Sunday, June 28, 2009

Petition to Obama: Call for reinstatement Honduran president Zelaya

Please sign this petition calling for the reinstatement of Honduran president Manuel Zaleya. The European Union and other Latin American leaders have all called for a reinstatement, but Obama's statement fell short of such a call.

Al Jazeera: military coup in Honduras.

From the Al Jazeera, here's their report of the miltary coup in Honduras:
Manuel Zelaya, the president of Honduras, has called for "peaceful resistance" after the country's military forced him to leave the country.

After arriving in Costa Rica on Sunday, Zelaya said that he had been a "victim of kidnapping" when Honduran soldiers raided his home earlier in the day.

The military made its move after Zelaya vowed to go ahead with a referendum on constitutional changes, which the Central American nation's supreme court and attorney-general had declared illegal.

"They came to my house in the early hours of the morning and firing guns they broke the doors with bayonets and threatened to shout me," Zelaya told Venezuela's Telesur television station.

"I don't think that the whole army supported this interruption of the democratic system by capturing a president elected by the people.

"I think that this has been a plot by an elite whose only wish is to keep the country isolated and in total poverty."

New president

Congress named Roberto Micheletti, the current speaker, as the country's new president.

Earlier, Zelaya's supporters gathered outside the presidential palace, shouting insults at the soldiers inside and setting fires in the street, after news of his arrest emerged.

"They kidnapped him like cowards," Melissa Gaitan, an employee of the official government television station, said, referring to Zelaya.

"We have to rally the people to defend our president."

Al Jazeera's Mariana Sanchez, reporting from Tegucigalpa, said that people had set up barricades around the building.

"A lot of people are wielding sticks and steel batons and they are very angry. At one point they tried to push their way into the gates of the palace, but the army inside resisted," she said.

"There are some people among the protesters who are trying to calm people down.

"They have come with loudspeakers and they are telling people that they are too few to go into the presidential palace."

Many union, labour and farm movements support the non-binding referendum, which Zelaya says is aimed at improving the lives for the nearly three-quarters of Hondurans who live in poverty.

Protest warning

Oscar Hendrix, a youth movement leader in the northwestern city of San Pedro Sula, said that the military had burned the ballot papers that had been distributed in defiance of the supreme court ruling.

"This is inconceivable. This is one of the fundamental rights of the people," he told Al Jazeera.

Hendrix said that there would be protests against the military's actions.

"We are analysing right now whether we are going to do something here or whether we are all going to mobilise to the capital city," he said. "We will stand up for our rights."

The referendum, which was due to take place on Sunday, would have asked Hondurans whether they approved of holding a poll on constitutional change alongside general elections in November.

Court statement

The supreme court, which last week ruled that the vote could not go ahead because the constitution bars changes to some of its clauses, such as the ban on a president serving more than one term, said it ordered the military to remove Zelaya.

"Today's events originate from a court order by a competent judge," it said in a statement.

"The armed forces ... acted to defend the state of law and have been forced to apply legal dispositions against those who have expressed themselves publicly and acted against the dispositions of the basic law."

Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Washington-based Centre for Economic and Policy Research, said that it seemed the military, with the backing of the court, had used the referendum as a "pretext" to overthrow the government.

"This was a fight over a non-binding referendum, nothing more than a poll of public opinion, so no one can really make the argument that there was some kind of irreparable harm that would take place if the president got his way," Weisbrot said.

Zelaya was elected for a non-renewable four-year term in 2006 as a member of one of Honduras's established conservative political parties.

However, since taking power Zelaya has moved to the left, aligning himself with Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's president.

Colin Harding, an expert in Latin American politics, told Al Jazeera that Zelaya had apparently overestimated his own power in pushing for the referendum.

"He has no support in within his own party, he is opposed by congress, he is opposed by the judiciary and the military, who are not the power they used to be but have lined up against Zelaya ostensibily in defence of legality," he said.

Chavez has threatened military action in Honduras if Patricia Rodas, Venezuela's ambassador in Tegucigalpa, is harmed. He said that she had been abducted by soldiers and beaten earlier in the day.

"This military junta that is now there would be entering a de facto state of war," he said.

HRW: Diamonds in the Rough.

Human Rights Watch reports on human rights abuses in the diamond fields of Zimbabwe. Here's the summary from the full report:
Zimbabwe's armed forces, under the control of President Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union–Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), are engaging in forced labor of children and adults and are torturing and beating local villagers on the diamond fields of Marange district. The military seized control of these diamond fields in eastern Zimbabwe after killing more than 200 people in Chiadzwa, a previously peaceful but impoverished part of Marange, in late October 2008. With the complicity of ZANU-PF, Marange has become a zone of lawlessness and impunity, a microcosm of the chaos and desperation that currently pervade Zimbabwe.

The military's violent takeover of the Marange diamond fields in October 2008 occurred one month after ZANU-PF agreed to share power with the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the opposition party that won the March 2008 elections. The contested vote precipitated a political crisis and period of rampant human rights abuses by ZANU-PF against members of the opposition.[1] The seizure of the diamond fields took place amidst a major economic crisis in Zimbabwe, caused largely by the failed policies of ZANU-PF, which resulted in astronomical inflation, rampant unemployment, the unchecked spread of disease, and massive food insecurity.

