a leader in Panama’s Ngöbe-Buglé indigenous group, was killed by a group of masked men in Cerro Punta, in western Chiriquí department, the evening of Mar. 22 following a protest against construction of the Barro Blanco hydroelectric dam. Carlos Miranda, another protester who was attacked along with Rodríguez, said the assailants beat both men with metal bars. Miranda lost consciousness but survived; Rodríguez’s body was found in a stream the next day. Miranda said he was unable to identify the attackers because it was dark and their faces were covered. Manolo Miranda and other leaders of the April 10 Movement, which organizes protests against the dam, charged that “the ones that mistreated the Ngöbes were disguised police agents.”

The Ngöbe-Buglé stepped up their demonstrations against the Barro Blanco project in January, when construction continued at the site despite a United Nations (UN) report that largely substantiated indigenous claims that the dam would flood three villages, cut the residents off from food sources and destroy important cultural monuments [see Update #1168]. As of Mar. 26 an independent study mandated by the UN report and agreed to by the government had still not started.

In addition to protesting the Honduran-owned company building the dam, Generadora del Istmo, S.A. (GENISA), indigenous activists blame two European banks for funding the project: Germany’s private Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft (DEG) and the Nederlandse Financierings-Maatschappij voor Ontwikkelingslanden N.V. (FMO), in which the Dutch government holds a controlling interest. Dam opponents say GENISA also sought funding from the European Investment Bank (EIB) but withdrew the application after learning that bank officials planned to visit the affected communities themselves. (Mongabay.com 3/25/13; La Estrella (Panama) 3/26/13)

In other news, as of Mar. 19 the National Coordinating Committee of the Indigenous Peoples of Panama (COONAPIP) had decided to withdraw from the United Nations Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (UN-REDD+) program, which focuses on environmental problems in developing nations. The indigenous group charged in a statement that the UN and the Panamanian government “have appeared to marginalize the collective participation of the seven indigenous peoples and 12 traditional structures that make up COONAPIP” and have put “legal and administrative obstacles in the way” of indigenous participation. The Mesoamerican Alliance of People and Forests (AMPB), a coalition of Central American and Mexican indigenous and environmental groups, is backing COONAPIP’s decision. (Mongabay.com 3/19/13; Adital (Brazil) 3/21/13)

April 2, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Environmentalism, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Panama: Indigenous Leader Murdered After Anti-Dam Protest

Assassination of Venezuelan Yupka Chief Sabino Romero Leads to Criticisms

By Ewan Robertson | Venezuelanalysis | March 15th 2013

Mérida – The assassination of indigenous Yukpa chief Sabino Romero on Saturday 3 March has led to public criticisms of the Venezuelan government’s handling of the land rights conflict in the Sierra de Perijá region.

Romero was killed by gunfire on 3 March as he made his way to an indigenous election in the Sierra de Perijá in the west of Venezuela, the region where the indigenous Yukpa people live. His partner Lucia was left seriously injured in the incident.

Romero was an indigenous leader and land rights activist who fought for the handing over of ancestral Yupka lands, some of which have been officially granted to the Yupka by the government but are still occupied by large-scale cattle ranchers.

His murder has drawn renewed attention to the land struggle between the Yupka, and ranching and mining interests in the Sierra de Perijá. The government’s role in the conflict has also come under the spotlight, with social movements blaming judicial impunity and public media silence for allowing Romero’s assassination to take place and the persecution of the Yukpa to continue.

The government’s reaction

The Venezuelan government suspects that Romero was murdered by hired killers for his role in the land struggle against cattle ranchers in the region.

The government was quick to denounce the assassination, with communications minister Ernesto Villegas calling it “a terrible act…which is condemnable and must be repudiated from all points of view”.

Further, interior affairs minister Nestor Reverol said the assassination was “part of, once again, the violence that the corrupt right-wing wants to reign over the indigenous peoples who have traditionally occupied these lands to develop their way of life”.

Following the murder, the Venezuelan government sent a high-profile investigation team to the Sierra de Perijá, Zulia state, comprised of the national intelligence service SEBIN and the criminal investigation body CICPC.

