Source: The Ecologist
Peru is set to embark on a major expansion of gas operations in the Camisea region in the Amazon - a move which could decimate Indigenous peoples, both those in ‘voluntary isolation’ and others in the early stages of contact.
On 2 November four Peruvian indigenous organisations issued a statement opposing recently-approved plans to expand operations in the Camisea gas fields in the south-east of the country which would threaten the ‘physical and cultural survival’ of indigenous peoples in ‘voluntary isolation’ and initial contact. This expansion is scheduled to take place within the Kugapakori-Nahua-Nanti Reserve for isolated peoples which is supposed to be off-limits to extractive industries. However, earlier this year an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the first phase of expansion was approved by Peru’s Ministry of Energy and Mines, despite being challenged by the government’s indigenous affairs department , INDEPA, and questioned by indigenous organisations.
In common with many other countries in Latin America, Guatemala suffers from a highly unequal “bimodal” distribution of land. More than half of the land in the country is covered by private land estates owned by either families and individuals or by mining, logging, agribusiness and plantation companies. In contrast, smallholdings amount to one fifth of the land area and are occupied by peasants and small farmers who make up 80% of the population. Indigenous peoples are the customary owners of land throughout the country, but in many cases do not have legal demarcation nor titles to their ancestral territories. Despite promises to recognise indigenous peoples’ and peasant farmers’ land rights, made in the 1996 Peace Accords and in stagnant proposals for agrarian reforms, little has been done to secure the land rights of indigenous peoples and local communities.[i]
The Regional Group for Monitoring Megaprojects in Ucayali (El Grupo Regional de Monitoreo de Megaproyectos de Ucayali, GRMMU), based in Peru, have just announced the launch of their new blog: *http://megaproyectosucayali.blogspot.com/*.
The importance of ensuring respect for the rights of forest peoples’ to control their forests, lands and livelihoods, becomes ever clearer and yet more contested. As the articles in this edition of our newsletter starkly reveal, land and resource grabs are not just being imposed by commercial developers but are being actively promoted by governments, whose principle responsibility should be to protect the rights of citizens. Yet these same impositions are also being resisted, sometimes at great personal cost, by local communities and indigenous peoples.
A collective of indigenous organisations and local NGOs in Ucayali province in Peru have rejected Peruvian government plans to construct a highway between Peru and Brazil. The organisations highlight that the road would have major and irreversible effects on the area that includes indigenous peoples’ customary lands that remain unrecognised, the Isconahua reserve for isolated peoples and the Sierra del Divisor natural protected area. Despite this, the organisations point out that the Peruvian government has failed to comply with its own laws requiring prior consultation with affected peoples and violated obligations to uphold indigenous peoples' rights under international treaties ratified by the country. The collective of organisations is now calling on the Peruvian government to declare the project unviable.
In August, news broke of an alleged massacre of Yanomami people in the remote Upper Ocamo river. The news had filtered down to mission stations among the Yanomami in the Parima grasslands further south and was then broadcast by the Yanomami organisation, Horonami, and other indigenous organisations in the Venezuelan State of Amazonas.
I remember when the park guards first came to our village. They called a meeting and said ‘get your things together and pack your bags, don’t make any new farms and we will see where you can be resettled’.
These are the words of Miguel Ishwiza Sangama, former headman of the village of Nuevo Lamas, a small Kichwa indigenous community in Northern Peru as he remembers the moment in 2007 when officials of the Cerro Escalera Regional Conservation Area first attempted to resettle his community. In the following years, Park authorities persisted with these efforts but when the community remained resistant the Park authorities resorted to restricting community access to the forest for hunting and gathering and prohibiting their traditional system of rotational agriculture. In 2010, charges were brought against three members of the community for practicing their rotational agriculture.
On 25th September, the Venezuelan Yanomami through their national organisation, Horonami, reiterated their call for a calm, detailed and participatory investigation into possible violent acts and abuses by illegal Brazilian miners in the Upper Ocamo river in the headwaters of the Orinoco. Although allegations of a serious massacre of Yanomami have now been dropped, the Yanomami reject statements that 'all is well' in the region.
Five Indigenous People’s organisations (AIDESEP, FENAMAD, ORAU, COMARU and ORPIO) have written a letter to the UN Special Rapporteurs for food, adequate shelter and on the rights of indigenous peoples requesting that they urge the Peruvian government to cancel its imminent plans to expand oil and gas development within the Territorial Reserve in favour of the Kugapakori, Nahua, Nanti and other ethnic groups in voluntary isolation or initial contact in South Ea
The South Central People’s Development Association (SCPDA), based in Guyana, have just released their latest newsletter containing information on what the organisation has been working on, and what their plans are for the future.
On 5th September 2012, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organisation of American States issued a press release in which it urged the Venezuelan Government to carry out an investigation in the Upper Ocamo village of Irotatheri where the alleged massacre of as many as 80 people is supposed to have taken place. On 10th September 2012, the IACHR issued a further press statement noting that Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela had officially 'denounced' the Convention. However, as the IACHR notes, withdrawal from the Convention requires one year's notice and moreover:
Representatives of 12 Shipibo indigenous communities and neighbouring villages from the Imiria lake region in Ucayali, Peru have expressed their opposition to the Imiria Regional Conservation Area (RCA-Imiria), a protected area established by the Regional government of Ucayali. The RCA-Imiria was created in 2010 but the communities denounce the fact that it overlaps their traditional territory including the titled lands of seven communities.
Following a recent investigation carried out by the indigenous organization, Horonami, other indigenous organizations in the Venezuelan State of Amazonas have issued a joint statement denouncing a massacre of Yanomami indigenous people in the headwaters of the Ocamo river in the Upper Orinoco. The massacre is alleged to have been perpetrated by Brazilian miners who illegally crossed the border into this remote, forested, upland area.
Peruvian national indigenous peoples' organisation AIDESEP have written to the Forest Investment Programme expressing serious concerns that INDUFOR, the team of consultants hired by the Peruvian government to develop a draft national investment plan, are still failing to address their key concerns and ensure their rights are safeguarded.
Government moves to cut the Hoti people's lands in the Venezuelan State of Amazonas by 42% have been denounced by all the main indigenous peoples' organizations. The Hoti were only brought into sustained contact with the national society by missionaries in the 1960s and many groups are still choosing to remain out of contact in the forested highlands. After flawed consultations, the Government has proposed reducing the Hoti territory by almost half, thereby excluding from protection the most isolated groups.
Read FAPI (Federation for the Self-Determination of Indigenous Peoples)'s second statement on the current political and social situation in Paraguay below:-
FAPI’s second message to the national and international public