Tag Archive | "indigenous"

Wichi Protest Arrests by Taking over Formosa Police Station

The indigenous in Formosa often live in extreme poverty (photo: Kate Stanworth)

The indigenous in Formosa often live in extreme poverty (photo: Kate Stanworth)

A group from the El Colorado Wichi community in Formosa last night took over the police station in El Potrillo in protest of the arrest of five community members who were violently detained in neighbouring Las Lomitas on Monday.

The protest began late yesterday afternoon when around 200 people made their way to protest outside of the station. They were joined by more community members, and a group of the protestors entered the police station and took over the building with initial reports saying some 25 police officers were still inside. However, local priest Francisco Nazar, denied the claims that there are hostages, confirming that the group are still in the building but that no police officers are being held.

The group have said they will not abandon the station until there an independent judge looks into the arrest of the five held in Las Lomitas, which would lead to, they believe, their release. Another group of protesters has also blocked Ruta 81.

Their lawyer, Daniel Cabrera, on Tuesday is currently meeting with Judge Francisco Orella, who ordered the police action which they were arrested on Monday, to evaluate the situation.

According to Cabrera, the conflict began after local businessman Pila Tedin and his family took over land that the Wichi claim as their own and started fencing it. Members of the community went to talk to the family and also reported to the police the usurpation of the land. When nothing was done to stop them, last Friday a group went back to the family and demanded they stop. Over the weekend, community members then removed all of the fencing and confiscated the chainsaw that was being used to construct the fencing. The family then reported the incident to the police and on Sunday a Judge Orella ordered a search of the community, which took place with scores of police officers in a dawn raid on Monday.

Witnesses report that between 70 and 100 armed police officers arrived in a dozen vehicles and entered the houses, destroying residents’ belongings, beating people, and violently arresting Nelgado Galeano and brothers Esteban, Avelino, Manuel, and Rodrigo Tejada. Ricardo Tejada was shot and is currently undergoing treatment in Formosa’s Hospital Central for his numerous wounds.

The five have been charged with “armed robbery with use of a firearm in a populated area and belonging to a gang” and “assault and resisting arrest and obstruction of a judicial act”. Cabrera has called the charges disproportionate to the acts they are alleged to have committed.

When news of the arrests broke out, members of other their community and indigenous communities protested in the streets of Las Lomitas, demanding that authorities respect Law 26.160, passed at the end of 2006, which recognises the land rights of indigenous communities, forcing local authorities to undertake surveys of the land in their provinces and suspending any evictions of communities in the meantime.

The incidents escalated to yesterday’s taking of the police station.

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Costa Rica: Violent Attack on Indigenous Community

The Bribri live in three communities in the south of Costa Rica (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

The Bribri live in three communities in the south of Costa Rica. Saturday’s attack took place in Salitre, the southernmost community (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

Organisations have denounced a violent attack on a Bribri community in the south of Costa Rica that took place on Saturday night.

A group of 80-100 men are reported to have gone to Buenos Aires in Puntarenas, armed with lit torches and stones, and forcibly ejected residents from their homes, before setting them on fire. The Bribri were then reportedly chased into the surrounding bush by then men, who brandished hot irons and “branded” some of the residents. The attackers also used two large trucks to block the road to the community with large quantities of sand and stones.

It is not the first time the community has been victim to such violence. “In January last year, a young man was branded as if he were cattle and another had his fingers cut off. Yesterday they burnt down our houses, and I have relatives who, right now, are hidden in the mountains for fear of being attacked,” Yamilet Figueroa, one of the victims, told TeleSur.

The community is located inside Salitre, a 12,700-hectare terrain in the mountainous south of Costa Rica, land the Bribri are claiming they have historic rights to. Around 75% of the land, 9,525 hectares, has been recuperated by the community.

Local landowners are alleged to be behind the attacks, according to the National Front for Indigenous People, Frenapi: “These racist attacks are an attempt to stop the autonomous process of territorial assertion which these communities have started for the recuperation, defence, and autonomy of their land.”

The group also blamed the State for a lack of clarity, negligence, and failure to approve the Law for Autonomy of Indigenous People, which would give the country’s eight indigenous communities a strong legal framework. The failure to pass the law has created a legal vacuum in which such attacks can take place.