In this context, army brigades have been rotated into Marange to ensure that key front-line units have an opportunity to benefit from the diamond trade. Soldiers have bullied and threatened miners and other civilians into forming syndicates so that the soldiers can control diamond mining and trade in Marange. The enrichment of soldiers serves to mollify a constituency whose loyalty to ZANU-PF, in the context of ongoing political strife, is essential. The deployment of the military in Marange also ensures access to mining revenue by senior members of ZANU-PF and the army. Human Rights Watch believes that money from illegal diamond trading is likely to be a significant source of revenue for senior figures in ZANU-PF, which has either failed to or decided not to effectively regulate the diamond fields while exploiting the absence of clear legal ownership of the gemstones.

Diamonds were discovered in Marange in June 2006, and ZANU-PF effectively encouraged a diamond rush by declaring the fields open to anyone to mine. By November 2006, however, a nationwide police operation was launched to clamp down on illegal mining across the country, including in Marange. Police assumed control of the diamond fields; but, rather than halt illegal mining and trade, they exacerbated and exploited the lawlessness on the fields. Police officers were responsible for serious abuses-including killings, torture, beatings, and harassment-often by so-called "reaction teams" deployed to drive out illegal miners. Miners described colleagues being buried alive. A police officer working with a reaction team told Human Rights Watch of orders from senior officers to "shoot on sight" miners found in the fields. Villagers described arbitrary arrests, beatings, and harassment that by May 2008 had swamped a local prison with 1,600 prisoners, 1,300 more than its capacity.

With policing disintegrating into anarchy, the army operation called Operation Hakudzokwi (No Return), which started on October 27, 2008, appears to have been designed both to restore a degree of order and to allow key army units access to riches at a time when inflation in Zimbabwe was astronomically high and the country teetered on the verge of bankruptcy. Military operations over a three-week period involved indiscriminate fire against miners at work and people in their villages. Between November 1 and November 12, 107 bodies, many with visible bullet wounds, were brought from Marange to the morgue at Mutare Hospital. Overcrowded, the hospital eventually had to turn away trucks carrying more bodies. One man described to Human Rights Watch the extrajudicial execution of his brother on November 14-shot in the back of the head by soldiers who had accused him of being an illegal miner. Scores of miners and diamond traders were tortured and beaten, and at least 80 villagers from Muchena were beaten by soldiers demanding to know the identities and whereabouts of local illegal miners.

With control established, the army rapidly turned to forming syndicates, often using forced labor, including of children. A miner described to Human Rights Watch how his syndicate was cheated by the soldiers who formed it-when the men decided to abandon work, soldiers shot them, leading to the death of one man and the maiming of another. Children describe being made to carry diamond ore, working up to 11 hours per day with no reward. One local lawyer has estimated that up to 300 children continue to work for soldiers in the diamond fields.

While Zimbabwe's new power-sharing government, formed in February 2009, now lobbies the world for development aid, millions of dollars in potential government revenue are being siphoned off through illegal diamond mining, smuggling of gemstones outside the country, and corruption. The new government could generate significant amounts of revenue from the diamonds, perhaps as much as US$200 million per month, if Marange and other mining centers were managed in a transparent and accountable manner. This revenue could fund a significant portion of the new government's economic recovery program, which would benefit ordinary villagers like the residents of Marange.

Human Rights Watch calls on the power-sharing government of Zimbabwe to remove the military from Marange, restore security responsibilities to the police, and ensure that the police abide by internationally recognized standards of law enforcement and the use of lethal force. The power-sharing government should appoint a local police oversight committee consisting of all relevant stakeholders, launch an impartial and independent investigation into the serious human rights abuses committed there, and hold accountable all those found to be responsible for abuses. Members of the army and police who have committed abuses should also face disciplinary action for their crimes. The new Zimbabwe government should strengthen resource accountability by allowing greater transparency in how mining revenues are derived, permitting public scrutiny of the allocation of that revenue, and protecting the basic civil and political, as well as economic and social, rights of its citizens.

As a formal participant in the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS)-an international scheme governing the global diamond industry-Zimbabwe has a responsibility to immediately end the smuggling, corruption, and abuses that are taking place in Marange and ensure effective internal control over its diamond industry. Members of the KPCS should demand that Zimbabwe comply with the scheme's minimum standards, which include stopping the smuggling of diamonds from Zimbabwe, bringing Marange diamond fields under effective legal control, and ensuring that all diamonds from Marange are lawfully mined, documented, and exported with relevant valid Kimberley Process (KP) certificates. The KPCS should take urgent measures to audit the Zimbabwean mining sector, ensure that individuals involved in smuggling return their ill-gotten gains, and act to prevent any further abuse in both the extraction and onward sales of Marange diamonds.

The Kimberley Process emerged out of a concern that rebel groups in West Africa in the 1990s were engaged in the mining and trade of conflict diamonds, which provided the groups with revenue and permitted them to commit abuses against civilians. Human rights concerns are implicit in the KPCS mandate, but that mandate has been too narrowly construed by its members. Human Rights Watch calls on the KPCS to broaden its remit to include serious and systematic abuses, not only by rebel groups in conflict, but also by other agencies, including governmental bodies. The abuses committed by Zimbabwe's police and army did not occur in armed conflict, but they are as serious as those the Kimberley Process was designed to address; for that reason, KPCS members should classify Marange diamonds as "conflict diamonds."

Human Rights Watch recommends that the KPCS suspend Zimbabwe from participation in the Kimberley Process on account of the horrific human rights abuses in Marange and the lack of effective official Zimbabwean oversight of its diamond industry. It should also place an immediate, temporary halt on the extraction and trade of Marange diamonds. The KPCS should bar Zimbabwe from exporting Marange diamonds and ban the importation of Marange diamonds by its members until the government of Zimbabwe has ended human rights abuses in Marange and has regulated the diamond fields in ways that stop smuggling. Regulation of the diamond fields should include settling the question of legal title and ensuring that only those properly licensed are allowed to mine diamonds.

