December 2013 News Update – South America Region

As a local group we are signed up to the South America Region Network. Their coordinators focus specifically on the countries featured below and send us actions when they turn up. At our January meeting we wrote letters to President Santos in Columbia sample letter columbia and President Correa in Ecuador sample letter Ecuador

In this update the focus is on Ecuador, where the government is cracking down on environmental and indigenous organisations opposed to oil and mining activities and there is concern for the safety of activists. There is also feature developments in Colombia: a draft letter to President Santos to follow-up last month’s visit by members of the San Jose Peace Community; and an Urgent Action as a result of the murder of a member of a peasant farmer organisation and concern for the safety of others. In Brazil, a leading indigenous activist has been murdered and there is concern for the safety of construction workers in the run-up to next year’s World Cup while, in Peru, the government has temporarily blocked a gas project that threatens indigenous communities.

Ecuador

There are growing concerns for the safety of Carlos Zorrilla, an environmental activist in Ecuador, and others who have protested against development projects in the northern region of Intag. President Correa has repeatedly attacked their activities during his weekly televised addresses to the nation. These concerns are reinforced by the sudden police closure of environmental organization Fundación Pachamama on 4 December and the failure of government officials to allow such organizations and activists to carry out their activities. Attached is a draft letter,  which we hope you will be able to use to write to President Correa.   sample letter Ecuador
Links to Urgent Actions:
http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AMR28/003/2013/en/bd514043-8393-48f7-8d2f-9f2fa65aa8a9/amr280032013en.pdf

http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AMR28/004/2013/en/a4371d7b-159c-45cf-92b7-35c2d8c4a62f/amr280042013en.pdf

Colombia

As a follow-up to the November visit to the UK by members of the San Jose Peace Community, Ian has produced the attached draft text, in English and Spanish, of a letter that you may wish to send to President Santos. sample letter columbia
More information: http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/colombia-peace-still-far-away-here-2013-12-23

On 2 December Jorge Eliécer Calderón, a peasant farmer and member of a local peasant farmer association
(ASCAMCAT), was killed in the north-east of the country close to the Venezuelan border. The security forces have claimed that he was killed in combat with an unspecified armed group. His relatives and members of the local Community Action Councils stated that, whilst there had been no combat in the area, they had heard gunfire before the body was found. Then, on 17 December, an armed man and woman forced their way into the home of Olga Lucía Quintero, a local peasant farmer leader from the same organisation, and Mauricio Ramos, a human rights defender. They searched the home and stole information about ASCAMCAT, including their members’ details and work plans.
Link to Urgent Action:

http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AMR23/054/2013/en/73ef7bfe-0a13-4504-9e92-23fbe2993bb1/amr230542013en.pdf

Brasil

Guarani Indian leader and film-star Ambrósio Vilhalva has been murdered, after decades of campaigning for his tribe’s right to live on their ancestral land. Ambrósio was reportedly stabbed at the entrance to his community, known as Guyra Roká, in Brazil’s Mato Grosso do Sul state. He was found dead in his hut, with multiple knife wounds. He had been repeatedly threatened in recent months. Ambrósio starred as the main character in the award-winning feature film Birdwatchers, which portrays the Guarani’s desperate struggle for their land. He traveled internationally to speak out about the tribe’s plight, and to push the Brazilian government into protecting Guarani land, as it is legally obliged to do.
More information: http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/9797
Two construction workers based at Brazil’s Arena Amazônia in Manaus died in separate incidents in December, adding to safety concerns as the country races to finish building in time to host the 2014 World Cup. The incidents prompted the local union to threaten to start a strike to complain about inadequate conditions offered to staff. Workers have been killed at three of Brazil’s 12 World Cup stadiums so far. Fatal accidents have also occurred in Brasilia and most recently in São Paulo, where two people died in November after a crane collapsed in the arena that is to host the opening game.
More information: http://www.theguardian.com/football/2013/dec/15/two-construction-workers-die-world-cup

Peru

Peru’s Ministry of Culture has blocked, at least temporarily, the expansion of the country’s biggest gas project in the Amazon rainforest in a Reserve set aside for the protection of isolated indigenous peoples. One of the reasons given is that the company leading the expansion of the wants to conduct 3D seismic tests in a region which it ‘assumes’ – on the basis of its own fieldwork and previous studies – is inhabited by indigenous Machiguenga people who live in ‘isolation’ from outsiders and are at ‘high risk’ from introduced diseases to which they have little or no immunity. As a result, the Ministry has requested the modification of the area scheduled for 3D seismic testing ‘in such a way that the probable populations in isolation will have adequate protection’.
More information: http://www.forestpeoples.org/topics/extractive-industries/news/2013/12/press-release-peru-s-culture-ministry-blocks-expansion-cou

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