President Luis Guillermo Solís has sent a delegation to the Salitre reserve, which has demanded that the local police guarantee the physical safety of those affected.



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Brazil: Judge Revokes Licence for Amazon Gold Mine

Open-pit mines like this one in Northern Chile require huge amounts of water (photo/Andrew Griffith)

An open-pit mine in northern Chile (photo/Andrew Griffith)

A Brazilian judge has revoked Canadian mining company Belo Sun’s licence to drill in the Amazon, citing the corporation’s failure to assess the impacts of its planned mega-mine on nearby indigenous communities.

If approved, the controversial Volta Grande open-pit project would be Brazil’s largest gold mine, projected to yield 50m tonnes of gold over 12 years. The project is planned for the ‘Big Bend’ of the Xingu River, a south-east tributary of the Amazon River, along which the Brazilian government is already building the Belo Monte Dam, the world’s third-largest hydroelectric dam.

“The approval of an environmental license without the required prior analysis of the indigenous component entails a serious violation of environmental law and the rights of indigenous people,” stated Judge Claudio Henrique Fonseca de Pina in his decision to annul the license. “When adding this to the fact that these indigenous lands are also in the direct area of influence of the Belo Monte dam, [the licensing process] requires even more caution in order to assess the project’s scale of impacts on indigenous communities.”

Belo Sun’s investors reacted immediately to the news, with shares plunging nearly 10% on the Toronto stock exchange.

“This is a step forward,” said Leticia Leite of the Socio-Environmental Institute (ISA), a Brazilian NGO that helped launch the Belo Sun No! campaign last year. “Excavating 37.8 million tons of minerals just 10 kilometres from two indigenous territories without conducting studies on the project’s environment impacts on affected communities is illegal and immoral. And Brazil’s judicial system has determined that it is not possible!”

Belo Sun must now complete a study detailing the impacts of its mining operations on local indigenous groups to include in its environmental impact assessment (EIA). The new impact study will need to demonstrate that the proposed mine’s impacts on indigenous peoples will be superficial, in light of the destruction these communities are already suffering under Belo Monte.

The corporation is predicting that completion of the study will take five months, although analysts say this timeline is unrealistic due to the complexity of the impact study, and say that eventual extraction could be put back as much as four years.

Judge Fonseca de Pina’s ruling is appealable, and could be easily overturned. And Belo Sun has the tacit support of the state environmental agency SEMA-Pará, who originally allowed the corporation to sidestep its obligation to consider the mine’s effects on the local communities, claiming that including an indigenous study in the EIA would needlessly “penalise the company and restrict the socio-economic development that the project proposes.”

Open-pit gold mining is considered to be particularly dirty, as vast amounts of rock and materials must be removed, through blasting, leading to the destruction of the environment at the mine site, damage to the surrounding ecosystem, and the opening up of vast craters. Open-pit mines produce eight to ten times as much waste rubble as underground mines. The ore must then be processed to extract the mineral, using cyanide and other chemicals, and processed ore is left on the site in the form of slurry in toxic tailings ponds. Every ounce of gold produced results in 30 tons of mine waste.



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Brazil: Uncontacted Tribe Displaced by Amazon Logging

Uncontacted Indians in Brazil, May 2008. Photo courtesy of Survival International. ©Gleison Miranda/FUNAI/Survival

Uncontacted Indians in Brazil, May 2008. Photo courtesy of Survival International. ©Gleison Miranda/FUNAI/Survival

An uncontacted tribe living in the Amazon has emerged from the rainforest in Brazil near the Peruvian border and made contact with a settled indigenous community.

The news comes just days after FUNAI, Brazil’s Indigenous Affairs Department, and Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights, warned of the serious risk of such an incident, in light of the failure of the Peruvian authorities to stop rampant illegal logging on its side of the border.

The group had been coming increasingly close to the settled Asháninka who live along the Río Envira in the Brazilian state of Acre, and news emerged this week that the group had made contact with the Asháninka on Sunday.

A specialist FUNAI team is in the area to provide help to the newly-contacted group, and a medical unit has been flown in to treat possible epidemics of common respiratory and other diseases to which isolated indigenous groups lack immunity.

