Indigenous people re-occupy Belo Monte construction site

Indigenous people re-occupy Belo Monte construction site

By Jeremy Hance / Mongabay

Construction on Brazil’s megadam, Belo Monte, has been halted again as around 150 demonstrators, most of them from nearby indigenous tribes, have occupied the main construction site at Pimental. Over a hundred indigenous people joined local fishermen who had been protesting the dam for 24 days straight. Indigenous people and local fishermen say the dam will devastate the Xingu River, upending their way of life.

“The renewed occupation of the project’s earthen cofferdams paralyzed construction works, while indigenous protestors seized the keys of trucks and tractors forcing workers to leave the strategic Pimental work camp on foot,” reads a press release from the NGO Amazon Watch. Around 900 workers were sent home.

This is the second occupation attempt in less than six months. Over the summer some 300 indigenous people sustained an occupation of the dam for 21 days, before breaking it off though little headway was made in talks with consortium building the dam, Norte Energia.

The Belo Monte dam, which would be the world’s third largest, has been plagued by controversy from its origin decades ago; the battle for the dam has been fought both in Brazil’s courts and on the international stage. If built, the dam will flood an estimated 40,000 hectares of present rainforest and could push some fish species to extinction. In addition, 16,000 people will be displaced according to the government, though some NGOs say the number is more likely double that.

Despite the impacts, the dam has been strongly supported by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, and every legal injunction against the dam has been overturned. Norte Energia has filed with a local court for repossession of the construction sties.

Indigenous groups say the construction of the dam is already imperiling their way of life, as the Xingu river becomes more difficult to navigate. They have also said they have no intention of leaving until Norte Energia meets their demands.

“We are witnessing the devastation of this land. The island of Pimental was completely destroyed, with a sole tree left standing, and the water is putrid. It is very shocking,” an protestor told Amazon Watch.

Dams are often described as ‘green’ energy source, however in the tropics they actually release significant methane emissions due to rotting vegetation. Although it has a shorter life than carbon, methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas.

From Mongabay:  “Indigenous groups re-occupy Belo Monte dam in the Amazon

Awá people shut down railway servicing world’s largest iron mine

Awá people shut down railway servicing world’s largest iron mine

By Survival International

A protest involving Earth’s most threatened tribe, the Awá, has forced the world’s largest iron ore mine to suspend operations along its main railway line.

On Tuesday, hundreds of Indians including the Awá, took to the tracks of Vale’s Carajás railway to voice their opposition to Brazilian government plans that could weaken their land rights, if legalized.

The demonstration follows months of anger surrounding a draft text called Directive 303, which prohibits the expansion of indigenous territories.

The government has refused to scrap the proposed directive, despite it violating national and international laws by suggesting certain projects can be carried out on Indian land without proper consultation.

Frustrations spilled over on Tuesday, with several different tribes uniting to demand that their land rights are respected.

The blockade is the latest in a string of controversies to involve mining giant Vale, whose railway borders the territory of the Awá.

Last month, a judge reversed a ruling that had stopped the company from doubling its railway line to increase production.

The decision was a blow for the Awá, who blame the railway for bringing thousands of invaders into their lands and scaring off the animals they hunt.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said today, ‘If Brazil wants to lead the way and show the world that it respects its indigenous peoples, it should not be entertaining the harmful propositions of a handful of rural lobbyists. This protest shows that for tribes like the Awá, land rights are make or break.’

From Survival International:

Guatemalan soldiers massacre seven indigenous protestors

By Moises Castillo and Romina Ruiz-Goiriena / Associated Press

Thousands of indigenous Guatemalans shouted in anger Friday and some threw themselves at the coffins of six local people who were shot to death during a protest over electricity prices and educational reform in a poor rural area.

A seventh victim died later at a hospital in the western city of Quezaltenango.

President Otto Perez Molina acknowledged that government forces had opened fire during the protest Thursday, after saying earlier that police and troops on the scene had been unarmed and the protesters had provoked the clash.

