Tuesday, July 1, 2014

WNU #1225: Brazilian Judge Blocks Gold Mine

Issue #1225, June 29, 2014

1. Brazil: Canadian Gold Mine Loses License
2. Chile: Bachelet Promises New Mapuche Policy
3. Central America: What's Causing Child Migration?
4. Cuba: Foreign Investment Law Takes Effect
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico, US/immigration, US/policy

ISSN#: 1084 922X. Weekly News Update on the Americas covers news from Latin America and the Caribbean, compiled and written from a progressive perspective. It has been published weekly by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York since 1990. It is archived at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com. For a subscription, write to weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/WeeklyNewsUpdat.

*1. Brazil: Canadian Gold Mine Loses License
Brazilian federal judge Claudio Henrique de Pina has revoked Toronto-based Belo Sun Mining Corp.’s environmental license for the construction of the $750 million Volta Grande open-pit gold mine near the Xingu river in the northern state of Pará, the federal Public Ministry office in the state announced the evening of June 25. Upholding a suspension ordered last November, the judge ruled that Belo Sun had failed to address the “negative and irreversible” impact the mine would have on three indigenous groups in the area, the Paquiçamba, the Arara da Volta Grande and the Ituna/Itatá. The communities are already under threat from the construction of the nearby Belo Monte dam [see Update #1189], which will cut water flows by 80% to 90% when it goes into operation, according to the government’s National Indigenous Foundation (FUNAI).

A Belo Sun news release said the decision only means that the company needs to complete a five-month impact study; it has already commissioned the study, which will start as soon as researchers have permission to access indigenous lands, according to the news release. The mine was expected to open in 2016 and to produce 313,100 ounces of gold each year over a 10-year lifetime; if built, it will be the largest gold mine in Brazil. Belo Sun’s shares were down nearly 10% on the Toronto Stock Exchange by noon on June 26. (Ministério Público Federal no Pará press release 6/25/14; Reuters 6/26/14; Mining.com 6/26/14). [This is the latest in a series of reversals for gold mining projects in Latin America, most notably Barrick Gold’s mammoth Pascua Lama mine on the Argentine-Chilean border in the Andes; see Update #1223.]

Meanwhile, a new study by researchers at the Federal University of Pará finds that construction at the controversial Belo Monte dam, expected to be the third largest in the world, has led to the sexual exploitation of local indigenous people. The groups impacted were the Parakanã, the Arara da Cachoeira Seca, the Arara da Volta Grande do Xingu and the Juruna do Paquiçamba, the researchers said. There is also evidence of sexual trafficking of minors. According to the daily Folha de São Paulo, the reported cases of sexual abuse of minors in Altamira--the city most affected by the Belo Monte project and the 25,000 workers building it--rose from 43 in 2010 to 75 in 2011, the year construction began. (Terra Brasil 6/8/14)

*2. Chile: Bachelet Promises New Mapuche Policy
Chilean president Michelle Bachelet announced a new government policy for the country’s indigenous communities on June 24, We Tripantu, the last day of the June 21-24 New Year celebrations observed by the Mapuche, the largest of the indigenous groups. The new policy includes the creation of an Indigenous Affairs Ministry; a Council of Indigenous Peoples to develop proposals and oversee negotiations; designated seats in Congress for indigenous groups; a commission to establish an official version of indigenous history acceptable to all sides; and a continuation of an existing program through which the government buys territory in the south-central Araucanía region and transfers it to Mapuche communities that claim it, with the goal of ending land disputes and occupations that have troubled the region in recent years [see Update #1216].

“Almost 25 years and five presidencies have passed since we recovered our democracy and despite our effort we are still in debt to [Chile’s] indigenous people,” Bachelet said, referring to the period since the end of the 1973-1990 military dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. “Now is the time to have the courage to take new steps forward, not with an eye on the short term but aiming to achieve the progress that has long eluded our brothers and sisters from the indigenous communities.”