On Wednesday, two local police officers and one National Guard soldier were arrested and are being questioned for their possible connection with the crime.

Meanwhile Attorney General Luisa Ortega has promised that “justice will be done” and “we’re going to search and find those responsible for the act”.

Social movement criticisms

Some social movements and indigenous rights activists have accused the government of not acting to protect Romero’s life when it was known he was in danger. They further claim that local judicial impunity is preventing those responsible for violence against the Yupka from being held to justice.

Social movements have also criticised Venezuelan state media for ignoring the land conflict in the Sierra de Perijá, contributing to the climate of impunity. Since Romero’s assassination, state media have begun reporting more on the Yupka’s struggle, including reporting some of the criticisms being leveled against the government.

On Sunday 4 March, the day after Romero’s murder, various collectives and activists protested outside the Attorney General’s office to demand that “justice be done” in the Romero case and that “impunity cease”.

Lusbi Portillo of the Homo et Natura Society said to press that Romero had received over 20 death threats before his assassination.

Threats against Romero’s life seem to have intensified after Romero travelled to Caracas last November with some 60 Yupka. There, he demanded that the government act against violence on the part of cattle ranchers, and protested against government vacillation over the conflict.

During the 4 March protest, a spokesman for the Attorney General addressed the crowd to defend the institution’s role in the protection of Romero’s life.

“We offered Sabino protection measures from 2008, but when we tried to fulfill the measure, according to information given to us, which we have record of, he didn’t give [the authorities] information of a fixed residence and he was always based in different places, and he always told us that he looked after his own security,” said the spokesman.

Protesters also demanded a resolution to the land conflict in the Sierra de Perijá, and asked why lands which the Chavez government had granted to the Yupka were still being held by ranchers.

“There are 395,000 hectares of demarcated indigenous territory that still haven’t been handed over,” said lawyer Soraya Suarez to Telesur.

“Where is the response about the [public] money that was supposedly granted to pay the cattle ranchers [for their land] so that they leave these lands once and for all in the Sierra de Perijá…which can then come under the control of the Yupka?” she continued.

Some groups have also suggested that social organisations form part of the investigation into Romero’s murder, such as social movements based in Zulia state which are members of the pro-government Great Patriotic Pole coalition.

An on-going struggle

The Yupka’s demand for the demarcation and granting of ancestral lands is legally based on the 1999 National Constitution and the Indigenous Peoples Law, which grant a number of political, legal, and territorial rights to Venezuela’s indigenous, who make up just under 3% of the population.

However in the Sierra de Perijá, an area rich in coal seams and grazing land, ranching and mining interests have resisted efforts to demarcate and hand over ancestral lands to the Yupka. When some Yupka groups began to occupy such lands in 2008, these economic groups responded with violence and assassinations.

While local, political, and judicial interests have been accused of colluding with the campaign against the Yupka, in August 2008 President Hugo Chavez pledged support for the Yupka, saying, “Nobody should have any doubts: Between the large estate owners and the Indians[sic], this government is with the Indians.” Chavez further ordered top government figures to implement the Indigenous Law and demarcate and grant lands in the Sierra de Perijá to the Yupka.

Yet some indigenous chiefs, including Sabino Romero, opposed the land demarcation process that followed, arguing that it was not carried out in proper consultation with Yupka communities and that the land granted was demarcated in a manner conserving the best lands for ranching, mining and military interests.

Romero was imprisoned from 2009 to 2011 for his supposed role in a violent incident in October 2009 related to the dispute over government land grants to indigenous groups. His imprisonment was challenged as illegal with an appeal contesting that his case should fall under the competence of indigenous law.

Following Romero’s increasingly public campaign for the Yupka and his November 2012 trip to Caracas, the Yupka chief became “an obstacle to be eliminated” for cattle ranchers, landowners and other interests in the region, according to a statement by left union current, the Socialist Workers Unit (UST).