Nixiwaka Yawanawá, who is from Brazil’s Acre state and who joined Survival to speak out for indigenous rights said: “I am from the same area as they are. It is very worrying that my relatives are at risk of disappearing. It shows the injustice that we face today. They are even more vulnerable because they can’t communicate with the authorities. Both governments must act now to protect and to stop a disaster against my people.”

As a result of aerial and land surveys, the Brazilian government has so far identified 77 uncontacted peoples, many of which only have a few dozen people remaining. One tribe in Rondônia state has only one lone man; known as ‘the Last of his Tribe’, who resists all attempts at contact. It is believed that many have stopped having children because they are constantly fleeing loggers and other intruders. The uncontacted Awá, who are the Earth’s most threatened tribe, hunt monkey and other game at night, in order to remain hidden.

According to Survival, introduced diseases are the biggest killer of isolated tribal people, who have not developed immunity to viruses such as influenza, measles, and chicken pox that most other societies have been in contact with for hundreds of years.

In Peru, more than 50% of the previously-uncontacted Nahua tribe were wiped out following oil exploration on their land in the early 1980s, and the same tragedy engulfed the Murunahua in the mid-1990s, after being forcibly contacted by illegal mahogany loggers.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “Both Peru and Brazil gave assurances to stop the illegal logging and drug trafficking which are pushing uncontacted Indians into new areas. They’ve failed. The traffickers even took over a government installation meant to monitor their behaviour. The uncontacted Indians now face the same genocidal risk from disease and violence which has characterised the invasion and occupation of the Americas over the last five centuries. No one has the right to destroy these Indians.”



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Salta: Land Transfer to Indigenous Groups Ends 20-Year Dispute

Juan Manuel Urtubey casting his vote in Salta. (courtesy of Urtubey for Governor)

Juan Manuel Urtubey casting his vote in Salta. (courtesy of Urtubey for Governor)

The governor of Salta province, Juan Manuel Urtubey, signed the transfer of 643,000 hectares of state-owned land to indigenous communities and criollo families. The decree, approved by Urtubey yesterday, puts an end to a 20-year dispute over land rights that reached the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

According to the deal, 400,000 hectares of the contested territory will become community property for 17 different indigenous groups that claim the land. The remaining 243,000 hectares will be transferred to around 400 criollo families living in the area.

Urtubey said the decree marked an inflection point for the region, and said he took it as a “personal challenge” to develop the region.

Indigenous communities in the area have been seeking legal recognition of their territory for over two decades. They claim the official demarcation of lands was necessary to prevent conflict with criollo families that compete for resources in the region.

In 1998, after the government began construction of public works as part of Argentina’s integration into Mercosur, the case was presented to the IACHR by the Lhaka Honhat Association and the Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS).

In 2012, after years of frustrated negotiations in an attempt to reach a so-called “friendly settlement”, the IACHR concluded that the Argentine state had violated the rights of the indigenous communities and urged a swift resolution. Earlier this year, the IACHR agreed to extend the deadline to reach a settlement until the start of June, after which time, the case would be referred to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.




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Dozens Injured and Detained after Violent Repression in Chaco

Dozens of police were involved in the crackdown on the protest (photo: Germán Pomar/Télam/ddc)

Dozens of police were involved in the crackdown on the protest (photo: Germán Pomar/Télam/ddc)

Over 30 people have been injured and a dozen detained after a march was violently repressed yesterday in Resistencia, the capital of Chaco province.

Among the wounded was journalist Mónica Kreibohm, of newspaper Norte, who was hit by rubber bullets when she tried to prevent a woman who had fainted from being arrested. Police officials have also said that some ten officers were injured, and four of them are in a serious condition.

The protest involved members of unions, social movements, campesino organisations, and indigenous groups who had travelled from El Impenetrable. The protestors, numbering around 3,500, had marched peacefully to the provincial government house in Plaza 25 de Mayo to demand better wages and improved welfare programmes.

A little after 1pm, violence erupted after members of the demonstration threw “missiles” at the police, according to the provincial government. The organisers deny any objects were thrown to spark the violence, and say the government ordered the heavy-handed crackdown on their freedom of expression, which involved a truck with a water cannon, teargas, rubber bullets, and some 50 police on motorbikes and 40 on horseback.

