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February 25 2014

Bahamas: The Cerasee Cold Cure

Forget the cold relief, time for the cure.

Blogworld's Nicolette Bethel turns to “bush medicine” for healing.

February 18 2014

Olympics Overshadow Evictions in Tokyo

反五輪の会のフェイスブックページに投稿された写真。ロシア政府は、19世紀にアレクサンドル2世によってチェルケシア人口のおよそ90パーセントが殺害されたか土地を追われたチェルケシア虐殺についていまだ認めていない。

Photos of an anti-Olympics group in Tokyo posted on Facebook. Banners show messages of opposition to holding the Sochi Olympics on the land of genocide and the 2020 Olympics in Japan. (photo by 反五輪の会[han-gorin-no-kai] used with permission)

[All links lead to Japanese-language pages unless otherwise noted.]

While many people in Japan are happy with the country's results of the Sochi Winter Olympics – notably, Ayumu Hirano, the youngest medal winner on the snowboard half pipe and Yuzuru Hanyu, Japan's first Olympic gold in men's figure skating, just to name a few – there are some who are speaking out against the Olympics, present and future.

Given some tens of billions of dollars are used to host the international sporting event, the Olympics are never without criticism. At the opening ceremony for the Sochi Olympics, courtesy of the so called “anti-gay propaganda” law that Russia passed last year, the US President Barack Obama, UK Prime Minister David Cameron, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were among those absent [en]. Human Rights Watch has been urging the International Olympics Committee [en] to investigate over non-payment of compensations for construction workers for Sochi game-related facilities. Animal rights groups are anxious that the stray dogs swept out of Sochi would be killed [en]. 

But Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attended. Yuji Kitamaru, a Japanese columnist in New York, referred to the lack of human rights awareness in not just the leader, but its citizen:

The reason why all the European leaders being absent at the Sochi Olympics opening ceremony was because of an overwhelming domestic pressure to increase pressure on Russia, rather than the leaders themselves putting pressure on Russia. This is domestic politics rather than a diplomatic move. Abe was able to attend not just because of his lack of awareness of human rights, but also because there is a lack of human rights pressure in Japanese public opinion.

The lesser known problem may be the history of Sochi [en]. The Circassian people has demanded [en] that the Russian government acknowledges the 19th-century Muhajir [en] (Circassian Genocide), during which about 90 percent of the local Circassian population was killed or displaced by Tsar Alexander II. “NoSochi2014“ is a website created to put more pressure on the Russian government and to gather support for the cause.

Japanese anti-Olympics group “Hangorin-no-kai” showed their solidarity with NoSochi2014 and published a message on Facebook[en/ja] declaring that they do not welcome 2020 Tokyo Olympics for the forced evictions it may cause:

To the people around the globe fighting against the 2014 Sochi Olympics, we send you a message of solidarity from Tokyo, the host city of the 2020 Summer Olympic Games.

We understand that Sochi 2014 is being held on a land where Circassian people were massacred by the Russian Empire, and today Russia is running the games on the biggest budget in the history of the Olympics.

We also recognize that for the Olympics development, more than 2000 people were displaced from their homes and extreme levels of environmental destruction were brought to the land.

[…]

Here in Tokyo the unnecessary redevelopment for the 2020 Olympics has already started with evictions of low-income populations from their homes.

The radioactive contamination by the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster is nowhere near stabilisation, let alone “under control” as Prime Minister Abe proudly announced to the IOC.

Tokyo is only swimming in the cloud of an illusion, while the people in Fukushima and many nameless radiation-exposed workers at the power plant are left without sufficient support from the state.

The Olympics is nothing but a nightmare.

What is happening in Sochi today, is what might happen to us in 6 years.

The concerns of the group are the evictions that often take place before hosting large international events. There have been cases where homeless people staying in public parks were forcefully moved out of their tents when big events took place nearby.

The group mentioned [ja] past examples on Twitter: Before the 2002 FIFA World Cup and the 2007 World Athletics Championships, homeless people squatting at Osaka's Nagai Park [ja] were forcefully evicted. Prior to the Aichi World Expo, tents of homeless people in Nagoya city's Shirokawa Park [ja] were forcefully removed. And, evictions in Tokyo already started in early March last year with tents and belongings of the homeless forcefully removed when an International Olympic Committee inspection group visited Tokyo.

2013年12月15日(日)反五輪の会が主催したデモの模様。写真:mkimpo.comより許可を得て掲載

Protesters organized by an anti-Olympics group march in Tokyo on December 15, 2013. Photo by mkimpo.com. Used with the permission

Eviction is not only for people squatting in public parks. According to AFP [ja], about 2,000 households at the Kasumigaoka public housing apartment in Shinjuku, Tokyo are facing eviction. Most of the residents are elderly.

A blogger named “定年おじさんのつぶやき”, which translates to “Blurbs of a Retired Old Man” wrote about the shadows of the Olympics:

日本での最初の五輪開催は、まさに日本が経済成長を遂げ先進国の仲間入りを果たしたことを世界に誇示する最高の舞台だった。
だが晴れの舞台の陰には多くの人々の犠牲がついて回る。
昔から「開発」という行為には必ず自然や環境の「破壊」ということばがついて回った。

戦争は何も生み出さない最大・最悪の「破壊」行為であるが、五輪開催という大義名分には中々反対の声は上げにくい。

とりわけ立場の弱い人たちは、「お上」の命令には逆らうことができない。
54年前、アジアで初めての五輪開催を控えて都は老朽化住宅の建て替えを始めた。

当時は建て替えられた新しいアパートに再び入居することができたが、そのアパートも逐50年も経ち高齢になった住民は、2020年の五輪に向けて追い出されることになった。

When Tokyo hosted the Olympics for the first time [in 1964], it was a great milestone to show off to the world that Japan has grown into a developed country thanks to economic growth.

But a grand occasion in the spotlight often comes with sacrifices.

Through the ages, an act of development always was followed by destruction of nature and environment.

War is the biggest, worst example of destruction that does not generate anything good, but when it comes to a good reason like the Olympics, it's hard to speak against it.

Especially marginalized people can never go against the orders of authorities.

Fifty-four years ago, Tokyo began reconstruction on old housing prior to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. People who had been asked to leave their old houses were moved to a newly built apartment building.

But that apartment building, now 50 years old, and its old residents face another eviction for the 2020 Olympics. 

For Kohei Jinno, a 79-year-old resident of the Kasumigaoka apartment building, it's his second time facing eviction because of the Olympics. According to Japan Times [en], his home and business were torn down to make way for an Olympic park around the main stadium for the Tokyo Games in 1964. Now he has been told he must move again to make way for the stadium’s redevelopment and expansion in time for 2020. 

Unlike the anti-Olympics group “Hangorin-no kai”, most people in Japan are not against hosting the games themselves, but some are against tearing down the existing stadium to build a new, larger one. 