With Sabino Romero’s assassination, to date 38 Yupka have been killed in the conflict with ranchers, according to Venezuelan cinema artist and politician Carlos Azparua. This number includes the murder of Romero’s father and one of Romero’s children in 2008, and the murder Romero’s fellow activist Alexander Fernández last year.

The UST claims that vested economic interests in the Sierra de Perijá “have the support and complicity of government and military bureaucrats”. Further, the UST says that these economic interests also have “known links” with politicians from the conservative Democratic Unity (MUD) opposition coalition.

In light of Romero’s murder, a Venezuelan coalition of social organisations, Life Forum, has demanded that protection be afforded to family members and others connected with Romero who may be in danger. They also advocate the resumption of the process of Yupka land demarcation, and the full consultation with indigenous communities of any mining projects on their lands.

The public investigation into Romero’s assassination continues.

March 16, 2013 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | Comments Off on Assassination of Venezuelan Yupka Chief Sabino Romero Leads to Criticisms

Mapuche protest demands removal of statue of “the man guilty of the greatest genocide”

MercoPress | October 17th 2012

Members from the indigenous Mapuche community in Patagonia protested angrily at the south Argentina resort of Bariloche demanding that a statue in honour of President General Julio A Roca be removed since “he was responsible for the greatest genocide in our history”.

Although the original motive of the protest was the delay in the building of a cooperative housing complex, demonstrators aired their fury against the equestrian statue of the man who led what is known in Argentine history as ‘the conquest of the desert (Patagonia)’ which he accomplished with no mercy or consideration for indigenous peoples among which the Mapuche who live on both sides of the Andes cordillera.

Roca with a long military career referred to the conquest as the “frontier problem” and effectively put under government control all land up to the Rio Negro in a campaign that as he promised would “extinguish, subdue or expel” the Indian inhabitants. These land conquests would also strengthen Argentina’s strategic position against Chile that was advancing from the extreme south but at the time was engaged in the Pacific War against Peru and Bolivia.

Due to his military successes and the massive territorial gains linked with them, Roca later became Argentine president.

The protestors during the demonstration in downtown Bariloche put up a sign on the statue saying “Roca murderer” and called for the removal of the bronze since “it represents nobody in this community”.

“Many of our cooperative members are of Mapuche origin and the presence of the statue is offensive since this man slaughtered their ancestors”, said the protestors.

They went further and tied leather straps to the statue and tried to saw the horse’s legs and started pulling but police intervened followed by incidents.

Scuffles continued, before fearful tourists, until the protestors were received at Town Hall by Mayor Omar Goye who was also present with the Rio Negro province Social development minister Ernesto Paillalef.

Mayor Goye promised he would study the possibility of sending an initiative to the local Council to remove the Roca statue to somewhere else less prominent in the resort.

Authorities and protestors then marched to the main square next to Town Hall and had an open discussion on the cooperative housing construction delay and jobs for the region with some government funded employment plans considered.

Bariloche and surrounding areas which depend on tourism and livestock suffered greatly with the ash blanket that covered the area for months following the eruption of a Chilean volcano in the Andes next to the border earlier this year.

October is an especially distressing month for indigenous people ever more aware of their current conditions but proud of their ancestry, on both sides, Chile and Argentina, particularly because Europeans celebrate the discovery of the Americas by Columbus. For the indigenous peoples it is no celebration, it is “the last day of freedom”.

October 18, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Mapuche protest demands removal of statue of “the man guilty of the greatest genocide”

Brazilian court listens to natives claims and suspends work on Belo Monte dam

MercoPress | August 15, 2012

A Brazilian federal court has ordered the immediate suspension of work on the controversial Belo Monte hydroelectric plant, ruling that indigenous communities were not consulted. It was set to be the world’s third-largest dam.

The huge hydroelectric project across the Xingu River has been at the heart of an ongoing controversy The huge hydroelectric project across the Xingu River has been at the heart of an ongoing controversy

The Federal Regional Court of the First Region ruled on Tuesday that native communities affected by the Belo Monte dam in the Amazon must be heard before work resumes.