The Partido Obrero has reported that the police were also firing lead bullets, an accusation that has been denied by the government, who say the bullets were shot by demonstrators who had brought home-made guns to the march.

The organisers are now considering a second march in the coming days to demand the resignation of Acting Governor Juan Carlos Bacileff Ivanoff, noting that a peaceful march last month also ended in similar violence.


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Brazil: Clashes Between Police and Protesters in Anti-World Cup March

Indigenous protesters clash with police in Brasilia (photo: Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom/Agência Brasil)

Indigenous protesters clash with police in Brasilia (photo: Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom/Agência Brasil)

Indigenous people dressed in traditional clothing clashed with police yesterday during a march in Brasilia. The incidents took place outside a new stadium built for the football World Cup.

The group of around 300 indigenous people, who were carrying bows and arrows, marched towards the Mané Garrincha stadium and were joined by protesters from the People’s Cup Committee. In an attempt to keep the protesters from reaching the stadium, the Military Police dispersed the crowds using tear gas. Protesters reacted by throwing the tear gas canisters back at the police as well as by throwing some arrows and stones. The incidents were broadcast live on television.

The Military Police informed that an officer was wounded in the leg by an arrow but is recovering favourably, and that a protester was detained due to the incidents. According to the Missionary Indigenous Council (CIMI), four indigenous people were wounded and one member of the Homeless Workers’ Movement (MST) was arrested.

The MST, which is part of the People’s Cup Committee, they were protesting against “the Cup’s crimes and violations, carried out by FIFA, by the federal government and the government of Brasilia, and by sponsors and contractors against the Brazilian people.” The indigenous groups were protesting against a bill which threatens to decrease the size of some indigenous communities.

As a result of the incidents, the opening ceremony of the World Cup trophy exhibition was cancelled.


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Paraguay: Congress Approves Return of Land to Indigenous Community

A recent protest by the Sawhoyamaxa community  (photo via Tierraviva official Facebook page)

A recent protest by the Sawhoyamaxa community (photo via Tierraviva official Facebook page)

The Chamber of Deputies in Paraguay has approved the return of around 14,400 hectares of ancestral land to the Sawhoyamaxa indigenous community.

The bill, which was passed by the Senate last month and will allow the State to expropriate the private land, must be signed by President Horacio Cartes to come into force.

The Sawhoyamaxa community, of the Exnet ethnicity, was expelled from the land, around 270km northwest of the capital Asunción in the Gran Chaco region, over 20 years ago. In 1991, the community began legal proceedings to reclaim their territory while living in basic settlements on the side of a highway.

The land is currently owned by German rancher Heribert Roedel, who has resisted efforts to negotiate a settlement.

However, in 2006, the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR) ruled that the Paraguayan state had violated the rights of the community, ordering the return of their lands by 2009. After more delays, the members of the community moved in to occupy an area of the land in April 2013. Once signed by the president, this bill will allow them to redevelop their community.

One of the leaders of the community, Leonardo González, urged President Cartes to sign the bill quickly “because it is a just claim after 23 years living on the side of the highway without access [to the land].”

As the bill was sanctioned, legislator for the Partido Colorado Walter Harms said it “resolves a historic debt of the state.”


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Brazil: Another Indigenous Leader Shot in Mato Grosso do Sul

The burned remains of Paulino's car after December's attack (photo via MIC)

The burned remains of Paulino’s car after December’s attack (photo via CIMI)

Indigenous leader and activist Paulino da Silva Terena was shot yesterday outside his home in Miranda, in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul. Paulino, a leading figure in the struggle to reclaim the indigenous Pillad Rebuá land, was hit twice in the leg, and is recovering after being released from hospital.

According to Paulino’s testimony, he was approached by strangers when leaving his house at the Moreira camp at around 4.30am. He shouted for help, and when others in the community responded, the strangers hid and fired a round of shots before escaping. Local authorities are treating the case as attempted murder, according to news portal Agencia Brasil.

Paulino has been attacked before, in December 2013, when he suffered burns after his car was set on fire. Paulino has also reportedly been included a programme of state protection for defenders of human rights since February 2013, as a result of death threats he received.