Finally, as a member of the KPCS and as a regional political power, South Africa also has an important role to play. Its own huge diamond industry is at serious risk of being tainted if illegal diamonds from Marange are indeed being sold alongside South Africa's domestically produced diamonds. Human Rights Watch calls on South Africa, both individually and as a member of the KPCS, to prevent the entry of tainted precious stones from Zimbabwe and to encourage the transparency and accountability of Zimbabwe's diamond industry.

Monday, June 22, 2009

URGENT: Vancouver-based Canadian mining company Continental Minerals is on the verge of starting mining production in Tibet.

E-mail from Students for a Free Tibet that was forwarded to me:
Join Tibetans and supporters in Vancouver, BC June 24th and say NO! to Canadian mining in Tibet.

In the past few months, Continental Minerals has received over 1,200 faxes from Canadians and faced protests in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and New York City <> calling on them to pull out of Tibet. Now as they hold their Annual General Meeting with shareholders and executives in Vancouver BC, join Tibetans and supporters in saying NO! to Canadian mining in Tibet.

After five years of exploratory drilling, if Continental Minerals is successful in starting production, this would mean:

1) Potentially irreversible environmental damage to Tibet's fragile ecosystem.

2) Human rights violations and forced displacement, as Tibetans have no say whether mining occurs or not.

3) A dangerous precedent for foreign mining exploitation of stolen Tibetan land. Continental would be the first producing foreign mine in the Tibet Autonomous Region.

Action: Continental Minerals' Annual General Meeting: Protest Continental Minerals‚ operations in Tibet
Time: 1pm to 4pm, Wednesday June 24
Location: Outside the AGM of Continental Minerals
Metropolitan Hotel, 645 Howe Street, Vancouver

Students for a Free Tibet (<> ) Contact: Tsering Lama 647-637-1810
Canada Tibet Committee ( <> ) Contact: Mati Bernabei 778-999-4578


Under Chinese government occupation, Tibetan people have no opportunity for free, prior, and informed consent, and receive little if any benefit from these operations. All mining operations in Tibet take place in collusion with the Chinese government, and corporate taxes and fees are paid to the Chinese government. Environmental concerns are extreme. In the race to exploit Tibetan mineral resources, Tibetan people and the environment have been disregarded.

Canadian corporations are part of the problem. Corporations expect to benefit financially from these operations, as does the Chinese government, but the local Tibetan people will reap a substantial net loss to their way of life. Tibetans who dare to protest mining projects do so knowing that they risk arrest, imprisonment, torture, and death. Since March 2008, as a result of the severe and ongoing Chinese government crackdowns against protests, thousands of Tibetans have been imprisoned or disappeared. Tibet remains a conflict zone, with armed forces patrolling towns and monasteries. Foreign journalists continue to be denied access to Tibetan areas.

Despite the fact that a climate of fear and oppression persists in Tibet, seven Canadian companies are actively mining in Tibetan regions, or are poised to begin digging soon. Five of those companies have head offices in Vancouver (Continental Minerals/Hunter Dickinson, Eldorado Gold Corp, Maxy Gold Corp, Silvercorp Metals Inc. and Sterling Group Ventures Inc.).

Under Chinese government law, Canadian mining companies are under no legal obligation to take Tibetan views, rights, traditions, or long-term welfare into account. Canada Tibet Committee and Students for a Free Tibet are deeply disappointed that, rather than adhering to Canadian legal and ethical standards, and serving as a positive example of Corporate Social Responsibility, the Canadian mining companies operating in Tibet are effectively cashing in on the fact that Tibetan people are severely oppressed.

For more information on the issues, refer to: <>

Tsering Lama
National Director
Students for a Free Tibet Canada
109 -358 Dufferin Street
Toronto, ON M6K 1Z8

Picket June 27 at MP Mario Silva's Toronto Office

For those of you in the Toronto area -- message I received from the Facebook group Stop the Canada-Colombia Trade Agreement:
On Saturday, June 27th, the Colombian Action Solidarity Alliance, CASA, will be picketing outside the Toronto office of Liberal MP Mario Silva and providing information to local residents. CASA is asking Mr. Silva and the Federal Liberal Party to oppose Bill C-23 and demand that an independent comprehensive Human Rights Impact Assessment, HRIA, be performed and any concerns arising from such an assessment be satisfactorily addressed, before any further consideration of an FTA between Canada and Colombia occurs.

Location: Mario Silva’s Office - 1674 St Clair Ave W, Toronto
Time: Saturday, June 27th, 11:00 a.m.

Implementation of the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement, FTA, has been stalled but not defeated. Both the NDP and Bloc Parties have officially opposed the FTA while the Liberal Party appears to be undecided at this point. Key Liberal Party members such as Party Leader Michael Ignatieff and Trade Critic Scott Brison have rejected calls to oppose the FTA, while other Liberal Party members, largely due to public pressure expressed through extensive letter writing campaigns, have supported the call for an independent Human Rights Impact Assessment prior to implementation of the FTA.

Human rights violations continue to be rampant in Colombia. Almost 500 workers have been murdered since President Uribe came to power in 2002. The situation is not improving. In 2008, extrajudicial executions, forced displacement, disappearances and killings of trade unionists all increased over 2007. The Colombian state has been shown to be closely tied with these violations. The United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay reported in November 2008 that Colombia’s security forces are engaged in “widespread and systematic” killings of civilians that could constitute crimes against humanity. There is growing evidence of ties between paramilitary groups and the Colombian government – 20% of Congress is currently under investigation for collaboration with paramilitaries. Implementing an FTA under these conditions will only serve to provide legitimacy to the current regime of human rights violations and actually serve to worsen the situation.

