Indigenous leaders are warning that a combination of neglect, inadequate preparations, and a lack of lockdown measures is exposing remote and vulnerable communities in the Amazon to potentially devastating outbreaks of COVID-19. The nationwide death toll in Brazil has soared above 11,000 amid growing anger at President Jair Bolsonaro's dismissive response. The situation is particularly bad in the Amazon gateway city of Manaus, where the number of fatalities is feared to be many times the official 500 to 600. Peru and Ecuador also have large outbreaks and significant Amazonian indigenous populations.
In Episode 43 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of the current wave of popular protest and uprisings around the world, and asks if the planet is approaching another moment of revolutionary possibilities, such as was seen in 2011. He examines the prospects for these disparate movements to build solidarity across borders, repudiate ethnic and national divide-and-rule stratagems, and recognize the enemy as transnational capital and the authoritarian states that serve it. With discussions of Hong Kong, mainland China, Indonesia, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay, Honduras, Costa Rica, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey Iran, Egypt, Algeria, Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia and Guinea. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.
Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, one of the two remaining "dubia cardinals" who dissented from a perceived liberal tilt in the Catholic Church, praised the men who removed the controversial "Pachamama statues" from a church in Rome during last month's Amazon Synod and threw them into the Tiber River. The German cardinal hailed the perpetrators as "courageous...prophets of today" in an Oct. 29 interview with the conservative Catholic LifeSiteNews, adding: "These two young men who threw these tasteless idols into the Tiber have not committed theft, but have done a deed, a symbolic act as we know it from the Prophets of the Old Covenant, from Jesus—see the cleansing of the Temple—and from Saint Boniface who felled the Thor Oak near Geismar."
Celebrations broke out across Ecuador Oct. 13 after President Lenin Moreno agreed to overturn Decree 883, which would have eliminated fuel subsidies. Moreno's capitulation followed 10 days of nationwide protests that left at least eight dead, hundreds injured and more than 1,000 detained. After suspension of the decree was announced, thousands of indigenous activists, local residents and student volunteers took to the streets of Quito to clean up the city. Teams worked their way through El Arbolito park, epicenter of the protest movement, which was still littered with burning tires and pavement slabs that had been used as barricades. Moreno and protest leaders are to open a dialogue to find alternative means to cut Ecuador's public spending.
Ecuador's government declared a "state of exception" Oct. 3 after protesters opposed to a fuel price hike blocked streets and disrupted transport nationwide. A national paro, or general strike, was called after President Lenín Moreno announced his decision to end a 40-year-old subsidy for fuel—widely perceived as a move taken in response to belt-tightening demands made by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) following a recent $4.2 billion loan package. At least 350 have been arrested in the "paquetazo" protests, whch have been led by transport unions, indigenous organizations and student groups. (TeleSur, Al Jazeera, NPR, BBC News)
Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro failed to attend the summit of leaders of seven South American countries with Amazon Basin territory to address the devastating fires now consuming the rainforest. Duque claimed a medical emergency, and was represented by his foreign minister, Ernesto Araujo, at the meeting in Colombia's Amazonian city of Leticia on Sept. 6. The presidents of Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia as well as Araujo, the natural resouces minister of Guyana and vice president of Suriname agreed to form an "Amazonian cooperation network" to track deforestation across borders. Venezuela, despite having a large swath of Amazonian territory, was not invited, as Colombia does not recognize the presidency of Nicolas Maduro. Brazil has the largest share of the Amazon by far, and Bolsonaro's failure to attend was assailed by environmentalists worldwide.
The high court of Ecuador's Pastaza province on July 12 upheld a lower court ruling to protect the land rights of the Waorani indigenous people from oil drilling. The Pastaza Court of Justice rejected the Environment Ministry's appeal of the lower court decision to bar plans to open 180,000 hectares of Amazon rainforest to oil development before "prior consultation" with the Waorani is carried out. (AFP, July 12) Simultaneously, however, the Ministry approved the environmental assessment plans to drill for oil in a sensitive area of Yasuni National Park, where isolated or "uncontacted" indigenous peoples are believed to be living.
The Waorani indigenous people of the Ecuadoran Amazon won a legal victory hailed as historic April 26, as the provincial court of Pastaza Pilar Araujo blocked the opening of their traditional territories to oil exploitation. The case was brought last month by 16 Waorani communities, who charged that their right to "free, prior and informed consent," guaranteed by both Ecuador's constitution and international law, was violated when the government divided much of the province into oil exploitation blocs. One, Bloc 22, overlaps almost entirely with Waorani territory. The communities charges that technicians from the Ministry of Energy & Non-renewable Resources sent to the communities to conduct a prior consultation on the oil bloc instead attempted to bribe them with "gifts" of food and promises of education and other aid, wthout making clear that the offers were in exchange for opening the territory to oil companies. The ruling suspends auctions for Bloc 22 while the case is on appeal.