Paulino is part of a group of around 100 families that have been camping on the contested Pillad Rebuá land since late 2013. The dispute over the land has been going on for over a century. In 1904, the state recognised 10,400 hectares belonging to indigenous communities, a decision that angered local farmers. In the 1950s, the official demarcation of the land began, but has never been completed due to a number of legal obstacles. The continuous delays prompted a group of Terena Indians to move in and occupy part of the land last October.

There have been a number of violent attacks of indigenous communities in Brazil in recent years, as conflicts over land intensify amid an expanding agricultural sector. Many of these occur in Mato Grosso do Sul, where the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI) recorded over half (317) of the 563 killings of indigenous people in Brazil between 2003 and 2012.



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Latin America News Roundup: 25th April 2014

President Santos speaks before the Constitutional Court (photo:  Juan Pablo Bello - SIG)

President Santos speaks before the Constitutional Court (photo: Juan Pablo Bello – SIG)

Court Declares Colombia’s Membership in Pacific Alliance ‘Unconstitutional’: The Constitutional Court of Colombia has declared law 1628, which approves the country’s entrance into the Pacific Alliance, unconstitutional. The court rules the law, which was sanctioned last year, was missing two articles when it was sent to Congress to vote on, making the process “irreparably flawed”. According to the ruling, Colombia’s membership of the trade bloc will be suspended until the government sends another, complete bill to be approved by Congress. Foreign Trade Minister Santiago Rojas said the decision will not affect existing commercial relations with the other members of the bloc, only the law governing Colombia’s integration into the alliance. The Pacific Alliance was formally created by Colombia, Peru, Chile, and Mexico in June 2012. Since then, the countries have removed visa restrictions for travel within member states and, in February 2014, signed a deal to eliminate trade tariffs on 92% of products. At the time, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who currently holds the rotating presidency of the bloc, called the members the region’s “dream team”.

Peru – Indigenous Groups Occupy Country’s Biggest Oil Field: Indigenous communities have occupied Bloque 1-AB, the country’s largest oil field, demanding that a clean up operation of the field’s contamination begin. Carlos Saudí, president of the Federation of Native Communities of the Río Corrientes (Feconaco), which is leading the study, said: “We demand the presence of a government commission as a part of the population of the Río Corrientes basin is contaminated by lead and heavy metals, as proven by various studies.” Yesterday he confirmed to the press that the occupation, which began on Monday, would continue until a solution was found to the problem. Bloque 1-AB is situated in the country’s north-west Amazon region, close to the border with Peru, and has been running for 40 years, under the operation of Argentina’s Pluspetrol since 2001. When Pluspetrol took control of the field, the government asked that the multinational clean up of over 100 sites contaminated by the previous contractors, something that has not yet been done. Last year, Peruvian authorities confirmed a state of emergency in the region after discovering high levels of lead, barium and other minerals in areas around the site, including the waterways. But local residents say that neither Pluspetrol nor the government have done anything about the situation. As a result of the blockade, the field’s output has halved to 17,000 barrels a day.

Military personnel protest in La Paz (photo: AFP/Aizar RALDES/Télam/aa)

Military personnel protest in La Paz (photo: AFP/Aizar RALDES/Télam/aa)

Bolivia – Tension over Military Protests: Military leadership dismissed 702 soldiers who took part in recent protests against discrimination in the Armed Forces. The Military High Command accused the protesting soldiers of attempting a coup d’êtat, and justified the decision by stating that “discrimination is no excuse for sedition and for promoting an attempted coup.” The soldiers, from across the three armed forces, were dismissed for “deliberately missing work, committing acts of sedition, mutiny, political actions, and collectively violating the dignity and honour of the Armed Forces.” Hundreds of low-ranking soldiers marched through the streets of several Bolivian cities as part of a protest, which also included strikes and hunger strikes, demanding the “decolonisation of the Armed Forces”. This would entail a reform of the Organic Armed Forces Law to eliminate discrimination throughout the military hierarchy and to promote equal treatment and professionalisation for non-commissioned officers.

Non-commissioned in the Bolivian Armed Forces are mostly of indigenous background, unlike the majority of officers. Protesters were joined by the ‘Red Ponchos’, an indigenous aymara militia, whilst the Bolivian Workers’ Central union (COB) and other social organisations rejected their demands, denouncing an infiltration of the protest by right-wing elements.

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