For further information on Colombia and the FTA please see;

Friday, June 19, 2009

Rights Action: update on Goldcorp in Guatemala.

More news on Goldcorp in Guatemala from Rights Action:

Guatemala, June 12, 2009


The local Maya Mam population of Sacmuj, in the village of Agel, municipality of San Miguel Ixtahuacan (SMI), are in danger of illegal entry by the Canadian mining company Goldcorp Inc, of criminalization of some community members, and of repression.

[This most recent illegal land occupation, by Goldcorp, and threat of violence, are part of a long list of health and environmental harms and violations of human and indigenous rights against the Maya Mam communities since 2005. More information:]

Over the past few weeks, Goldcorp has been pressuring hard to buy 200 cords (cuerdas) of land belonging to 20 families in Sacmuj, part of the Agel village. (1 cuerda = 20 square meters, just less than 1 acre).

Confronted with community members who did not want to sell their property, Goldcorp again chose force, illegally bringing vehicles and exploration equipment onto community and private property of Sacmuj community members.
The illegal entry and exploration activities are extremely worrying to the Sacmuj people, not only because the company is illegally on their lands (a crime that Goldcorp has committed consistently, with impunity, since it arrived in San Marcos) but also because community members fear their natural water spring will be contaminated or dry up.
The Sacmuj people have asked, on numerous occasions, that Goldcorp take its vehicles and equipment away; the community has also presented a complaint to the Human Rights Ombudsman of Guatemala.

Wednesday, June 10: Goldcorp company workers told the Sacmuj people they would take their vehicles and equipment away on June 11. Thursday, June 11: With vehicles and equipment still there, the company signed an agreement to pull away on June 12. Friday, June 12: As the company did not comply, unknown individuals burned some exploration equipment, a “Haylux” vehicle, and blocked some electric wires.


Given the community resistance, Goldcorp asked for police and army presence. On June 10, 2 units of the national police, 1 unit of Goldcorp’s private security, and 4 vehicles of soldiers arrived, allegedly to protect the security of company workers.

On June 11, 6 units of the national police and 2 units of special, anti-riot troops arrived, allegedly to protect the security of Goldcorp management.


Once again, SMI community leaders are getting threats. On June 12, Javier de Leon (a leader of ADISMI, Association of Integral Development of San Miguel Ixtahuacan), received two threatening text messages by cel phone. From number +502 5724-6953, at 11:02am, the message read: “Javier you are a piece of shit it is true that you are taking advantage of the people so wait and we will denounce you.” (“Javier eres tan pura lata berdaque te estas probechando d lajente esperate tebamosa denunsiar.”)

From number +502 4598-5000, at 10:33am, the message read: “Look you goddamn you don’t know that you are a beggar you think you are so great you don’t even come here to the protest but wait we are going to fuck you up you goddamn bastard.” (“Mira pinche no savez eres un limosnero te crees tanto porque no te pones la cara aqui en la manifestacion tu talbes pero esperate te vamos a partir la madre viejo tarugo maldito perro.”)


Similar to manipulated criminal charges brought against 7 Maya Mam men in 2007, against 8 Maya Mam women in 2008, it is rumoured that new charges have been laid against Sacmuj community members.


That the Canadian Goldcorp company illegally occupies people’s land, as a common practice, with complete impunity.

That the Guatemalan government has never responded to multiple complaints made about Goldcorp’s illegally occupations of land, showing again the high level of discrimination in the application of justice.

That the Guatemalan government uses security forces (army, police) in favor of the company without the previous and objective investigation necessary to guarantee the rights of the population.


Of the government of Canada, intervene and verify the violations of the communities and families affected and consider suspending Goldcorp’s mining licence.

Of the Canada Pension Plan – and all pensions and investment funds profiting from investments in Goldcorp -, verify the violations of the communities and families affected and consider withdrawing investments from Goldcorp.

Of the United Nations High Commission of Human Rights and Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, that they verify the violations of the harmed communities and families.

Of the President of Guatemala, the Ministries of Mines and Energies and the Environment, and the Procurator of Indigenous Affairs, that they verify the violations of the communities and families affected by Goldcorp’s mine, and that they suspend Goldcorp’s mining licence for harms and violations the mine has caused, including the health and environmental harms, and the social divisions in the communities due in part of the cooptation of some community members.

San Miguel Ixtahuacán, San Marcos, Guatemala, 12 de junio 2009
* * *
Please join this trip that will investigate “Dam ‘Development’ Projects under-mining human rights & the environment”. Over 9 days, delegates will meet with development, enviro and human rights activists; visit Chixoy hydro-electric dam affected Mayan-Achi communities; visit Mayan Q’eqchi communities that may well be harmed by the pending Xalala hydro-electric dam; visit Mayan-Mam communities being harmed by Goldcorp Inc’s huge gold mine. Information: Karen Spring:

Thursday, June 18, 2009

BBC: Peru revokes land laws.

Good news from Peru:
Peru's Congress has overturned two controversial land ownership laws that sparked deadly clashes between police and Amazon tribal groups.

At least 34 people were killed in the clashes earlier this month.

The laws were passed under powers Congress had granted President Alan Garcia to implement a free trade agreement with the US.

Tribal groups said they were not consulted and some of Peru's South American neighbours voiced opposition.