Some Mapuche activists were not convinced by Bachelet’s program. Aucán Huilcamán, who represents the Council of All Lands, an organization including Mapuche from both Chile and Argentina, dismissed the Council of Indigenous Peoples as “a kindergarten” and said the government’s policy continued “colonialism and the domestication of the indigenous peoples.” (Santiago Times 6/24/14; Reuters 6/24/14; Radio Bío Bío (Chile) 6/24/14) In a statement released on June 15, a week before Bachelet’s announcement, the militant Arauco Malleco Coordinating Committee (CAM) described the president’s approach as “[o]n one hand echoing the pressures of the capitalist business class in the Mapuche zone, and on the other deepening the militarization and the repression against our communities.” The CAM said it was “taking up with greater conviction its anti-capitalist struggle based on self-defense and territorial control until the Mapuche national liberation.” (La Haine (Spain) 6/15/14)

On June 19 Chile’s ambassador to the international organizations based in Geneva, Marta Maurás, gave the United Nations Human Rights Council the Bachelet government’s commitment to end the application of Chile’s “antiterrorist” law to Mapuche activists. Cuba, Germany and the US had asked Chile to discontinue the use of the law, which gives the police and courts extraordinary powers in cases the government designates as terror-related. This was one of 185 recommendations the Human Rights Council has made to Chile; the country has accepted 180 of them. The law dates back to the military dictatorship, but all the governments since the restoration of democracy, including Bachelet’s 2006-2010 administration, have used it against Mapuche activists struggling to reclaim indigenous lands. (El Nacional (Venezuela) 6/19/14 from EFE)

*3. Central America: What's Causing Child Migration?
In a statement released in the last week of June, the Honduran Black Fraternal Organization (OFRANEH), a leading organization of the Garífuna ethnic group, charged that the US-backed Honduran government was largely responsible for the dramatic increase in minors trying to migrate from Central America over the past few years [see Update #1224]. The organization said the government “blames the numbers only on narco trafficking; however, they forget that this catastrophe is also caused by collusion among politicians, business leaders, state security forces and criminal organizations linked to the trafficking of narcotics. The government has seen the situation worsen for years without doing anything to change the scenario, much less to avoid it.”

Honduras is the country providing the largest number—more than 13,000--of the nearly 35,000 underage Central Americans detained at the US border in the last six months; the others come mostly from Guatemala and El Salvador. OFRANEH pointed to statistics from the nongovernmental organization (NGO) Casa Alianza Honduras, which reported that 287 people were murdered in Honduras in May alone, 104 of them under the age of 23. From 2010 to 2013, more than 27,000 people were killed in Honduras, according to OFRANEH; about 450 of the victims were younger than 14. (Adital (Brazil) 6/23/14)

In related news, on June 23 unidentified assailants gunned down Luis Alonso Fúnez Duarte, the producer of a music program on the Súper 10 radio station in Catacamas, in the eastern department of Olancho. He was reportedly the second producer of a music program to be murdered in Olancho in June, and the 42nd Honduran media worker killed in the five years since the June 28, 2009 military coup that overthrew former president José Manuel (“Mel”) Zelaya Rosales (2006-2009). (Adital 6/25/14)

Much of the US coverage of the child migrants has played down the violence against minors in the countries they come from and instead has emphasized reports that the migrants were drawn to the US by the expectation of lenient treatment. According to US journalist David Bacon, this version of events largely started with a report from the US Border Patrol which was “leaked” to Brandon Darby, a former informant and infiltrator for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) who is close to the rightwing Tea Party; reports based on this leak were circulated on the far-right website breitbart.com. (CounterPunch 6/26/14)