It said that the controversial project had been approved by the Brazilian Congress in 2005 on the proviso that an environmental impact study be conducted after work started. The court found that indigenous people were not given the right to air their views in Congress on the basis of the study’s findings, as was stipulated by law.

Norte Energia, the construction company which is running the project, faces fines of 250,000 dollars a day if it chooses to ignore the ruling. It has the right to appeal the ruling in a higher court.

Construction began a year ago on the dam, which runs across the Xingu River, a tributary of the Amazon. It was met by fierce opposition from local people and green activists.

Opponents argue it will reduce the volume of water in the Xingu River and affect populations of fish that are a staple in the diet of local indigenous peoples. They say it will lead to the displacement of around 20,000 people.

Environmentalists, meanwhile, warn of deforestation, greenhouse-gas emissions and irreparable damage to the ecosystem.

Due to be operational by 2014, the dam was designed to produce over 11.000 megawatts of electricity. If completed, it will only be surpassed in size by China’s Three Gorges facility, and Brazil’s Itaipu dam in the south, which is shared with Paraguay.

August 15, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Environmentalism, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Brazilian court listens to natives claims and suspends work on Belo Monte dam

Venezuela Moves towards Completion of Land Demarcation Process for Indigenous Communities

By Ewan Robertson | Venezuelanalysis | 11th August 2012

Mérida – The Venezuelan government granted 27 land titles to indigenous peoples in Amazonas, Anzoátegui and Monagas states, to coincide with celebrations for International Indigenous Peoples Day on Thursday.

Venezuelan Vice-president Elias Jaua, who led an official ceremony to handover the land titles, confirmed that 467,000 hectares of land were being granted to benefit almost 9,000 people.

“Today we are handing over documents that judicially grant these communities their right to habitat where they have lived for years,” he said.

Thursday also marked eight years since the launch of the government’s Mission Guaicaipuro, a program aimed at guaranteeing the rights of indigenous peoples enshrined in the 1999 constitution.

One aspect of Mission Guaicaipuro is to work with indigenous people in the demarcation of ancestral land. Up to the present, almost 1,815,000 hectares of land have been granted to Venezuela’s indigenous peoples, covering 337 distinct communities and 31,526 people, according to Jaua.

In an interview on state television VTV on Tuesday, the minister for indigenous peoples, Nicia Maldonado, said that the government’s National Demarcation Commission is currently evaluating 34 other requests for territorial demarcation.

These are expected to be granted by September, upon which, “we would be declared a territory free of demarcation requests [from indigenous communities],” she confirmed.

On Thursday Vice-president Jaua also announced the granting of US $10.9 million (47 million bolivars) “for the transformation of the lives of indigenous peoples and communities”. Indigenous communities will be able to present development projects and request the funding through the Government Federal Council.

Jaua also highlighted President Hugo Chavez’s commitment to Venezuela’s indigenous peoples, as seen in the 1999 constitution, whose chapter eight recognises their multi-ethnic and pluri-cultural character, among other rights.

Indigenous Congress in Defence of Mother Earth

The land grants were made at the close of the V Great National Congress “Abya Yala” of Indigenous Peoples for the Preservation of Mother Earth, held in the Kavanayén indigenous community in the eastern Bolivar state.

The congress brought together 45 delegations from 20 countries to discuss the conservation of the environment and the strengthening of Latin American indigenous movements.

Commenting on the conference, Maldonado said “If indeed there’s still a lot to do, after 500 years of abandonment, what’s coming is the deepening of indigenous rights and their struggles”.

In their eighteen-point final declaration yesterday, the participants of the congress declared their support for the Venezuelan government’s policy of land demarcation, and the need to raise consciousness on the struggle of indigenous peoples in defence of the environment.

The document also called for the “generation of conscious criticism” to contribute toward “the deepening of indigenous-American socialism of the 21st century”. The declaration can be read in Spanish here.

August 11, 2012 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | Comments Off on Venezuela Moves towards Completion of Land Demarcation Process for Indigenous Communities