control of water

Mexico: lives claimed in Chihuahua water wars

Hundreds of campeisnos staged a protest outside the Governor's Palace in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua last week, following the Oct. 22 double murder of two leading members of the activist organization El Barzón. Ismael Solorio Urrutia and his wife Manuela Martha Solís Contreras were shot while driving in in thier truck on the highway near Ciudad Cuautémoc, west of the state capital, Chihuahua City. Supporters are demanding a face-to-face meeting with Chihuahua's Gov. César Duarte to demand justice in the case, asserting that Solorio had faced numerous threats and attacks in recent weeks. On Oct. 13, Solorio and his son Eric were beaten by men that activists claim were in the pay of Vancouver-based mining company MAG Silver. Solorio and fellow Barzonistas had been opposing the installation of the company's El Cascabel mine in the municipality of Buenaventura. The Barzonistas say the mine is illegally slated for Ejído Benito Juárez, a collective campesino agricultural holding. The site is belived to hold a rich vein of the rare element molybdenum.

Panama: strikes halt trade zone land sale

After an all-night session, Panama's National Assembly agreed Oct. 27 to repeal Law 72, which approved the sale of land in the Colón Free Trade Zone (ZLC)—responding to nine days of strikes, protests and riots that began in the Caribbean port of Colón and spread to the capital, Panama City. Thousands of vehicles clogged the capital's main arteries, immobilized by protest roadblocks. The Unitary Syndicate of Construction Workers (SUNTRACS) and allied citizens' group, the Frente Amplio Colonense, rejected government offers to increase the amount of money from the land sales to be directed into social programs, insisting the sale be cancelled altogether. "We are not participating in any type of conversation until the entire law is revoked," said Felipe Cabezas of the Frente Amplio. Three were killed in the nine days of protests, including a 10-year-old boy, as police repeatedly used tear gas against demonstrartors who fought back with bricks and sticks.

Peru: indigenous development plan for Amazon

The Inter-ethnic Association for Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (AIDESEP) on Oct. 17 issued a "Plan for the Full Life of the Amazon," calling for indigenous-directed development projects, with the necessary funds to be provided by companies that exploit resources in the Amazonian regions. But the document, which was presented to the executive and legislative branches of the Peruvian government, draws a hard line against numerous existing and planned exploitation projects. It states that forests are threatened by 26 hydro-electric projects, particularly naming the Inambari project in Madre de Dios region and the Tambo 40 project in the Apurímac-Ene River Valley (VRAE); that hydrocarbon blocs cover 70% of the Peruvian Amazon, with mineral blocs of an additional 10 million hectares; and that an "inundation" of new roads into indigenous territory constitutes a "grave threat to the autonomous peoples," especially naming the controversial Purús-Iñapari highway in Madre de Dios. The statement called upon Peru's government to comply with International Labor Organization Convention 169 and halt projects that have not been approved in prior consultation with impacted indigenous peoples. (AIDESEP, Oct. 17)

Peru: OAS rights commission to hear Conga case

On Oct. 16 in Lima, a delegation from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) met with Ydelso Hernández, president of the Unitary Struggle Command in Peru's northern region of Cajamarca, who is seeking an order from the IACHR halting the controversial Conga mining project. Hernández said a group representing rondas campesinos (peasant self-defense patrols) in Cajamarca will travel to Washington DC at month's end to testify before the IACHR about rights violations associated with the project.

Innu block roads in northern Quebec

Provincial police have been mobilized to a spot on Highway 138 in northern Quebec where local Innu erected roadblocks outside the town of Sept-Îles over the weekend. Dissident Uashat-Maliotenam band members who say they've been shut out of the province's resource-development plan used trees, traffic cones and debris to block the highway, only allowing emergency vehicles to pass. The Uashat-Maliotenam band council distanced itself from the demonstrators, saying "in the immediate future, the band prefers mediation to resolve this crisis." Protesters say they have been systematically excluded from talks related to Quebec's Plan Nord, a mega-scheme to exploit natural resources in the region. Quebec wants to exploit mining, forest and energy resources in a 1.2-million-square-kilometer zone—an area more than twice the size of France. By the end of 2010, a total of 24 of the 33 First Nation communities in the impacted territory had signed agreements with the provincial government. (Sun News, Canada, Oct. 16)

Peru: campesino vigilance at Conga mine site

Campesinos in Cajamarca, Peru, continue to organize round-the-clock vigilance at the proposed site of Yanacocha company's Conga gold mine, in response to reports of construction work at the concession bloc despite official assurances that the project is suspended. Organized in rondas (self-defense patrols), the campesinos are monitoring activities at the high-altitude lakes that would have to be destroyed for the project to proceed. Idelso Hernández of the Cajamarca Unitary Struggle Front said Oct. 12, "Now there are 1,200 people mobilized to protect the lakes. The comuneros have decided to maintain a permanent presence in the zone to block any effort by Yanacocha to transfer workers or equipment there." Some 600 National Police troops have also been deployed to the site.

Peru warned on repression of peasant protests

In an open letter Sept. 20, Human Rights Watch urged Peru's President Ollanta Humala to take steps to prevent the unlawful killing of protesters, noting growing incidents of deadly force. Local media report that at least 19 have died in protests over mineral projects since Humala took office last year. On the same day HRW issued the letter, National Police killed a protester at Barrick Gold's Pierina mine in Áncash region. The confrontation came as residents from Mareniyoc and other local villages pushed their way onto the company's property, prompting police guarding the entrance to open fire. Barrick temporarily suspend production at the mine following the clash, in which four campesinos were also injured.

Guatemala: wins, threats for peasant ecologists

On Sept. 11, a judge revoked 10 arrest warrants that had been issued against community leaders in the Guatemalan municipality of Barillas, Huehuetenango, for alleged crimes against the Spanish firm Hidro Santa Cruz, which plans to build a dam on a river outside the village. A civil court in Santa Eulalia found the warrants were issued in violation of proper procedures. The 10 were accused by the company of property destruction, kidnapping and terrorism, among other charges, after riots broke out following the murder of a community leader, Andres Fransisco Miguel, who had been an outspoken opponent of the plans to dam the Río Q'am B'alam (also rendered Canbalam). Nine community members still remain detained in Guatemala City's central prison. Saturnino Figuero of the Assembly of Peoples of Huehuetenango for the Defense of the Territory expressed hope that these would be released too, saying, "We are convinced that because this case has become national and international news, the actors in the justice system will begin to align their actions more closely with the law." (Cultural Survival, Sept. 17)

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