control of water

Honduras: indigenous leaders arrested after dam demonstration

According to protesters, about 100 regular police and riot squad agents used tear gas and live ammunition on May 23 to break up a demonstration by members of the indigenous Lenca community of San Antonio Chuchuitepeque in the northwestern Honduran department of Santa Bárbara. A number of protesters were injured and five were arrested, according to Berta Isabel Cáceres Flores, the coordinator of the Civic Council of Grassroots and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), who was present at the demonstration.

Brazil: protesters suspend Belo Monte occupation

On the night of May 9 some 150 mostly indigenous protesters left the construction site which they had occupied for a week at the Belo Monte dam, in Vitória do Xingu municipality in the northern Brazilian state of Pará. (We previously reported 200 occupiers, following our sources.) The decision to end the protest came after Judge Sérgio Wolney Guedes of the Region 1 Federal Regional Court responded to a request from Norte Energia S.A., the consortium in charge of the dam, by ordering the activists to leave and authorizing the use of force by the police. "We went out the same way we entered, peacefully, without causing damage to public property or any type of aggression," Valdenir Munduruku, a spokesperson for the protesters, told the official Agência Brasil by phone. But he said the activists were unhappy with the court's decision, "because we think that our rights are being violated."

Protesters again block construction at Belo Monte

About 200 protesters occupied the main construction site for the giant Belo Monte dam, in Vitória do Xingu municipality in the northern Brazilian state of Pará, on May 2 to demand the immediate suspension of work on the project until the government has respected the indigenous communities' right to prior consultation on the project. The occupiers—who included members of the Munduruku, Juruna, Kayapó, Xipaya, Kuruaya, Asurini, Parakanã and Arara indigenous groups as well as fishing people and other residents in the area that will be affected by the dam—were also protesting the presence of soldiers and military vehicles in the region. They said they would maintain the occupation and block construction "until the federal government responds to the demands we've presented."

Guatemala: emergency over mining protests

The Guatemalan government declared a state of emergency and banned public gatherings May 2 in four municipalities in the eastern highlands following clashes between police and anti-mining protesters.  The 30-day "state of siege" effects Jalapa and Mataquescuintla (Jalapa department), and Casillas and San Rafael las Flores (Santa Rosa department). (See map.) Constitutional guarantees are suspended, and the powers of local municipalities dissolved, placing them under the direct control of Pesident Otto Pérez Molina. Clashes between local residents and National Police and security guards this week left one officer dead, six residents wounded, and police cars burned near the Escobal silver mine at San Rafael las Flores. Protesters also briefly detained 23 police officers. The government says the protesters are armed with guns and explosives. The mine's owner, Vancouver-based Tahoe Resources Inc., said protesters armed with machetes "turned hostile" at the gate on on April 27, and security guards fired tear gas and rubber bullets, setting off days of angry protests.

Afghanistan: opium crop breaks record

Opium cultivation in Afghanistan is expected to increase for a third straight year, expanding even to new areas of the country, a UN report warned April 15. The Afghanistan Opium Risk Assessment 2013 found that the country is moving towards record levels of opium production this year despite eradication efforts by the international community and Afghan government. "The assessment suggests that poppy cultivation is not only expected to expand in areas where it already existed in 2012... but also in new areas or in areas where poppy cultivation was stopped," the survey found. The study by the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) says insecurity and lack of agricultural assistance are fueling opium cultivation. "Villages with a low level of security and those which had not received agricultural assistance in the previous year were significantly more likely to grow poppy in 2013," the report said.

Peru: disappearing glacier sounds climate alarm

A new study published in Science finds that a critical glacier in the Peruvian Andes has shrunk to its smallest extent nearly since the end of the last Ice Age. Ohio State University glaciologist Lonnie G. Thompson is studying plants that have been recently exposed near Quelccaya Ice Cap, the world's largest tropical ice sheet, located 18,000 feet above sea level (straddling the border of Cuzco and Puno regions). Chemical analysis of plants exposed by melting several years ago showed them to be about 4,700 years old, proving that the ice cap had reached its smallest extent in nearly five millennia. In the new findings, a thousand feet of additional melting has exposed plants that lab analysis shows to be about 6,300 years old. Thompson said this indicates that ice that had accumulated over approximately 1,600 years melted back in no more than 25 years.

Panama: Ngöbe-Buglé leader murdered after anti-dam protest

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 March 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."

China: Mongol herders' protest march blocked

Authorities in northern China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region earlier this month blocked an attempted cross-country march by traditional Mongol herders, with police assaulting hundreds in two incidents. In the first incident, herders from Inner Mongolia’s Durbed (Chinese: Siziwang) banner (county) gathered at Hohhot train station on March 1, intending to march nearly 500 kilometers to Beijing. But police quickly arrived and broke up the gathering, according to the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC). The following day, troops in a dozen police vehicles descended on Halgait village in Zaruud (Zhalute) banner, breaking up another group that intended to march on Beijing. The herders hoped to arrive in Beijing for the meeting of the National People's Congress where Xi Jinping was installed as president, to protest confiscation of grazing lands.

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