A YouTube video made by architect Ken Aoki using Google Earth shows a 3D model based on information made public in March 2013 of the new national stadium:

Edward Suzuki, a Japanese architect, suggested on his blog fixing up the already existing national stadium rather than simply building a new one and called on people to join the campaign on online petition platform Change.org. The petition “Saving Meijijingu Gaien and National Stadium for Future Generations (unofficial translation) argues that throwing large amount of taxes away to build a new giant stadium which would be too huge, raising issues with emergency guidance and risk management in the event of disaster, will only prevent recovery efforts for areas affected by the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami of 2011 and will destroy the city's scenery, such as Ginkgo trees and the blue sky. All this, the petition warns, will become a burden for future generations.

With the city headed toward a development push for the Olympics, Twitter user Nakajimayuki commented on the role of citizens:

Tokyo residents, as the leading actors for the city, must stay strong and pay close attention to this massive change that Tokyo will go through “for the 2020 Olympics”, not just the plan to rebuild a new stadium, so that such development will not proceed in an non-transparent way.

The thumbnail photo is from Hangorin-no-kai's Facebook page
The post was edited by L.Finch

February 17 2014

Zambia Ditches English in Primary School for Government-Approved Local Languages

In what is probably the most radical policy change by Zambia's just over two-years-old Patriotic Front (PF) government is the change in the language of instruction in lower primary school from English to local languages.

Lower primary school in Zambia is from Grade 1 to Grade 4 and caters to ages anywhere between three and 12 because there is no policy regarding how old a child has got to be to start or complete school.

The language change has its supporters, but it also has it is critics, and among the latter are chiefs, the traditional leaders who head various ethnic groups as custodians of language and culture of their ethnic groups.

The problem is that there are 73 recognised languages—although most of these can be classified as dialects—in the country, but only seven are recognised for official communication and are broadcast on government-run national radio by the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC). These seven, which are Nyanja, Bemba, Tonga, Lozi, Kaonde, Lunda and Luvale, will be the only local languages of instruction, despite the existence of many others.

The story of Chieftainess Nkomeshya opposing the use of the seven

An image of the Post newspaper's story on Chieftainess Nkomeshya opposing Zambia's use of the seven “official” local languages in primary school. Image from Zambian Watchdog Facebook page. Used with permission.

A full year before the language policy was rolled out, Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba, who is also the ruling party’s Secretary General, wondered why people insisted on the use of English:

Our education system does not meet the demands of a third-world country. We are producing students who are not relevant to the needs of our country […] It is the policy of the PF to revive vernacular languages because a language gives us identity.

The first signs of trouble for the proposed policy was when pupils in a rural school in Zambezi District of the North-Western Province protested being taught in one of the two languages, Lunda and Luvale, in use in the area. The protest forced government authorities to close the affected school temporarily.

One blogger, Munshya wa Munshya, argued that the policy is based on useless Pan-Africanist motives:

When a government has no tangible plan for development, it begins to couch useless pan-Africanist ideals that have no practical value. Nothing demonstrates this recklessness better than the recent decision of the Michael Sata government to introduce vernacular languages as the sole media of instruction in lower primary school. According to the Hon. Kabimba, government introduced this policy so that Zambia can truly be free from the foreign language of English. The Permanent Secretary in the ministry responsible for education is couching this new policy as “the necessary revision to the educational curriculum.” At close inspection, however, we find this new policy is nothing other than a noisome invention that lacks any proper objectives.

He criticized the policy, calling it absurd:

The government is saying that they have revised the curriculum in such a way that the pupils will now be taught in the “local languages”. This is absurd. In order for this reasoning to stand, we must first deconstruct what is meant by “local language”. The idea that Zambia has seven local languages is perhaps the greatest fabrication to have ever come from the Kenneth Kaunda [Zambia’s first president] dictatorship. Zambia does not have seven local languages. In fact, the seven local languages are not in any logical way expressive of the language status of the Zambian majority. Kaunda picked on the seven languages in an arbitrary manner and imposed them on us.

Chiefs in the mining province of Copperbelt, a very urbanised area of Zambia where Bemba or variants of it are widely spoken, rejected its teaching in favour of their ethnic Lamba which is mostly spoken in the rural areas. Senior Chief Chiwala said in a statement:

We, the Chiefs of the Copperbelt Province observe that it is a violation of human rights to impose on children the teaching of vernacular language that is not their own […] The position the Lambas have taken shall never be compromised and no amount of intimidation shall sway the people of Lamba land from this decision.

Throughout British Colonial and independent Zambia’s history, Lambas have been tolerant and sacrificed enough of their land for the sake of national development, mindful of the fact that Zambia is a unitary state in tribal diversity.

In Lusaka Province, where the capital city Lusaka is situated, Chieftainess Nkomeshya of the Soli, whose indigenous language has largely been sidelined, opposed the training of area chiefs in selected languages. Solis have to learn Chewa/Nyanja instead, a practice that has practically killed off Soli.

Similarly, some people hailing from Central Province have also rejected the use of languages other than Lenje, which is spoken in most parts of the region.

Whether the policy works or not is yet to be seen.

February 14 2014

Examining the Post-Colonial Evolution of Francophone and Anglophone Africa

Screen capture of animated slideshow on the legacy of French and English colonization in Africa via Le Monde

Screen capture of animated slideshow on the legacy of French and English colonization in Africa -Blue countries are French-speaking nations, red countries are English-speaking nations.  via Le Monde

The topic of the post-colonial evolution of francophone versus anglophone African states has always a fodder for intense debate. Cheidozié Dike, from Nigeria, brings a new perspective to the subject :     

While the French Loi Cadre system was mostly about integration, the British colonial system sought only exploitation. Creating an air of suspicion between the nations that make up present-day Anglophone Africa, fracturing connections before they were even made, all the better to rule.[.;] Francophone Africans do not feel the need to aspire to western culture, because the French culture was wedded with local customs such that it became an indivisible whole

However, the predominant analysis from francophone Africa is quite different. Ouréguéhi, from Benin, articulates why he thinks francophone Africa is lagging behind its anglophone counterpart financially [fr]:

Les pays anglophones ont été libérés de leur colon sur tous les plans. la France a toujours les regards dans les affaires des colonisés sans oublier la dictée qu'elle fait à ces pays. Quand tu veux voir celui que tu prétends aider évoluer, tu lui donne les conseils tout en lui laissant le choix de sa politique

English-speaking countries were freed from their colonizers at all levels. France still keeps an eye in the affairs of its former colonies, not to mention the fact that she still dictates (a few policies) of these countries. When you want to help someone evolve, you give him/her advice but you let them choose their own policy. 

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

February 13 2014

The Iconic Trinidadian Film You've Never Seen

An image from Bim the movie, courtesy SHARC Productions; used with permission.

An image from Bim the movie, courtesy SHARC Productions; used with permission.

The 1970s saw the release of two important indigenous Caribbean films: Jamaica’s iconic The Harder They Come, starring musician Jimmy Cliff, which still takes some measure of credit for introducing reggae music to the world, and Bim, which explores race, politics and working class challenges in colonial Trinidad.

If you’ve never heard of Bim, far less seen it, that’s all about to change, thanks to the power of social media.