Ambassador recalled

Congress passed the revocation measure by 82-12 after a five-hour debate.

The Amazon tribal groups argue the decrees - passed in 2007 and 2008 - open up mineral and mining rights in a way that would threaten their way of life.

The worst of the clashes occurred when police tried to clear roadblocks set up by the groups at Bagua, 1,000km (600 miles) north of Lima.

Peru's Prime Minister Yehude Simon had earlier said the government had to know how to listen.

He said the reversal of policy would not put at risk Peru's free trade agreement with the US but has said he will step down once the dispute is settled.

The dispute led to a diplomatic row between Peru and Latin American neighbours Venezuela and Bolivia.

Peru recalled its ambassador to Peru for consultation on Tuesday after Bolivian President Evo Morales described the deaths of the indigenous protesters as a genocide caused by free trade.

Peru's Foreign Minister Jose Antonia Garcia Belaunde called Mr Morales an "enemy of Peru".

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

International Spotlight: Indonesia coal mines

Found this from BBC on a coal mining disaster in Indonesia, as well as the lax mining standards in the country.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Greg Palast: Oil and Indians Don't Mix

Here's an interesting piece by Greg Palast on the general mistreatment of indigenous peoples by Big Oil.
There's an easy way to find oil. Go to some remote and gorgeous natural sanctuary, say Alaska or the Amazon, find some Indians, then drill down under them.

If the indigenous folk complain, well, just shoo-them away. Shoo-ing methods include: bulldozers, bullets, crooked politicians and fake land sales.

But be aware. Lately the Natives are shoo-ing back. Last week, indigenous Peruvians seized an oil pumping station, grabbed the nine policemen guarding it and, say reports, executed them. This followed the government's murder of more than a dozen rainforest residents who had protested the seizure of their property for oil drilling.

Again and again I see it in my line of work of investigating fraud. Here are a few pit-stops on the oily trail of tears:

In the 1980s, Charles Koch was found to have pilfered about $3 worth of crude from Stanlee Ann Mattingly's oil tank in Oklahoma. Here's the weird part. Koch was (and remains) the 14th richest man on the planet, worth about $14 billion. Stanlee Ann was a dirt-poor Osage Indian.

Stanlee Ann wasn't Koch's only victim. According to secret tape recordings of a former top executive of his company, Koch Industries, the billionaire demanded that oil tanker drivers secretly siphon a few bucks worth of oil from every tank attached to a stripper well on the Osage Reservation
where Koch had a contract to retrieve crude.

Koch, according to the tape, would, "giggle" with joy over the records of the theft. Koch's own younger brother Bill ratted him out, complaining that, in effect, brothers Charles and David cheated him out of his fair share of the looting which totaled over three-quarters of a billion dollars from the Native lands.

The FBI filmed the siphoning with hidden cameras, but criminal charges were quashed after quiet objections from Republican senators.

Then there are the Chugach Natives of Alaska. The Port of Valdez, Alaska, is arguably one of the most valuable pieces of real estate on Earth, the only earthquake-safe ice-free port in Alaska that could load oil from the giant North Slope field. In 1969, Exxon and British Petroleum companies took the land from the Chugach and paid them one dollar. I kid you not.

Wally Hickel, the former Governor of Alaska, dismissed my suggestion that the Chugach deserved a bit more respect (and cash) for their property. "Land ownership comes in two ways, Mr. Palast." explained the governor and pipeline magnate, "Purchase or conquest. The fact that your granddaddy chased a caribou across the land doesn't make it yours." The Chugach had lived there for 3,000 years.

No oil company would dream of digging on the Bush family properties in Midland, Texas, without paying a royalty. Or drilling near Malibu without the latest in environmental protections. But when Natives are on top of Exxon's or BP's glory hole, suddenly, the great defenders of private property rights turn quite Bolshevik: lands can be seized for The Public's Need for Oil.

Some Natives are "re-located" through legal flim-flam, some at gunpoint. The less lucky are left to wallow, literally, in the gunk left by the drilling process.

Take a look at this photo here, taken in the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador. It's from an investigation that I conducted for BBC TV, now in the film "Palast Investigates." I'm holding up a stinking, black glop of crude oil residue pulled from an abandoned Chevron-Texaco waste pit. A pipe runs from the toxic pit right into the water supply of Cofan Indians.

Chief Emergildo Criollo told me how oil company executives helicoptered into his remote village and, speaking in Spanish - which the Cofan didn't understand - "purchased" drilling rights with trinkets and cheese. The Natives had never seen cheese. ("The cheese smelled funny, so we threw it in the jungle.")

After drilling began, Criollo's son went swimming in his usual watering hole, came up vomiting blood, and died.

I asked Chevron about the wave of poisonings and deaths. According to an independent report, 1,401 deaths, mostly of children, mostly from cancers, can be traced to Chevron's toxic dumping.

Chevron's lawyer told me, "And it's the only case of cancer in the world? How many cases of children with cancer do you have in the States? ... They have to prove that it is our crude," which, he noted with glee, "is absolutely impossible."

Big Oil treats indigenous blood like a cheap gasoline additive. That's why the Peruvians are up in arms. The Cofan of Ecuador, more sophisticated, and less violent, than their brothers in Peru, have taken no hostages. Rather, they have heavily armed themselves with lawyers.

But Chevron and its Big Oil brethren remain dismissive of the law. This week, Shell Oil, to get rid of a nasty PR problem paid $15 million to the Ogoni people and the family of Ken Saro-Wiwa for the oil giant's alleged role in the killing of Wiwa and his associates, activists who had defended these Niger Delta people against drilling contamination. Shell pocketed $31 billion last year in profits and hopes the payoff will clear the way for a drilling partnership with Nigeria's government.

