Brazil: victory for indigenous land struggle
Indigenous peoples across Brazil declared a victory when the country's Congress concluded work for the year on Dec. 17, having failed to approve a constitutional amendment, known as PEC 215, aimed at gutting the process of land demarcation. PEC 215 would have transfered responsibility for demarcation from the executive to legislative branch, where the land barons have far more power. This would have effectively halted pending demarcations of indigenous lands and Quilombola (Afro-Brazilian) territories. Under congressional rules, the ending of the session without a vote on the amendment automatically disbands the special commission that was established to analyze it. The congressional agribusiness bloc that pushed for PEC 215 will have to start over from zero when the body re-convenes next year. The Association of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) issued an open letter to mark the victory, stating, "We indigenous peoples have shown that we will never allow our lands to be recolonized, invaded or destroyed, even if that means sacrificing our own lives."
Lima climate summit in shadow of state terror
The UN Climate Change Conference, officially the Conference of the Parties (COP 20) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, closed its 14-day meeting in Lima, Peru, late Dec. 14, two days after its scheduled end. The 196 parties to the UNFCCC approved a draft of a new treaty, to be formally approved next year in Paris, and to take effect by 2020. An earlier draft was rejected by developing nations, who accused rich bations of dodging their responsibilities to fight climate change and pay for its impacts. Peru's environment minister, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, who chaired the summit, told reporters: "As a text it's not perfect, but it includes the positions of the parties." Friends of the Earth's Asad Rehman took a darker view: "The only thing these talks have achieved is to reduce the chances of a fair and effective agreement to tackle climate change in Paris next year. Once again poorer nations have been bullied by the industrialized world into accepting an outcome which leaves many of their citizens facing the grim prospect of catastrophic climate change." (BBC News, ENS, Dec. 14)
Brazil: truth commission report on military rule
Brazil's National Truth Commission released a report on Dec. 10 declaring that state agents engaged in human rights violations between 1964 and 1985 when the country was under military rule. The human rights violations include enforced disappearances, torture, sexual violence, executions and hiding bodies. At least 434 people are believed to have died or disappeared at the hands of the military during this period, and 210 bodies have never been found. The report urges the prosecution of those who were involved in the violations. The commission began investigating the abuses in May 2012, gathering thousands of testimonies and holding public hearings throughout 20 Brazilian states. Brazil's current president, Dilma Rousseff, was one of the victims tortured and imprisoned during the 1970s.
Police extermination campaign in Brazil's favelas?
A harrowing report on National Public Radio Nov. 9 points to the possibility that the crackdown on favela gangs in the prelude to this year's contentious Brazil World Cup may have actually been a police extermination campaign of favela youth. On June 11—one day before the World Cup opened—two officers of the Military Police picked up three Black teenagers in Rio de Janeiro's Zona Norte. The three hadn't committed any crime, although they did have a history of petty offenses. The officers drove them up to the wooded hills of the Morro do Sumaré area, above the city. One was shot in the head and killed. One was shot in the back and left for dead. Another escaped. We know what happened because the officers left their patrol car cameras on, and the videos appeared on Brazil's Globo TV. One officer taunts the youths: "We haven't even started beating you yet and you are already crying? Stop crying! You are crying too much! Be a man!" The officers are then heard saying "Gotta kill the three of them." And finally: "Two less. If we do this every week, we can reduce their number. We can reach the goal." The "goal" was apparently a crime-reduction target ahead of the World Cup.
Brazil: police unit suspected in Belém massacre
At least 10 people were shot dead by a group of masked men on motorbikes accompanied by two cars the early morning of Nov. 5 in several impoverished suburbs of Belém, the capital of the northern Brazilian state of Pará. Residents reported on the massacre by social media while it was in progress, warning people to stay indoors. Some of the killings may have been targeted, but in other cases the attackers apparently shot randomly at people on the streets. The incident came just hours after the Nov. 4 shooting death of Antônio Marco da Silva Figueiredo, a corporal in an elite military police unit, the Metropolitan Tactical Patrol (ROTAM). "There is a big probability that if there was not active police involvement" in the subsequent massacre, "then there were people who already passed through the police," Anna Lins, a lawyer from Pará Society for the Defense of Human Rights (SDDH), told a reporter. "It was summary execution."
Carbon obfuscation in New York Times
Amid the current UN climate talks and massive march for action on climate change in New York City, the New York Times runs an oh-so-naughty op-ed by Nadine Unger, an assistant professor of atmospheric chemistry at Yale, entitled "To Save the Planet, Don't Plant Trees." Now, if she had reversed the title as "Don’t Plant Trees To Save the Planet," she might have had a bit of a case. We ourselves reject the "carbon trading" scam that gives corporations a license to pollute if they plant trees—despite the fact that they often don't even plant the trees, but just grab forested lands from indigenous peoples, and (worse) the burninng of fossil fuels releases carbon that had been more thoroughly "locked" than that in trees, which do eventually die and rot. This is indeed a point that "carbon trading" and "biofuels" boosters seek to obfuscate. But this is not Unger's point. Instead, she is literally loaning legitimacy to Reaganoid nonsense that "trees cause pollution." To wit:
Amazon indigenous leaders killed by illegal loggers
Four Asháninka indigenous leaders, well known for their work against illegal logging in the Amazon, were murdered near their home in eastern Peru, authorities admitted this week. The men—Edwin Chota, Jorge Ríos Pérez, Leoncio Quinticima Melendez and Francisco Pinedo—were traveling from their community of Alto Tamaya-Saweto, in Masisea district of Ucayali region, to attend a meeting with other Asháninka leaders in Brazil. Their dismembered remains were found Sept. 1 by a local search party that was organized when they failed to return from the meeting. The widows of the men traveled for three days through the jungle, arriving in the regional capital of Pucallpa, arriving late on the night of Sept. 8, to demand immediate action by Peruvian authorities to bring the killers to justice. Vice minister for Interculturaity Patricia Balbuena announced that she will fly to Pucallpa to meet with the survivors. Chota, had received frequent death threats from illegal loggers he sought to expel from traditional Asháninka lands for which his community is seeking title. (Survival International, Sept. 9; El Comercio, AIDESEP, AP, Sept. 8)
Brazil: deadly prison uprising ends in deal
Brazilian authorities reached a deal with inmates Aug. 25 after a deadly prison uprising at Cascavel in Paraná state. The riot erupted the day before as breakfast was being served, when inmates overpowered guards. In apparent score-settling between rival drug gangs, two prisoners were beheaded, and two others thrown to their deaths off the roof of a cellblock. At least 25 were injured in the fighting. Under the deal, two guards who had been taken hostage are to be freed in exchange for a commitment to improve conditions at the facility and the transfer of some inmates to other prisons. The prison had already exceeded its intended 925 capacity. Negotiations on the specifics are ongoing between prisoners and the Paraná attorney general's office. Some 574,000 are incarcerated in Brazil; only the US, China, and Russia have more people behind bars. It is an open secret in Brazil that with prison overcrowding at unmanageable levels, guards routinely keep the peace by handing control of cellblocks to the inmates. The overcrowding has been exacerbated by a legal reform eight years ago that dramatically increased sentences for drug trafficking. (AFP, BBC News, Al Jazeera, Aug. 25; AP, Aug. 24)
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