Indigenous communities are mobilizing in Brazil and Ecuador, challenging the respective national governments’ plans to push large-scale expansion of oil development in the rainforest (Ecuador) and clear the way for roads, dams, agribusiness and development of other mega-projects (Brazil) that would devastate ecosystems and undermine the internationally recognized standard of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC).
In Brazil, the powerful ruralista voting bloc of Congress that represents the country’s burgeoning agribusiness sector is seeking to modify Article 231 of the constitution to reduce Indigenous autonomy over their traditional territory in cases of “relevant public interest,” while simultaneously attempting to roll back the demarcation of new Indigenous territories. In a related effort, President Dilma is trying to push through measures to unilaterally reduce the boundaries of protected areas and Indigenous lands in order to build 3 major dams on the Tapajós River, and a series of additional large and medium-sized dams on its tributaries. These dams together would flood 230,000 acres of conservation units and national parks. The Chacorão Dam would also flood 50,000 acres of the Munduruku Indigenous Lands. This is illegal under Brazilian law, but those protections are threatened by these dangerous proposals.
In response, in the beginning of October, a National Indigenous Mobilization, perhaps the most significant in the last 25 years in Brazil, brought together 1,500 representatives of nearly 100 Indigenous ethnicities to Brasilia for a high-profile gathering and protest at the Brazilian Congress. RAN, working in coordination with Amazon Watch and Brazilian organization Socio-Environmental Fund CASA, channeled a $5,000 Protect-an-Acre grant to support the mobilization and the fight of Munduruku community members to stop the Tapajós dams.
As Amazon Watch’s Christain Poirer reported:
Based steps away from Brazil’s congressional buildings, federal ministries, and the presidential palace, the mobilization encampment proved an ideal staging point for acts of steadfast Indigenous resistance. Days were punctuated with spirited protest marches that provoked an overwhelming police response, and congressional security indiscriminately pepper spraying peaceful protestors. Yet brutality and intimidation could not dampen a hunger for justice and for respect…Targeting the heart of the agribusiness lobby in Brasilia, hundreds of protestors occupied the headquarters of the National Confederation of Agriculture, singing and dancing in celebration of a symbolic victory against the ruralistsas.
Legendary Kayapo leader, Chief Raoni Metuktire, stated:
“We are here because Congress wants to take our rights and extinguish our people. This assembly is important because it aims to unite our peoples against this threat.”
Two weeks later, in Ecuador, close to 150 Indigenous women began an 4 day, 150 mile walk from the Amazon city of Puyo, walking high into the Andes mountains to the capital city of Quito as part of a Mobilization for Life to demonstrate the unified resistance of all 7 Indigenous nationalities potentially impacted by the Ecuadorian government’s attempts to open up 16 new oil blocks in the southern Amazon to development, as well as to call for not drilling in Yasuni National Park. Hundreds of additional supporters joined the march along the way.
Gloria Ushigua, president of the Association of Sapara Women stated:
“We are marching; we are going to arrive in Quito and we are going to speak to Mr. Rafael Correa. We don’t want oil, maybe there is another way of life. We are organized, we have been organized for years, and we don’t want oil.”
These two videos (in Spanish) feature the Mobilization for Life, which arrived in Quito last week: