Brazil: indigenous people occupy Congress
On April 16, when Brazil commemorates Indigenous Peoples Day, some 700 indigenous representatives occupied the lower-house Chamber of Deupites in a final effort to stop attempts to change the law concerning their territorial rights. They pledged to maintain their protests until the National Congress drops Constitutional Amendment Proposal 215 (PEC 215), now making its way through the lower house, which would transfer the power to demarcate indigenous lands from the executive to the legislative branch. Indigenous leaders call the move a stratagem by Brazil's powerful Rural Lobby, which includes many politicians who own ranches on indigenous land. Police used tasers in an attempt to stop the occupation.
Brazil: human trafficking crackdown in Amazon
The Brazilian state of Acre declared a state of "social emergency" April 10 in response to a surge of undocumented migrants from neighboring Bolivia and Peru—originating in countries from Haiti and the Dominican Republic to Bangladesh to Senegal and Nigeria. Officials said some 1,700 migrants had arrived during the past two weeks. The state "has been turned into an international travel route controlled by coyotes," said Nilson Moura, Acre's secretary for Justice and Human Rights., referring to the smugglers who guide the migrants into Brazil, often in exchange for exorbitant fees. The jungle town of Brasileia has become a key transport point for migrants bound for Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Brazilian police last year raided a number of sweatshops in Sao Paulo and the capital, Brasilia, where undocumented immigrants from Bolivia and Pakistan were found working in unsafe conditions for very little or no pay. (BBC, April 11; AFP, April 10)
Brazil: Awá tribe's desperate call to evict loggers
An Amazonian indigenous group said to be the Earth's most threatened tribe has sent an urgent appeal to Brazil's government to evict invaders from their forest homeland. Despite a federal judge's ruling that ordered Brazilian authorities to remove all invaders on Awá land by the end of March, not a single person has yet been evicted. The Awá are becoming increasingly desperate as illegal loggers close in on them and settlers encroach on their territory. In a rare video appeal to Brazil's Minister of Justice, an Awá man said: "I am angry, very angry… The loggers come here and chop down the trees… The Minister of Justice in Brasília can help us here, now. He must help us now!"
Brazil: protesters briefly reoccupy Belo Monte dam
In the early morning of March 21 some 150 indigenous people and other local residents occupied one of the four construction sites at the giant Belo Monte dam now being built on the Xingu River in the northern Brazilian state of Pará. The action, which brought construction at the Pimental site to a halt, was carried out by members of the Juruna, Xypaia, Kuruaia and Canela indigenous groups and by non-indigenous riverside dwellers, who mostly support themselves by fishing. The protesters were demanding clarification of the boundaries of their territories and also compensation they said had been promised them by Norte Energía, the consortium of private and state-owned companies in charge of the hydroelectric project.
Argentina: provincial court blocks Monsanto facility
Judges in Córdoba City, capital of the central Argentine province of Córdoba, issued an order Feb. 25 suspending construction of a corn seed-drying plant by Missouri-based biotech giant Monsanto Company. Provincial Labor Court judges Silvia Díaz and Luis Farías cited potential "environmental risks" as a basis for the suspension, which was in response to an appeal by the Argentine Law Foundation Club. The company plans to build the 27-hectare facility at a cost of $300 million in Malvinas Argentinas, a working-class suburb located 14 km from the provincial capital. Malvinas Argentinas residents are demanding a referendum on the planned construction and have held protest marches, including one on Feb. 21. (La Mañana de Córdoba, Feb. 21; Télam, Argentina, Feb. 25, via Terra.ar; MercoPress, Montevideo, Feb. 27)
Brazil: Amazon peoples declare against hydro
Some 500 members of the Munduruku indingenous group held a grand assembly Jan. 29 to Feb. 1 at the villahe of Jacareacanga, Pará state, in the Brazilian Amazon, where they denounced the Bacia Tapajós development project slated for their territory. The scheme calls for a complex of five hydroelectric dams on the Rio Tapajós, with the first slated for Teles Pires. Read the statement from the meeting: "We are not against the development of the country, but we will not accept having our lives destroyed in the name of a type of progress that will only benefit the great entrepreneurs who will be increasingly rich."
Brazil: landless leader assassinated
Sugar-cane cutter Cícero Guedes dos Santos, a leader of Brazil's Landless Workers Movement (MST) in Campos dos Goytacazes, Rio de Janeiro state, was shot dead by unknown gunmen Jan. 26 as he was riding his bicycle home from work. The attack came near an abandoned sugar plant which MST members have occupied amid a legal battle between the landless and the heirs of its deceased owner. A judge ruled last year that the plant and its lands of some 3,500 hectares were "unproductive" and should be expropriated. The heirs are appealing the decision. The MST, who had occupied the land for six years before being evicted by police in 2006, launched a second occupation in November.
Latin America protests attack on Gaza
In a Nov. 17 statement the leaders of the Southern Common Market (Mercosur), a trade bloc made up of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay (suspended), Uruguay and Venezuela, expressed their "strongest condemnation of the violence unleashed between Israel and Palestine" and their "concern with the disproportionate use of force" since Israel began a military offensive against Gaza on Nov. 14. Mercosur also expressed "its support to the request from the state of Palestine to obtain the status of [United Nations] observer member."
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