Congratulations, Shell. $15 million: For a license to kill and drill, that's quite a bargain.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Colombia leads world again in trade unionist murders

GENEVA (IPS) - Colombia has long been the world leader in murders of trade unionists – a dubious distinction that it seems in no danger of losing, according to a new report by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

In 2008, 76 trade unionists were killed worldwide for defending workers' rights, according to this year's Annual Survey of Trade Union Rights Violations, which details abuses of workers rights in 143 countries.

That total is smaller than the figure for 2007, when 91 labour activists were slain around the world.

But in Colombia, 49 were murdered last year, 10 more than in 2007, "despite assurances by the administration of Colombian President Álvaro Uribe that the situation was improving," says ITUC.

"I submit that there has not been, that there is not and that there never will be real progress in this case unless and until the impunity crisis is directly, authentically and honestly resolved," said Stanley Gacek, representative of the AFL-CIO federation of labour organisations in the United States.

"That means: 1)Effective convictions of all the intellectual, as well as the material, authors of the violence; 2) Achieving the investigative prosecutorial and judicial capacity to do so; and 3) Insuring that the terms of the convictions are significant and durable," said the U.S. union leader.
Read the entire article here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

AI Canada: Take Action: Peru

Peru: Indigenous protestors at risk

Posted: 10 June 2009

Nelida Calvo Nantip, representative of the Peruvian Amazon departament Regional Organization ORPIAN, cries after receiving a phone call informing her of the death of her brother in clashes with the police, during a press conference of Indigenous leaders in Lima on June 5, 2009.
Amnesty International is gravely concerned about the safety of Indigenous protestors in the wake of serious human rights violations committed during a violent police action on June 5 in Bagua, Amazonas Department.

Members of Indigenous communities began demonstrations in mid-April to protest a series of legislative decrees over the use of land and natural resources in the Amazonian jungle. Indigenous communities were not consulted on this legislation, despite the fact that Peru has ratified the International Labour Organization Convention 169, which obliges them to consult with Indigenous Peoples on any decisions or legislation which affect their interest. As a result of the protests, on 9 May the government declared a 60-day state of emergency in the area.

On 5 June, after 50 days of protests, the National Police forcibly removed Indigenous protestors who had blocked the approach road to Bagua. At least nine Indigenous people have been confirmed dead, although the real number is feared to be much higher, and 24 police officers were killed. As well, at least 169 Indigenous demonstrators and 31 police officers were injured.

According to local sources, some of the injured protestors are not receiving adequate medical care, as local health centres are not well equipped.

The office of Peru's Ombudsperson states that 79 demonstrators are in police and army custody.

Please send personal appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, making any of the following points in your own words:

expressing concern at the reported serious human rights violations in the operation in Bagua, Amazonas Department, which led to the deaths of at least nine Indigenous demonstrators and 24 police officers, as well as to injuries to at least 169 Indigenous demonstrators and 31 police officers;

urging the authorities to ensure that all those injured have access to medical care;

urging the authorities to publish a list of all those being detained and their places of detention;

expressing concern that President Alan Garcia has linked protestors with the armed opposition group Shining Path and accusing them of terrorism (see Background below);

urging the authorities to either charge those detained with recognisable criminal offences or to release them without charge, to allow them access to a lawyer, and to guarantee that no detainee will be subjected to any form of torture or other ill-treatment;

calling on authorities to guarantee access to the area to human rights and humanitarian organizations;

urging them to ensure that they consult and cooperate in good faith with Indigenous Peoples through their representative institutions before adopting and applying legislative or administrative measures that affect them.

Sr. Alan García Pérez
Palacio de Gobierno
Plaza Mayor S/N.
Lima 1, PERÚ
Fax: 011 51 1 311 3940
Salutation: Dear President

Sr. Yehude Simón Munaro
Av. 28 de Julio 878
Lima 18, PERÚ
Fax: 011 51 1 716 8680
Salutation: Dear Prime Minister


His Excellency Jorge Juan Castañeda Méndez
Ambassador for the Republic of Peru
130 Albert Street, Suite 1901
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5G4
Fax: (613) 232-3062
Amnesty International has received reports of excessive use of force by police, as well as cases of police officers being abducted and killed by members of Indigenous communities.
Several leaders of the Indigenous organizations linked to the protests have been charged with sedition and conspiracy to take action against public order. Among them is Alberto Pizango Chota, President of the Asociación Interétnica de Desarrollo de la Selva Peruana (Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Jungle). On 6 June the authorities issued a warrant for his arrest, and added new charges, including homicide (homicidio calificado), attacks against the armed forces and illegal possession of firearms. The charges carry sentences of up to 35 years' imprisonment. Alberto Pizango is understood to have sought refuge at the Nicaraguan Embassy in Lima on 8 June.

In a speech on 8 June, President Alan Garcia linked Indigenous protesters to the armed opposition group Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) and accused them of terrorism.

The government has given no details of those injured or detained.

Alex Neve: Challenge Alviro Aribe on Human Rights

Here's an op ed in the Ottawa Citizen from Amnesty International Canada secretary general Alex Neve, arguing that Colombian President Alvaro Aribe should be asked some tough questions about human rights when visiting Canada this week:
It's a story that never made the press, a story that speaks volumes about a human rights crisis ignored for far too long. It is certainly a story worth recalling as Colombian President Alvaro Uribe visits Canada this week and Canada inches closer to finalizing a free-trade deal with Colombia.