Pat Ganase, who has had a long career in journalism, publishing and communications in Trinidad and Tobago, has started a Facebook page called “BIM the movie” in an attempt to ignite online discussion about the film and the issues it deals with.

“I decided it was time for the first all-Trinidad film to have a Facebook fan page,” Ganase says. “It was the first film that didn’t just use our environment as a location and our people as exotic natives or extras. It is a film with a story that is authentic…and ours.”

Fellow journalist and writer Raoul Pantin collaborated on the script. The actors were all local. So was the majority of the film crew. The early fusion soundtrack was composed by Andre Tanker and performed by some of the country’s most outstanding musicians, including Mungal Patasar. But most importantly, it was a Trinidadian story.

Ganase is friends with Suzanne Robertson (who co-produced the film with her late husband Hugh, an American who edited the Oscar-winning film Midnight Cowboy) and says that even back then, the couple saw a bright future for the film industry in Trinidad and Tobago.

“The first Trinidadian film company was SHARC,” she explains, “named for Suzanne, Hugh and their children (Antonio and Anna) Robertson. Bim—and SHARC—probably failed then, for the same reasons that film, as a viable industry, is not succeeding today. There is a failure to appreciate it as a productive industry that can employ many, many people and bring returns on investment through distribution.”

As Ganase notes, the challenges for young filmmakers today are the same: “Funding, institutional support, distribution and marketing. The film industry is not a solitary art, which is why it is an Industry with a Capital I.” But the sense of déjà vu does not stop there—it extends itself to societal challenges as well. While the film marked a particular time in Trinidad and Tobago's history, addressing attitudes towards issues such as racial identity, Ganase believes  its lessons are still relevant. “Maybe it can tell us something about ‘crime’ in our society,” she offers. “It certainly has something to say about young men who grow themselves up, without father or family.”

The plot follows the main character Bhim (initially pronounced Beem) Singh, whose father, a union leader for workers in the sugar cane fields, is killed on the day of his sister’s wedding. Bhim leaves the only life he knows in rural Trinidad to live with his aunt and her ne’er-do-well husband in Port of Spain, Trinidad's capital city. From the get-go he's an outcast, and is soon drawn into a life of petty crime, working for an underworld type who re-christens him Bim. Meanwhile, the winds of political change are blowing. Bim seizes the opportunity, crushes the son of the man who killed his father and gets himself elected as head of the sugar cane workers’ union. His victory is short-lived, however, and his demise comes rather quickly, as a result of alcoholism.

Upon its release, the film was not panned by critics, but it didn’t quite get rave reviews either. The New York Times critique in 1974, for instance, opened by saying, “By no conventional standards is ‘Bim’ very good, but it’s still vastly more interesting than lots of other movies you’re likely to stumble on.” ‘Interesting’ may have been an understatement; it certainly struck a note with local audiences, presumably even before anyone had even seen it. Trinidad and Tobago had an active Censors Board at the time and the film’s planned debut in December 1974 never happened thanks to a ban. A month later, after legal action was taken against the Censors Board, the film was finally screened—uncut—at the landmark Roxy cinema in St. James.

“The language is harsh; it had plenty cusswords [obscene language],” Ganase recalls, “but not unwarranted. People who have seen the film are the ones who perceive it as seminal and important. There is a ring of truth in Bim the movie.”

There's certainly a timeless quality to Bim. Ganase says that “viewers of all ages and in every decade respond [to the film] the same way…as if it is something that they were deprived of.” She thinks this is because the story is as relevant now as it was then. “It’s not that I want people to know the film,” she says. “It is that people have a hunger for it.”

In just three days, the Facebook page has received over 130 “Likes” and a substantial amount of commentary, both from people who have already seen the film and from those who would like to. Ganase says the page will develop according to the discussion it generates: “It will point us in a direction that comes from the collective.”

One idea that came out of user comments was the suggestion by Trinidadian visual artist Christopher Cozier to work towards having Bim listed in Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Foundation, which restores and distributes films from countries that are underrepresented in global film culture. “It is a worthwhile idea that might be an avenue for new distribution,” Ganase explains. “There will be a showing in the future. But that will happen when the time is right.”

Janine Mendes-Franco is a communications consultant, media producer and writer. When she's not blogging about the Caribbean for Global Voices, you can find her blogging here and tweeting here.

The image used in this post is from Bim the movie, courtesy SHARC Productions, used with permission. A version of this article first appeared in the Sunday Guardian Arts section.

February 11 2014

Mapping Conflicts Between Indigenous Peoples and Corporations in Latin America

map conflicts latin america

Codpi (Coordination for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) has created a map to monitor projects that are affecting indigenous territories, as their website explains [es]:

This map aims to collect cases of conflict that arise due to the presence of transnational corporations -mainly those with headquarters in Spain- in the territories of indigenous peoples in Latin America.

In Otramérica [es], Diego Jiménez from Codpi adds:

It is a tool in permanent construction, which collects some of the most important cases of violations, and that will be completed periodically to reflect a total of 50 identified [cases]. For each [case] a record is published -accessible from the interactive map- that contains basic information about the violated rights, the resistance posed by the indigenous people and a summary of the current situation. We have also included a number of links and additional audiovisual material.

With all this, we don't want to limit ourselves to denouncing a situation of enormous and increasing severity. We also hope that this tool will be useful and effective for indigenous peoples and also for the organizations, social movements and groups working with them.

Trinidad & Tobago: A Deeper Carnival

Mas is beauty and horror. Mas as a whole can’t and shouldn’t be a version of reality that edits out the blood and pain.

Tillah Willah explains why she is so excited about the character she is portraying in this year's Trinidad and Tobago Carnival.

February 07 2014

Film Shows How ‘Development’ Turns Tribal People Into Beggars

A new film, ‘There You Go!’, has been launched by Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights, which takes a satirical look at how tribes are often destroyed in the name of ‘development’. The 2-minute animation shows how ‘development’ can rob self-sufficient tribal people of their land, livelihood and pride and turn them into beggars.

Please watch the film here.

February 04 2014

Aymara Children and their Mental Health

The website Indigenous News analizes a report carried out by BMC Psychiatry which studied 748 children, whose ages range between 9 and 15, from nine different schools attended by low socioeconomic classes in the city of Arica, in northern Chile. Out of the total number of children that took part of the study, 37% were Aymara.

Aymara families live a traditional lifestyle. Elders advise the youth, mothers take care of household tasks and educate the children, while fathers are the bread-winners and often make family decisions.

The study concludes:

Although Aymara children have migrated from the high Andean plateau to the city, this migration has not resulted in a greater presence of anxiety and depressive symptoms. Greater involvement with the Aymara culture may be a protective factor against anxiety and depressive symptoms in Aymara children. This point to an additional benefit of maintaining cultural traditions within this population.

January 29 2014

Ecuador's Indigenous People: “We believe in development that respects Mother Earth”

“The Government is appropriating our spiritual values of the Amazon region, it’s seeking to deconceptualize our cultural concepts”, says [Carlos Pérez, President of ECUARUNARI (Confederation of Kichwa Peoples of Ecuador)]. “It doesn’t know what Pachamama is. It doesn’t understand the rights of nature. It doesn’t understand Sumak Kawsay (good living), it doesn’t understand the right to water.”