Human rights groups condemned the government’s actions and charged they were part of a pattern of excessive use of force against protesters.

The protesters were blockading a highway near the town of Totonicapan, about 90 miles west of Guatemala City, when two vehicles carrying soldiers arrived to help police who had been ordered to evict the demonstrators. Gunfire erupted after the troops came. Bullets killed seven people and wounded 34, officials said.

“We were protesting right next to them when they opened fire on us,” said Rolando Carrillo, a 25-year-old protester with a bandaged arm and lacerated face that he said resulted from being hit during the clash.

The president told reporters Friday afternoon that armed security guards had driven the soldiers to the protest. One of the guards apparently was the first to start shooting and then an unspecified number of others fired at the crowd, Molina said.

He said seven soldiers injured in the confrontation had said they only fired into the air to protect themselves from what they considered to be a threatening crowd.

Interior Minister Mauricio Lopez Bonilla said the president had suspended the order to evict the protesters from the highway.

Some 20 human rights organizations called an emergency meeting in the capital to discuss the incident and called for a protest in front of the presidential palace.

“We’ve been saying for a long time that the army’s use of force brings with it the risk that something like this could happen,” said Francisco Soto, a representative of the Center for Legal Action and Human Rights.

Six of the dead were buried Friday afternoon in Totonicapan, where thousands gathered to watch their coffins pass through the town’s central square. Hundreds shouted “Justice! Justice!” while dozens of mourners hurled themselves toward the coffins in grief.

Read more from The Washington Post:

200 indigenous people in Sarawak blockade construction shipment for dam

By Mongabay

200 indigenous men and women are blockading shipments of construction materials to a dam site in Malaysian Borneo to protest the impact of the hydroelectric project on their traditional forest home, reports the Bruno Manser Fund (BMF), a Switzerland-based group that campaigns on behalf of forest people of Sarawak.

According to the NGO, on the morning of September 26, 200 Penan and Kenyah set up a blockade on the road used by trucks to deliver supplies to Murum dam, a controversial project being built by China’s Three Gorges Corporation. The protesters say they will maintain the road block until Sarawak Energy, the agency behind the dam, meets with them and agrees to their demands relating to involuntary resettlement and their traditional land rights. The dam would flood up to 250 square kilometers of rainforest and farmland, affecting some 1,400 people, says BMF, which adds that the communities fear a repeat of the nearby Bakun dam.

“They have witnessed how the quality of life decreased for their neighboring communities affected by Bakun dam, one of the biggest dams in Asia, when they were forcefully displaced in 1998,” BMF said in a statement. “They do not want to face the same fate: loss of livelihood, poverty and loss of culture.”

The government of Sarawak is planning to build at least a dozen dams over the next twenty years, well exceeding the state’s demand for electricity. But Sarawak says it aims to attract energy-intensive industries like mining. Critics argue that the primary motivation is corruption: large infrastructure offer big opportunities for officials to line their pockets using state funds. Sarawak’s Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud is accused of amassing a personal fortune of some $15 billion through such approaches as well as control over the state’s forest resources.

TransCanada congratulate police for employing torture tactics against Tar Sands Blockaders

TransCanada congratulate police for employing torture tactics against Tar Sands Blockaders

By Tar Sands Blockade

Nine people sitting 80 feet above ground in tree platforms on the path of TransCanada’s Keystone XL construction enter their third day of sustained action to stop the toxic tar sands pipeline. The sitters are undeterred by TransCanada’s role in the torture of their fellow blockaders.

Tuesday, Shannon Bebe and Benjamin Franklin delayed construction for most of the day when they locked arms around construction machinery, intent on protecting East Texas homes. The two were subjected to torture tactics by police only after TransCanada’s senior supervisors huddled with law enforcement to actively encourage the use of extreme pain compliance techniques on the peaceful protesters.