Last June, paramilitaries entered the Colombian hamlet of San José de la Turbia. They warned the community the Colombian navy was nearby and claimed they were working together. They called out the name of Tailor Ortiz. When he raised his hand, the paramilitaries said, "We're going to kill this one right away." They tied Tailor up and shot him in the head. Then the terrified onlookers were warned: "Each time, we'll come for someone else." The next day, most of the families living in San José de la Turbia fled the area.

In the first half of 2008, some 270,000 other Colombians fled their homes, a 41-per-cent increase over 2007. Indeed, the number of internally displaced in Colombia is now the second highest in the world, after Sudan, and numbers as many as four million people.

Yet the Uribe government has been aggressively promoting resource-rich Colombia as a post-conflict, investor-friendly society, claiming credit for successfully demobilizing illegal paramilitaries and making human rights violations largely a thing of the past.

This is the message that President Uribe will no doubt bring to Canada this week in an attempt to win support for the controversial free-trade agreement negotiated with the Canadian government.

But Amnesty International's carefully documented reports reveal a different reality, an ongoing human rights nightmare experienced most acutely by individuals and communities who continue to bear the brunt of a decades-long armed conflict.

Some indicators of conflict-related violence have improved, such as kidnapping and hostage-taking. Yet other indicators have deteriorated. Indeed, all parties to the conflict -- state security forces, paramilitaries and guerrilla groups -- continue to be responsible for widespread and systematic violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

In Colombia, such abuses are frequently committed as a means to forcibly remove civilian communities from areas of economic interest, much of which is inhabited by indigenous and Afro-descendant communities. Forced displacement has paved the way for the misappropriation of these lands, mostly by paramilitaries, but also by guerrilla groups.

It is estimated that more than four million hectares of land may have been stolen by paramilitaries in this way. These lands are often in areas with mineral, oil or agro-industrial potential. Rather than guarantee the return of stolen land, some government policies may end up legalizing ownership by paramilitary groups and their backers. Meanwhile, those who try to return to their communities or defend their land face threats, attacks and murder.

In the past five years, more than 1,000 indigenous people alone have been killed. The vast majority of these killings have not been properly investigated nor have the perpetrators ever been brought to justice. Indeed, while there has been progress in a number of high-profile investigations, impunity remains the norm in most cases of human rights abuses.

In 2008, there was also a dramatic upsurge in killings of trade unionists and threats against human rights defenders, principally by army-backed paramilitaries who continue to operate in many parts of the country.

Canadian MPs who meet with President Uribe would do well to ask why he has made repeated public statements equating the defence of labour and other human rights with subversion. For example, following the publication of an Amnesty International report on Colombia last November, the president accused us of "blindness," "fanaticism" and "dogmatism." He publicly accused the Americas director of Human Rights Watch of being a "supporter" and an "accomplice" of FARC guerrillas. Similar accusations have been levelled at Colombian trade unions and human rights organizations, equating their legitimate work with "subversion." Such accusations can and do lead to threats and attacks.

The president should also be asked about allegations he has sought to undermine recent investigations by the Supreme Court into evidence of links between legislators who support him and paramilitary groups, as well as what action he plans to take to address what the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights refers to as links between certain members of the armed forces and "new illegal armed groups."

Above all, MPs should ensure that the Canada Colombia Free Trade Agreement is subjected to a thorough, independent human rights impact assessment. Under international law, economic actors are both accountable for the human rights impacts of their activities, and responsible to ensure they promote human rights. Given the nature of widespread human rights abuses in Colombia, due diligence is needed to ensure the trade agreement does not make a bad situation worse.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Council of Canadians: Urgent Action: Oppose Free Trade Repression in Peru

Below is an action alert from the Council of Canadians. Also, here is a photo essay from James Rodriguez on the bloody conflict in Peru.
Reuters reports today that, "Protesters (in Peru) said 30 of their own died and the government said 22 members of their security forces perished in two days of clashes (in the Amazon jungle) over (President Alan) Garcia's drive to bring foreign companies to the rainforest to open mines and drill for oil. The bloodshed has ...threatened to derail the government's push to further open Peru to foreign investors."

"Indigenous tribes, worried they will lose control over natural resources, have protested since April seeking to force Congress to repeal new laws that encourage foreign mining and energy companies to invest billions of dollars in the rain forest."

"Indigenous groups oppose laws passed last year as Garcia moved to bring Peru's regulatory framework into compliance with a free-trade agreement with the United States."

It should also be noted that the Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement was signed in May 2008, approved by the House of Commons this past week, is expected to be approved by the Senate shortly, and will come into effect this July.

Global Response has a sample letter you can send to the Peruvian government and various United Nations agencies at

The letter includes a demand for the Peruvian government to respect the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. You may remember that Canada is now just one of three countries world-wide that opposes this declaration. More on that in the campaign blog at

The Reuters news article is at

You can

The text of the Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement can be read at

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Reuters: Laws criticized by Peru's indigenous groups

This Reuters article outlines some of the laws signed by Peruvian President Alan Garcia that are opposed by indigenous peoples in the Peruvian Amazon:
- Legislative Decree 1090, which shrinks the size of Peru's Forestry Heritage protection system, outlines a broad plan for how to regulate investment in the Amazon. Protesters say the rule frees up some 111 million acres (45 million hectares), or roughly 60 percent of Peru's jungles, for potential development. The deadly conflict between police and indigenous tribes on Friday happened one day after Congress blocked a motion to open debate on this rule.