In Intercontinental Cry journalist Robin Llewellyn writes about repression and indigenous rights under President Rafael Correa.

January 23 2014

It's Slash and Burn for Russia's Indigenous

This article was written by Yulia Makliuk for 350.org in Russian and was translated to English by Kateryna Boyko and Roman Horbyk. It is published on Global Voices as part of a content sharing agreement.

Aleksandr Aypin holds the reindeer moss that burned in wildfires. Photo credit: Aleksandr Aypin for 350.org

Aleksandr Aypin holds the reindeer moss that burned in wildfires. Photo credit: Aleksandr Aypin for 350.org

Russia’s indigenous people stand up for their land rights in a quarrel with oil companies and raise issues of environmental and economic justice. Could this move other Russians to rethink the real costs of a resource-based economy?

When I first contacted Aleksandr Aypin, he was just back from a deer camp that belongs to his family. “The situation is getting serious,” he said, “the oilmen put us under pressure, they are trying to force us to consent to drilling. So far we’re strong enough to resist, but our future is unclear.”

Sasha (a short form of the name Aleksandr in Russian) and I agree to speak again when he arrives at the city of Surgut to take his exams, and then we hang up.

The sacred sites

Sasha is a 30-year-old entrepreneur who is trying to develop green ethnic tourism in the land where he was born. And besides that, Sasha is a Khanty. This is perhaps why he understands, unlike most Russians, that one of the world’s largest economies can’t be based for long on just draining natural resources.

Yet today he and his family are spending most of their time defending their right to the familial pasture grounds. The Aypins, also known as the Clan of the Beaver, belong to the indigenous Khanty people that inhabit Russia’s North-Western Siberia. This small indigenous group numbers around 30,000 men and women, many of whom still practice traditional crafts like reindeer farming, hunting, and fishing. The Aypins revere a local goddess, the Patroness of Agan, and ward many sites that the Khanty deem sacred, in the woods and on the banks of the river Agan. Unfortunately for the Khanty, their sacred sites are located right by a “shrine” of another kind. This part of Siberia provides around one half of the Russian overall oil extraction output, and oil is the principal resource that keeps the country’s ruling class afloat.

Sasha’s parents, Semion and Liubo

Sasha’s parents, Semion and Liubov, at the nomad camp Enel Uri near the Agan river. Photo credit: Aleksandr Aypin for 350.org

The failed deal

“Khanty people can’t exist without their deer, and the deer can’t exist without the moss,” Sasha explains the origins of the conflict. During Sasha’s father Semion’s lifetime, their family had to leave their home and camp sites and move to another place no less than five times, because of oil drilling and fires. They will leave no more, and they can leave no more.

Last spring, Lukoil West Siberia decided to build a road for further oil drilling precisely through this last spot. The road could effectively destroy the fragile reindeer moss ecosystem while oil drilling and spills will pollute the remaining woods and rivers, once a Khanty microcosm. On top of that, oil extraction and its continued use entail further global climate change, which will likely make large-scale forest wildfires even more frequent.

The company does have a public drilling license but the existing procedure also requires it to reach an agreement with the indigenous peoples. Grotesque as it may seem, they say the compensation would often amount to a case of vodka in the past.

Yet the Aypin family decided they will stipulate their own conditions for Lukoil. They hired a lawyer, required to be paid $150,000 in return for the road, and demanded an obligation that there be no oil wells in the sacred sites which make up half of the area of the suggested oil production site. The company showed its commitment to dialogue in a peculiar way. One night they deployed construction equipment and started working at the site. Apparently, they decided not to waste money even on vodka.

Fire destroys a Khanty reindeer moss pasture

Fire destroys a Khanty reindeer moss pasture. Photo credit: Aleksandr Aypin for 350.org

The indigenous people start thinking

The Aypins are not the only ones who have seen enough of oil spills and fires.

Altogether, around 60 families in the district are unhappy with the situation and have recently addressed the country’s human rights ombudsman for help.

Sasha Aypin at a protest

Sasha Aypin at a symbolic educational protest during the indigenous peoples conference. Screenshot from local TV.

Similar processes are under way in other parts of the Russian Federation, too. A statement initiated by Greenpeace and signed by some 10 big indigenous peoples’ organizations says:

The peoples of the North will not tolerate the barbaric way in which oil companies destroy our land; we will not fling ourselves at their mercy. We urge for a ban on oil extraction on the Arctic sea shelf and declare a moratorium on the developing on-ground sites in the North until the companies assume responsibility for the damage they have already incurred to the nature.

Thanks to the Aypin family’s activism and the arrival of Greenpeace, information about this tiny conflict 1,500 miles from Russia's capital actually made national news. Many started thinking about the current situation: the history of the relations of the state with small indigenous peoples, the real price paid for oil, the distribution of the revenues, and the stability of the national economy. But so far the local state attorney office decided in favor of Lukoil and it’s hardly known if Sasha’s dream of ethnic green tourism and oil-independent Russia will ever come true.

Evidence of wildfires and pollution

This photo was taken in the summer but the trees at the Aypin ground were already brown because of the wildfires and pollution. Photo credit: Aleksandr Aypin for 350.org

You can read the full version of this story, including an economic analysis of Russia’s dependency on oil and the corporate attack on Russian environmental law at 350.org.

P.S: Good news! While we were translating this article, the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area Governor supported the Aypins’ claim and Lukoil announced its decision to withdraw from the site ‘despite serious financial losses.’ The company will be looking for ‘alternative options’ of oil field development. It is not clear, however, whether these options will leave the Aypins’ land in peace. If you’d like to help the Aypins defend their rights or support Sasha’s start-up, please get in touch with us by e-mail Yuliya [@] 350.org.

January 16 2014

Hydroelectric Projects in Panama: “Promised Development But Created Disaster”

Although dam developers and governments insist that local communities benefit from these projects, the reality on the ground in Panama suggests the opposite: communities are plunged further into poverty, environments are destroyed and irreparable harm is caused. As one witness who is living in the wake of the Chan 75 project said: “The government and the company [AES, a US-based energy global company] promised development but instead they have created a disaster.”

In Intercontinental Cry, Jennifer Kennedy writes about the effect of hydroelectric dam projects on Panamanian Indigenous communities. She concludes:

Both the human and environmental cost of large dam development is undeniable. And communities will continue to defend their livelihoods, environments and resources, staunchly resisting destructive dam development projects.

January 10 2014

Why a 64-Year-Old Brazilian Indigenous Leader Spent 26 Hours in a Tree

Urutau resisted for 26 hours at the top of a tree, in protest against the removal of the occupation of Aldeia Maracanã. Photo: Facebook/ Mídia NINJA

Urutau resisted for 26 hours at the top of a tree in protest against the removal of the occupation of Aldeia Maracanã. Photo: Facebook/Mídia NINJA

[All links lead to Portuguese-language pages except when otherwise noted. The original version of this post, in Portuguese, was published on December 19, 2013.]