In contrast, a report released by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) on Mar. 12 cited fear of violence as the main cause for the increased migration. A careful survey of child migrants in 2013 found “that no less than 58% of the 404 children interviewed were forcibly displaced” because of violence, and that they warrant protection as refugees under United Nations conventions. In an interview with the National Journal, UNHCR senior protection officer Leslie Vélez, one of the report’s authors, said 48% of the children “shared experiences of how they had been personally affected by the augmented violence” from “organized armed criminal actors, including drug cartels and gangs, or by state actors.” Only nine of the 404 children “mentioned any kind of possibility of the US treating children well.” She noted that the Central American migrants are not just fleeing to the US. Many go to Mexico, and migration to Belize, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama has increased by 712% since 2008. (NJ 6/16/14)

A reporter from the left-leaning Mexican daily La Jornada got similar results from interviews at an immigration detention center in Tapachula in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas. “Going back means losing your life because of the gangs,” a Honduran man traveling with his baby told the reporter. An older man with two granddaughters, ages seven and 10, said: “I left Honduras because they already killed three of my four sons. I can’t stay to wait for them to take away my granddaughters. There the gangs kill for anything, take our houses, our pay. Everything.” Asked if he wanted to go home, a six-year-old Honduran boy began to cry and told the reporter: “They kill people there, and you can’t play.” (LJ 6/29/14)

*4. Cuba: Foreign Investment Law Takes Effect
Cuba’s new Foreign Investment Law went into effect on June 28, as was planned when the National Assembly of Popular Power passed the measure in March [see Update #1214]. The government is hoping to generate some $2.5 billion in investment each year under the law, which cuts tax rates for foreign investors from 30% to 15% and guarantees that most foreign-owned companies will be exempt from expropriation. Investment is expected to be focused on light industry, packaging, chemicals, iron and steel, building materials, logistics and pharmaceuticals; much of it will go to the Mariel port, 40 km west of Havana, which is being developed as a major “free trade zone.” The government is currently studying 23 proposals for projects from Brazil, China, Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Russia. The new law doesn’t allow for private Cuban citizens to invest, and Cubans will work for the foreign companies through state-owned employment companies, not directly. (La Jornada (Mexico) 6/29/14 from DPA, AFP, Prensa Latina; Global Post 6/29/14 from Xinhua)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico, US/immigration, US/policy

A Turning Point for Drug Policy (Latin America)

How the Drug Trade Criminalizes Women Disproportionately

Raúl Zibechi: Latin America Today, Seen From Below

People’s Tribunal Seeks to Counter Canadian Pro-Mining Spin (Latin America)

Elbit: Exporting Oppression from Palestine to Latin America

Pérez Esquivel to Griesa: it is just not to pay an illegitimate and immoral debt (Argentina)

Chile's Bachelet Promises to Return Land to Indigenous People

Argentina Seeks to Ward Off “Paradoxical” Default

For 2nd Anniversary of “Curuguaty Massacre,” New Report Sheds Light on the Criminalization of Peasants and Right to Land in Paraguay

Peru now has a ‘licence to kill’ environmental protesters

Jurassic Park amid Peruvian poverty

Colombia: security workers blockade coal mine

Venezuelan President Maduro Responds to Former Ministers’ Criticisms

The U.S. Re-militarization of Central America and Mexico

Nicaragua’s Mayagna People and Their Rainforest Could Vanish

Puerto Castilla, Honduras: Corporate and Military Interests Above Garífuna Community Survival

Mayan People’s Council Organizes National Strike in Guatemala

Mexico: From “the land belongs to those who work it” to “the land belongs to those who drill it.”

Subcomandante Marcos announces: “We have decided that as of today, Marcos no longer exists” (Mexico)

Huicholes: The Last Peyote Guardians (Mexico)

Mexico Rape Victim Faces Prison Time for Self-Defense

Thousands of Physicians March in Mexico: "We Are Doctors, Not Gods or Criminals"

Wage Theft in Mexico: the Cost of an Unpaid Lunch Break

Child Migrants and Media Half-Truths (US/immigration)

Confronting the Central American Refugee Crisis

Immigrants or Refugees? (US/immigration)

Tea Party and Border Patrol Spin the Story of Children in Detention

For more Latin America news stories from mainstream and alternative sources:

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