- Legislative Decree 1064 allows companies with concessions to get changes in zoning permits directly from Peru's central government, potentially giving them a way to extract resources without having to win the approval of local communities.

- Legislative Decree 1020 encourages the private ownership of agricultural lands by offering loans to individuals with relatively large farms. Protesters fear it will lead to communal land holdings being broken up into individually owned plots and push consolidation.

- Law 29833 creates new public agencies to oversee water management and distribution. Small farmers fear the changes will drive up costs, reduce their access to water while giving more of it to corporate growers, and eventually lead to the privatization of the water agencies.

- Besides the repeal of the laws, protesters want the government to create new reserve areas for tribes living in voluntary isolation, revoke Peru's free-trade agreements with Chile and the United States, and include a clause in the constitution requiring that tribes be consulted on potential economic projects.

Cultural Survival: Emergency Action: Stop Violence Against Amazon Defenders

Cultural Survival has more on the situation in Peru, in way of an action: 
Since April 9th communities in the Peruvian Amazon have been protesting new laws passed by President Alan Garcia's government that usher in the Free Trade Agreement with the United States and authorize an unprecedented wave of extractive industries into the Amazon Rainforest.

Over 30,000 indigenous people have been blockading roads, rivers, and railways to demand the repeal of these new laws that allow oil, mining and logging companies to enter indigenous territories without seeking their prior consultation or consent.  Peru's President Alan Garcia has said that "small groups" must not stand in the way of "development" of the Amazon.

Please add your voice in solidarity with thousands of indigenous people. Send a letter today to the Garcia Administration demanding respect for the constitutionally guaranteed rights of indigenous peoples.

On May 9th, the Peruvian government declared a state of emergency for 60 days and sent in the military and special police squads to use force to suppress the non-violent protests and protect corporate interests. There have been several incidents of unprovoked violence against indigenous demonstrators. The new forestry law (Decree 1090), which has been deemed unconstitutional, is currently being debated in the Peruvian Congress.

As one of the Earth's largest tropical rainforests, the Amazon plays a critical role in safeguarding the global climate. Its destruction releases massive amounts of global warming gases worsening climate change. Indigenous peoples are the guardians of the Amazon rainforest. They need our support.  Thanks to our campaign partners Amazon Watch and Forest Peoples Programme for providing information for this action alert.

Please send your own letter to President Garcia or use the model letter below.

Excelentísimo Señor
Presidente Alan García
Despacho Presidencial
Jirón de la Unión S/N 1 cda
Lima 1

Send email to President Garcia from this website:

Messages are limited to 300 characters. The following message is 299 characters:

I urge you to:
1. Uphold the rights of indigenous peoples to prior consultation and consent over activities that affect them.
2. Suspend the State of Emergency, withdraw your Special Forces and decriminalize peaceful protests.
3. Dialogue with indigenous leaders to resolve this conflict.

Notes: you will be asked to give your date of birth and an ID document. You can just enter "pasaporte" for the ID. For the drop-down list of home countries, "United States" in Spanish is "Estados Unidos."
Please send copies of your letter to:

Yehude Simon Munaro, President of the Council of Ministers  
(, Fax +51 1- 716- 87-35 )

Rafael Vásquez Rodríguez, President of Congress 
(, Fax +51 1- 311- 77- 03 )

Public Ombudsman Office of Peru 

Peruvian Embassador in your country (for contact details - see
UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances

UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom expression  

United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

IACHR Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Expression


Dear Mr. President Alan García,

I am writing to express my concern about recent decrees that have been passed in violation of the constitutionally guaranteed rights of indigenous peoples of Peru. I am also concerned about the Government's decision to declare a State of Emergency on Saturday, May 9. I understand through international media reports that the Peruvian Government's special forces are suppressing peaceful demonstrations in the Amazon region.

I urge your administration to show immediate restraint and refrain from using force on indigenous demonstrators.
In the context of the Free Trade Agreement with the US, your administration has attempted to roll back legal protections for indigenous peoples in order to open the Amazon rainforest to permit oil and mineral extraction by multinational corporations. These government actions violate international laws and conventions, including those ratified by Peru, that guarantee the rights of indigenous peoples.

In September 2007, the Peruvian government demonstrated true leadership in introducing and supporting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on the floor of the General Assembly. Today, your administration is acting in stark contrast to its stated commitment to this Declaration.

I respectfully urge your administration and the Peruvian Congress to:
1. Uphold the constitutionally guaranteed rights of indigenous peoples to self-determination, to their ancestral territories, and to prior consultation and consent over any policies and activities that affect them. 
2. Repeal the series of contested Decrees associated with the Free Trade Agreement with the United States.
3. Suspend the State of Emergency, withdraw your Special Forces and decriminalize peaceful protests. 
4. Enter into good faith meaningful process of dialogue with indigenous leaders to resolve this conflict.



Special thanks to Thomas Quirynen for the photo of Awajun indigenous protesters in Bagua, northern Peru, where many were wounded and taken to hospitals on May 10 after armed police attacked their non-violent blockade of the Corral Quemado Bridge. 

* THANK YOU FOR YOUR LETTERS! Since 1990, Global Response has organized over 100 international letter-writing campaigns, and in 43% of them we have already celebrated victories!

* MAKE A TAX-DEDUCTIBLE CONTRIBUTION to support Global Response. We need and appreciate your support!

* REGISTER to receive Global Response action alerts by email or regular mail. Give a gift membership to teachers, young people, friends and family members.

* BUY GLOBAL RESPONSE MERCHANDISE including great campaign posters, postcards, t-shirts, etc.