On the morning of December 16, while a battalion of riot police of the Brazilian military police forcefully removed activists that had occupied one of the buildings of the former indigenous museum Aldeia Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro, José Urutau Guajajara, the leader of the Guajajara tribe, ran. At 64 years old, Urutau – a name that means owl in the indigenous language Tupi - climbed a tree as a form of protest against the eviction. And there he stayed for 26 hours.

At the end of the morning on December 17, 2013, Urutau was removed from the tree by firefighters and taken away in an ambulance. A diabetic, Urutau had access to water, controlled by the police. But beyond that, according to information from the activist media collective Mídia NINJA, police prevented any attempted delivery of food to him. Supporters of the occupation, who witnessed Uruatu's resistance, tried to circumvent the blockade by throwing food to him. According to independent media group ZUMBI, Urutau was taken directly to the police station, instead of being taken to the hospital.

The indigenous man demanded that a judicial order justifying the eviction be presented. According to information from the activist media group Olhar Independente (Independent Look), the judicial decision authorizing the eviction presented by the police was old, and as such, was no longer valid. A story published in the newspaper Extra confirmed the situation, revealing that an unidentified police officer had said that the orders were “not to evict them” because the action was “illegal.”

The Aldeia resists and insists

The mobilization around the occupation, which started on December 14, and Urutau's fight were followed on Facebook and on Twitter, with the hashtag #AldeiaResiste (Aldeia resists). International movements, such as the Spanish Take the Square [en] and Occupy Wall Street [en], also spoke out in support of the Brazilians.

The 14,000-square-meter complex that makes up Aldeia Maracanã, or Maracanã Village, was donated to the Indian Protection Service in 1910. From 1953 to 1977, the buildings served as the headquarters for the Museum of the Indian; however, since the change in location of the museum, the buildings have been abandoned. In 2006, indigenous from 20 different ethnicities reoccupied the locale. 

Indians in one of the buildings of the complex. On the wall, it reads

Indigenous in one of the buildings of the complex. On the wall it reads, “Want to kill a people? Then rob them of their culture.” Photo: Facebook/Aldeia Maracanã

In August of 2012, the state government and the city government of Rio de Janeiro announced that the place would be demolished to make way for construction for the 2014 World Cup, as it is near the Mário Filho Stadium, known as Maracanã, which is the name of the neighborhood where the former museum and stadium sit. A petition asking for the recognition of the indigenous ownership of the village was created on Avaaz, explaining:

Neste local, indígenas de várias etnias vêm difundindo sua cultura há seis anos e em escolas particulares e públicas,exercendo direito garantido pela lei. Defendemos a criação de um centro de referência da cultura indígena.

In this place, indigenous people from various ethnicities have been disseminating their culture for six years, as well as in private and public schools, exercising their rights as guaranteed by the law. We defend the creation of a center of reference for indigenous culture.

During that time, indigenous representatives fighting for the village appeared in a video explaining their case:

The space was occupied four times in 2013, the first time in March [en]. A decree signed by Mayor Eduardo Paes in August, the time of the last occupation, recognizes the presence of the Maracanã Village community and provides for the definitive protection of the main building - which means that it can no longer be demolished for World Cup construction. At the end of September, “the judge of the 7th Court of the Federal Public Treasury signed a dispatch impeding the demolition” and determined that, without a official pronouncement from the government, the area should be given to the occupants, the indigenous.

Despite the decree and the judge's dispatch in favor of the community, there are no guarantees about the fate of the area, believes Demian Castro, the representative of the People's Committee of the Cup and the Olympics,  who told the Brazilian press that the privatization process of the Maracanã complex should be revoked. The consortium that has won the bidding to reform and operate the stadium for the next three decades, Maracana S.A., formed by the companies Odebrecht, IMX and AEG, has presented a new viability plan for the area to the Governor of Rio that is still under analysis. 

Without any other solutions to the situation, on Saturday, December 14, activists returned to occupy the space. After an attempted expulsion on Sunday, on Monday morning 150 riot police troops obeying the orders of the state government surrounded the area and carried out a forced eviction of the occupants. Of the 30 people that were in the building, 25 were arrested, but have since been released.

At the end of Tuesday, December 17, after being forbidden from returning to the village, Urutau and other representatives of the group who were evicted from the building joined with students to occupy the rectory of the State University of Rio de Janeiro- UERJ. They asked for a meeting to discuss the Museum of the Indian project.

On January 6, 2014, the government of Rio released a note announcing that the contract with Maracana S.A. has been changed in order not to allow the demolition of the building of the Museum of the Indian.

January 08 2014

PHOTOS: Honor the Treaties With Native Indians

Honor The Treaties, a film by director Eric Becker, documents photographer Aaron Huey‘s mission to portray poverty and the struggles of the Native Lakota people of Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the United States. Huey's original photographs are collected in the book Mitakuye Okasin, which was described by Mother Jones as “page after page of visual poetry,” and a “work [that] makes you care about the people and the place.”

Honor the Treaties is also the name of an organization – of which Huey is a member – that supports Native Indian art and rights.

December 27 2013

Brazilian Ruralists Hold ‘Auction for Resistance’ Against Indigenous Land Claims

[All links lead to Portuguese-language pages except when otherwise noted.]

An agricultural auction held by ruralists in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul on December 7, 2013 raised one million Brazilian reals (about 425,000 US dollars) to finance what they refer to as “resistance” to the actions of indigenous peoples occupying their lands and reclaiming their rights in the state.

Cartoon by Carlos Latuff, shared by Combate Racismo Ambiental (Fight Environmental Racism) on Facebook. Caption:

Cartoon by Carlos Latuff, shared by Combate Racismo Ambiental (Fight Environmental Racism) on Facebook. Caption: “Going once, going twice, going three times!” At the Auction for Resistance.

The auction was suspended by the courts in the beginning of December, but pressure from the ruralist lobby – which managed to remove the judge who made that decision from office by legally questioning her impartiality and independence – soon convinced another judge who was named to take the place of the first judge to revoke the suspension. Only three hours passed in between the suspension of the first judge and the appointment of the replacement judge who announced his decision in the same night. The maneuver was considered illegal by defense attorneys working for indigenous rights, who pointed out that the court should have kept the auction suspended until the order of suspicion of the first judge could be heard and judged in court.

The decision of the first judge argued that “the behavior on the part [of the ranchers] cannot be considered legal, as it is apparent that they intend to replace the State in the solution of an existing conflict between the ruralist class and the indigenous tribes” and that “they have the power to incentivize violence (…) and this collides with the constitutional rights to life, security, and physical integrity.”

The auction consisted of the participation of various politicians, among them mayors, state representatives, and federal representatives. Kátia Abreu, senator, leader of the ruralist group and president of the National Confederation of Agriculture (CNA), said that the purpose of the auction was not to finance a militia to combat and kill the indigenous, as defendants of indigenous rights claimed. The senator, however, did not explain what would be the purpose of the event.

Some of the quotes from politicians participating in the event, along with their euphemistic kind of language, give an idea of the objectives of the ruralists, such as what state representative Zé Teixeira of the right-wing party Democrats (DEM) said:

Há anos os produtores gastam com as invasões. Se o banco tem um segurança na porta, por que a fazenda não pode ter? Esse leilão é um alerta para mostrar que o setor produtivo não vai esperar pelo poder publico e precisa de segurança.

It has been years now that producers have wasted with the invasions. If the bank has security at the door, why can't a farm have it too? This auction is a warning to show that the production sector will not wait for public power and needs security.

The situation of indigenous peoples [en] in Mato Grosso do Sul is alarming, a problem that has dragged on for decades, without the Brazilian government providing a solution that guarantees the rights of the indigenous tribes to occupy their own lands, an inalienable right. The constant attacks against the indigenous in the state, whose ethnicity is primarily Guarani Kaiowá, along with the assassination of various leaders and the imposition of the terrible living conditions on this tribe, has provoked waves of protests in Brazil and around the world [en]. One of these assassinations happened recently and gained attention with coverage [en] from the organization Survival International.

The use of social media to spread the word about the indigenous cause and the alarming situation in which many indigenous groups are living occurs not only on the part of NGOs, but also more and more on the part of the indigenous themselves, as analyzed by Raquel Recuero in the article Social Media: Brazil's Indigenous Tribes Go Online in their Struggle To Be Heard [en].

The lack of political interest from the interest groups that dominate the government seems to be one of the principal motives for which the problem in Mato Grosso do Sul and other regions of Brazil has not been solved, as highlighted by researcher Imazon Paulo Barreto:

O argumento de falta de terras é uma falácia, pois existem 58,6 milhões de hectares de pastos degradados em fazendas que poderiam ser utilizados para reassentamento e para aumentar a produção fora de TIs. O governo teria dinheiro disponível caso priorizasse a solução dos conflitos. Por exemplo, bastaria eliminar ou reduzir os 22 bilhões de reais que concede de subsídios anuais a grandes empresas e eliminar os cerca de 70 bilhões de reais perdidos anualmente para a corrupção. A demora das decisões judiciais atrasa o processo, mas mesmo quando obtida uma decisão final favorável aos índios, não há garantias quanto ao tempo de sua execução. Por exemplo, os índios da TI Alto Rio Guamá aguardam o fim da desintrusão desde 2010.

The argument about the lack of land is a fallacy, because there are 58.6 million hectares of degraded pasture on farms that could have been used for the resettlement and increase of production outside of indigenous lands. The government would have money available if a solution to these conflicts was considered a priority. For example, it would be enough to eliminate or reduce the 22 billion Brazilian reais [about 9.35 billion US dollars] that are given in annual subsidies to large businesses and eliminate the nearly 70 billion Brazilian reais [about 29.7 billion US dollars] lost yearly to corruption. The delay in judicial decisions slows the process, but even when obtaining a final ruling favorable to the indigenous, there are no guarantees with regards to the time it will take to be executed. For example, the indigenous people of Alto Rio Guamá have been waiting for the demarcation of their lands since 2010.

The Brazilian judiciary have even called indigenous people who fight for their rights guerrillas.

Image of the “homage” to the Minister of Justice José Eduardo Cardozo, with his face on a statue of a “bandeirante” (trailblazer), the representative figure of Brazilian colonization. From the Facebook page of Marcelo Zelic, with the description:
“Brazilian Indigenous Exposition: Great Figures of the 21st Century.
Work: New bust of José Eduardo Borba Gato Cardozo”

Blogger Camila Pavanelli called attention to the dubious morals of some politicians evident at the auction in a post titled Quebrar vidraça é vandalismo, atirar em índio não (Breaking glass is vandalism, shooting at Indians is not):

Para a Senadora Kátia Abreu, por exemplo, foram autoritárias e antidemocráticas as manifestações populares contra o Código Florestal e contra a presença da Polícia Militar na USP

(…) o leilão foi organizado para “arrecadar recursos contra ocupações indígenas”.

Em bom português, o dinheiro arrecadado será usado para comprar armas – que, por sua vez, serão usadas para atirar em índios.

A mensagem de Kátia Abreu e seus amigos é bem clara:

Quebrar vidraça – não pode, é vandalismo.

Criticar o governo sem quebrar vidraça – também não pode, é autoritarismo.

Atirar em índio – ah bom, aí pode sim.

For Senator Kátia Abreu, for example, the popular protests against the Forest Code were authoritarian and anti-democratic, and against the presence of the military police at the University of São Paulo.

(…) the auction was organized to “raise money for resources against indigenous occupations.”

In other words, the money raised will be used to buy arms – that, in time, will be used to shoot at the indigenous.

The message given by Kátia Abreu and her friends is clear:

Breaking glass – you can't, that's vandalism.

Criticizing the government without breaking glass – you can't do that either, that's authoritarianism.

Shooting the indigenous – OK, well, that you can do.

Indigenous leaders and unionists opposed to the auction received death threats after the original judge's decision to put a halt to it.

Even though the Federal Regional Court eventually allowed the auction to be held, it imposed conditions on the the event. The money raised will have to be deposited in a judicial account controlled by the court, and the resources raised can only be used after the court hears the Public Federal Ministry and the indigenous organizations of the region.

Federal deputy Erika Kokay (PT-DF) declared that the auction represents a new genocide of Brazilian indigenous people:

Estamos observando um etnocídio, querem reeditar o genocídio do povo indígena. Isso (Leilão da resistência) é uma ousadia daqueles que se acham acima do Estado, da Constituição e da vida. É o patrimonialismo clássico. Eles pisoteiam na Constituição e na democracia.

We are observing a case of ethnocide. They want to bring back the genocide of the indigenous people. This (the auction of resistance) is the presumption of those that think themselves above the state, the Constitution, and life itself. It is classic patrimonialism. They are treading on the Constitution and on democracy.

December 18 2013

Documentary: Mining's Terrible Consequences for Brazil's People and Environment

[All links lead to Portuguese-language pages except when otherwise noted.]

On the eve of Brazil's vote regarding the country's new Mining Code, a documentary produced by the media collective Mídia NINJA in partnership with the National Committee in Defense of Territories Impacted by Mining appeared to bring the life of communities near the mining regions of the country to the discussion.

“Enquanto o trem não passa” (While the train doesn't pass) was shown at the beginning of a public audience that took place on December 5, 2013 in the Brazilian Senate, and the film served as an “instrument of discussion” of the theme. The synopsis of the film on Youtube reads:

O objetivo da produção é alertar quem vive fora das áreas de atuação das mineradoras sobre o enorme impacto dessa atividade e o quanto o novo código proposto pelo Governo não traz salvaguardas sócio-ambientais, garantias ao meio ambiente e nem segurança aos quilombolas e povos indígenas.

The objective of the production is to alert those who live outside the area of the mining operations of the enormous impact of this activity, and how the new code proposed by the government will not bring socio-environmental safeguards, measures to protect the environment, nor safety for the quilombolas and indigenous peoples.

Watch the video below with English and Spanish subtitles:

During the meeting, Senator João Capiberibe announced that the vote on the Code, set for December 10, has been moved to 2014. According to him, the goal is to give more time so that changes – such as the consequences that mining represents for the environment and the communities – can be added to the text. Capiberibe declared:

Queremos uma legislação que contemple a todos. É claro que não vamos impedir a atividade econômica. Mas o que é inaceitável é que, em nome do desenvolvimento, se desrespeite direitos legítimos dessas comunidades.

We want a law that has everyone in mind. It is clear that we are not going to impede economic activity. But what is unacceptable is that, in the name of development, the legitimate rights of these communities are disrespected.

In an open letter published in March, the National Conference of Bishops in Brazil (CNBB) [en], one of the integral movements of the National Committee in Defense of Territories Impacted by Mining, spoke out against the problem:

A mineração em terras indígenas é outra grave preocupação suscitada pelo Projeto de Lei 1.610/96, tramitando no Congresso sem nenhuma interação com o Estatuto dos Povos Indígenas, que espera aprovação desde 1991. O Projeto de Lei 1.610/96 desrespeita totalmente a autonomia dos povos indígenas sobre seus territórios, assegurada pela Constituição Federal e pela Convenção 169 da Organização Internacional do Trabalho, da qual o Brasil é signatário. As mesmas ameaças recaem sobre comunidades quilombolas, populações tradicionais, pequenos agricultores e áreas de proteção ambiental.

Mining in indigenous territories is another grave concern evoked by Bill 1.610/96, and the bill was sent to Congress without any kind of interaction with the Statute of Indigenous Peoples, which has been waiting for approval since 1991. Bill 1.610/96 completely disrespects the autonomy of the indigenous in their own territories, guaranteed by the Federal Constitution and by the 169th Convention of the International Labor Organization, of which Brazil is a signatory.

An inconvenient truth

Brazil emerged on the modern maps of the world as a land of extraction, and since the first years of colonization, has had mining [en] as one of its primary sources of economy. Currently, 4 percent of the world's ore is extracted from Brazilian soil. In 2012, production was estimated at 55 billion US dollars, 900 percent more than the country produced ten years ago. The National Mining Plan, which reviews projects in the sector for the next 20 years, seeks to triple the country's production. 

While the new law makes its way through legislation, mining companies already have a shovel in the dirt. Vale S.A. [en], the second largest mining company in the world and the main active mining company in the country, was elected by the Public Eye Awards [en] last year as the worst business in the world [en] due to the impact of its activities. In addition, some Canadian companies are already in the country as well, one of them working for the reopening of Serra Pelada, in the state of Pará, for the extraction of nearly 40 tons of gold. More than 500 years after the arrival of the Portuguese, mining continues to be an open wound on Tupiniquim soil.

The photo featured in this aricle was taken from the Facebook of Mídia Ninja. The album A mineração pra quem vê de perto (Mining from Up Close) includes photos from the production of the documentary and from the team that came together to investigate and exhibit these stories.

December 09 2013

Facebook in Guarani: What is Facebook Doing in Paraguay?

Image from Shutterstock. Copyright: 1000 Words.

Image from Shutterstock. Copyright: 1000 Words.

On December 3 in the former train station of Asunción, Facebook, the social network with 1.2 billion users, launched a Guarani language interface. The translation itself was carried out in conjunction with the Secretary of Linguistic Policies of Paraguay (Guarani is a native language that is spoken currently in the country and is the second official language, after Spanish).

Furthermore, with the objective to connect the whole country, a limited time promotion was launched that lets one access the social network for free from any cell phone.

It is the first official move of the gigantic start-up in our country and it comes to our attention: What is Facebook looking for in a market of only 6.9 million inhabitants?

Taking advantage of the presence of Laura Gonzalez Estéfani, Facebook's Director of Latin American Growth, we took a few minutes to chat and asked her:

Is it your first time in Paraguay?

Uy no, es la quinta vez que vengo por este proyecto. Estoy muy emocionada con él.

Ah no, it's the fifth time that I've come for this project. I'm very excited about it.

How has the growth of Facebook in Latin America been in recent years?

El crecimiento ha sido vertiginoso pero natural. Los latinonamericanos son sociales por naturaleza. Creo que los latinos han encontrado en Facebook una herramienta para expresarse mas allá de sus fronteras. Y si a eso añades, que Latinoamerica es “móvil por naturaleza” con una penetración de internet tan alta a través de teléfonos móviles, tienes que este gran crecimiento es algo casi lógico.

Growth has been staggering but natural. Latin Americans are social by nature. I think that Latinos have found in Facebook a tool to express themselves far beyond their borders. And if you consider that Latin America is “mobile by nature” with such a high level of internet penetration on mobile telephones, you will understand that this large growth is almost somewhat logical.

Why Paraguay?

Creemos en que la conectividad y el acceso a internet es un derecho fundamental para acceder a contenido pero también para mantener relaciones humanas. Nos encantaría conectar a todo el mundo y por eso este proyecto nos emociona tanto. Paraguay es el primer país en el que lo estamos probando.

We believe that connectivity and access to the internet is a fundamental right, in order to access content but also to maintain human relationships. We would love to connect the whole world and therefore this project really excites us. Paraguay is the first country in which we are trying it.

At this time, do campaigns or similar projects exist in other countries?

No te lo puedo adelantar, pero tan grande como éste, solo en Paraguay por el momento.

I can't divulge completely, but as big as this, only in Paraguay at the moment.

Where did the idea to launch a Guarani interface come from?

Cuando empezamos a conversar sobre este proyecto surgió la premisa de que “si vamos a conectar a todos los paraguayos, lo tenemos que hacer en su idioma”. Y así nació el proyecto.

When we started to discuss this project it became clear that “if we're going to connect all Paraguayans, we have to do it in their language”. And so the project started.

How many more users do you think you will attract with this campaign?

A todos. Queremos que todos los paraguayos mayores de 13 años tengan acceso a internet y sean usuarios de Facebook.

Everyone. We want all Paraguayans older than 13 to have access to the internet and to be users of Facebook.

How will you ensure that populations without telephones can access Facebook?

La idea es que con cualquier teléfono básico (sea más o menos smart) puedan aprovechar de esta campaña para tener Facebook gratis en todo el país. De todos modos, sé que se está trabajando en campañas especiales para que estos teléfonos sean mas accesibles y con una buena financiación.

The idea is that with any basic telephone (whether or not it's smart), they can take advantage of this campaign to have Facebook, free, throughout the whole country. At any rate, I know that there is work being done in special campaigns so that those telephones are more accessible and well-funded.

After the talk, Laura Gonzalez expressed the interest and willingness of Facebook to continue supporting access to the internet and thus to culture by utilizing these tools in our country.

Could it be an effective solution to close the digital divide? What do you think?

Article originally published in the blog Hallucina [es].

December 06 2013

Ecuadorian Government Shuts Down Environmental NGO Pachamama

The Ecuadorian government ordered the closure and “dissolution” of the NGO Fundación Pachamama [es], dedicated to the defense of Ecuador's Amazon rainforest and opposed to oil exploitation without prior consultation in the region. The government alleged that the organisation was “affecting the public peace”.

The action, ordered by the Ministry of the Environment and carried out through the Ministry of the Interior and the Police on the 4th of December, 2013, is based [es] on the allegation that the Foundation has fallen into “deviation from its statutory purpose and objectives; and for interference in public policy, threatening the internal security of the State and affecting the public peace”, according to a note [es] published on the Ministry's website. Furthermore, the Ministry published via Twitter the Ministerial Accord 125 [es] where the reasons for the closure are explained (See 1, 2, 3 and 4) [es]:

Ministerial Accord No. 123 dissolves the NGO Foundation Pachamama

These justifications allude to the recent indigenous protests [es] carried out in the context of the XI Ronda Petrolera [es] (XI Oil Round), an activity where the government put out a tender for 13 blocks of hydrocarbon exploitation in the Southeastern part of Ecuador's Amazon rainforest.

During these protests some foreign representatives were the target of mockery and insults by the protesters. In response President Rafael Correa drew attention to the Police for not taking the necessary measures on his TV show on Saturday, and offered a public apology [es] to those foreign workers and representatives who were attacked.

Yasunidos [es], another environmental defense group, in this case focused on the Yasuní National Park, was one of the first to draw attention to what was happening:

Urgent! Right now Police are arriving at Fundación Pachamama. We reject any retaliation against those of us who fight for Yasuni

The Minister of the Interior himself published photos of the closure of Fundación Pachamama:

Alert: right now an operation to dissolve NGOs linked to recent attacks

Fundación Pachamama's staff immediately organised a protest action, as seen in these photos:

Fundación Pachamama's staff gagged by the closure of their organisation a few moments ago

Belén Páez (F. Pachamama) “They are closing us down for denouncing violations of indigenous human rights: Taromenane, 11 oil round”

Some Ecuadorian internet users expressed their approval of the measure:

Finally this corrupt NGO is disappearing well done [President] Correa hahaha

But others expressed their anger and disagreement on Twitter:

[The Minister of Interior] is just following orders from [President Correa]. I remind you how on Saturday he expressed his anger with [Fundación Pachamama]

The dissolution of Fundacion Pachamama is a confirmation of authoritarianism, what an outrage!

They closed down Pachamama with an urgent summary trial? Was there prior notification and a right to defense? Are we in a State governed by the rule of law or not?

Closing down an opposition organisation under the excuse of Ecuador's national security brings back memories of Latin America's horrific past

Also protest actions were starting to be organised against the government measure:

URGENT: Vigil in rejection of the dissolution of [Fundación Pachamama] and in rejection of Decree 16. 5pm, Plaza San Francisco

STATEMENT http://t.co/E8Dq11BZ96 We are calling a press conference, this Thursday 5/12 11am in Alejandro de Valdez N24 33 and Av. La Gasca

Fundación Pachamama's statement following the closure classifies it as arbitrary and indicates that they neither support nor participate in any acts of violence, distancing themselves from the acts they are accused of. The statement also announced that they will contest the decision and added:

No permitiremos que la agresión de que somos víctima, desvíe la atención y el debate del tema de fondo que es la violación de los derechos colectivos de los pueblos indígenas amazónicos y de los derechos de la Naturaleza, por una ronda petrolera realizada contra la voluntad de los legítimos propietarios de los territorios afectados, a través de una “socialización”, no una consulta.

We will not allow this aggression that we are victims of to draw attention and debate away from the issue at hand which is the violation of the collective rights of Amazonian indigenous people and the rights of Nature, due to a round of oil tenders conducted against the will of the legitimate owners of the affected territories, through a “socialisation”, not a consultation.

The Ecuadorian Coordinator of Organisations for the Defense of Nature and the Environment (CEDENMA), also released a statement [es] condemning the events:

Rechazamos esta decisión intempestiva del gobierno nacional y exigimos se garantice el derecho a la legítima defensa de la Fundación Pachamama. Exhortamos a todas las organizaciones nacionales e internacionales que trabajan por los derechos humanos, colectivos y de la naturaleza, se pronuncien ante este acto represivo. Todo nuestro apoyo a Fundación Pachamama.

We reject this untimely decision by the national government and demand that Fundación Pachamama's right to a legitimate defense be guaranteed. We urge all national and international organisations working for human rights, collective rights and nature's rights to speak out against this repressive act. We offer all our support to Fundación Pachamama.

Fundación Pachamama conducted a press conference together with other environmental organisations at 11am on December 5th:

Fundación Pachamama is more than just a physical office! We will keep moving forward. TODAY press conference, 11am, Alejandro de Valdez N24 33 and Av. La Gasca

A press conference is beginning on the closure of [Fundación Pachamama] that was carried out yesterday

“They are closing us down because we denounce the fact that uncontacted peoples are also in block 79 which is being put to tender in the oil round”

“Due process has been violated not only for judicial processes but also administrative processes. Pachamama should have been informed” Dr Trujillo

Demand popular consultation, it is not a crime for the people to to speak out for Yasuni! Limiting participation is violence

After the press conference the Foundation shared a petition on Avaaz [es] to demand that their “freedom of association and expression” be protected:

Help us to revoke the closure of our organisation with your signature!

 

December 05 2013

Indigenous Guatemalan Q'eqchi Community Faces Ongoing Violations of Their Land and Human Rights

The threatening, violation and denial of the undeniable rights the Q'eqchi [indigenous Maya community] have over the land they acquired by their own means so many years ago, together with the stunning violation of basic human rights by evidence of abuse of force, not possibly rested on legal means, are unacceptable crimes and require immediate counteraction by the international community.

On the website Intercontinental Cry, Juliana Maria Soares writes about the ongoing attacks on the Q’eqchi community Saquimo Setana of Coban in central Guatamala. These attacks, “including arson of houses, physical attacks on community members and the arrest of community leaders under false charges,” were reported by the Guatemala Solidarity Project. The organization has put together a petition on Avaaz to demand an end to these attacks.

November 21 2013

Taiwan: Virgin Mary With an Aboriginal Face Tattoo

The statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary with golden facial tattoo based on the Atayal people's tradition. Photo taken by Octopus (章魚)

The statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary with facial tattoo based on the Atayal people's tradition. Photo taken by Octopus (章魚). Non-commercial use.

An Atayal woman with the traditional facial tattoo held her granddaughter. Photo taken by atonny.

An Atayal woman with the traditional facial tattoo held her granddaughter. Photo taken by atonny.Non-commercial use.

When Italian Catholic Father Alberto Papa came to Taiwan in 1963, he learned that face tattoo is an important culture for many aboriginal tribes in Taiwan. For example, in Atayal culture, only respectable person would have face tattoo. To deliver the idea that Virgin Mary is a holy figure, the father decided to add a golden face tattoo on the statue of Virgin Mary in his church.

More photos showing Taiwan aboriginal women with face tattoo can be found here.

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