Immediately following TransCanada’s consultation, law enforcement handcuffed the protesters’ free hands to the heavy machinery in stress positions and proceeded to use sustained chokeholds, violent arm-twisting, pepper spray, and repeated tasering to coerce the two to abandon their protest. Extraordinarily, despite their torture, the two endured for over five hours, affirming their courageous stance that taking action now is less of a risk than doing nothing.

Upon the protesters’ arrest, TransCanada supervisors were seen and heard congratulating law enforcement on a job well done.

“TransCanada has frequently claimed its interest in protecting the safety of workers and protestors but now we can see that’s all a lie,” said Ron Seifert a spokesperson with Tar Sands Blockade. “Now that they have actively encouraged the torture of peaceful protestors its clear that this multinational corporation assigns no value to the basic humanity that all Texans and people everywhere deserve.”

With the news that their friends had been tortured with TransCanada’s approval, the eight original tree sitters were bravely joined by another, expanding the tree blockade further as TransCanada’s clear-cutting heavy machinery rapidly approaches. Construction is roughly 300 yards away from the tree blockade. All refuse to come down until TransCanada halts its dangerous pipeline project.

“I climbed this tree three days ago in the path of Keystone XL to demonstrate the dangers of this toxic pipeline and to let TransCanada know that we will continue to non-violently resist their brutal tactics,” said Justin Jacobs, an aerial blockader. “I’m here to defend this land from a multinational corporation who has blatant disregard for the safety of peaceful people, families, and our planet.“

Tar Sands Blockade is a coalition of Texas and Oklahoma landowners and climate justice organizers using peaceful and sustained civil disobedience to stop the construction of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

Concluding hours of hard-fought Keystone XL construction delays, Benjamin Franklin shared, “In light of everything that happened at the direction of TransCanada, I still don’t regret my involvement at all. I encourage everyone to persevere in the face of this type of sheer brutality. To follow one’s moral compass despite extreme challenges is the way we move forward towards a more humane, tar sands-free planet.”

From Tar Sands Blockade:

Occupy Monsanto blockades Seminis seed distribution facility, shuts it down

By Occupy Monsanto

On Wednesday, September 12 activists calling themselves the Genetic Crimes Unit (GCU) shut down shipping and receiving access points at Monsanto’s Oxnard seed distribution facility located at 2700 Camino Del Sol. By peacefully blockading the exit and access points the group effectively shut down the distribution of genetically engineered (GMO) seeds for a day.

Monsanto is the largest producer of GMO seeds and is being called out for their genetic crimes by a network called Occupy Monsanto. Today’s protest is the beginning of a series of over 65 different autonomous actions that officially start on September 17, a year since Occupy Wall Street movement began. Actions are planned throughout the world including the US, Germany, Canada, India, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Argentina, Australia, Spain, Russia, and Japan. More info as well as video available for media use of today action can be found at

After occupying all three shipping and receiving entrances to the Monsanto facility using flashy theatrics including a car with a giant “fish-corn” on top of it and a 6-foot high jail cell complete with someone dressed up like the CEO Hugh Grant of Monsanto inside. Eventually after 5.5 hours the fire department was called in and 9 anti-GMO activists were arrested and charged with trespassing.

“The reason I am occupying Monsanto and willing to put myself at risk of arrest is because Monsanto has genetically engineered food crops to contain novel untested compounds that result in more weed killer sprayed on our food, without informing consumers. Unlike most industrialized countries including every country in Europe, Japan and even China, in America right now there are no labels on our food informing us whether we are eating GMOs or not. We have a right to opt out of this experiment: it’s not up to chemical companies what I feed myself and my family. Monsanto has bought and sold both parties and has handpicked henchmen at FDA and USDA making sure we are kept in the dark. Monsanto is also currently fighting the California Prop 37 GMO labeling initiative that would give consumers the right to know if they are eating GMO foods. said GCU member Ariel Vegosen.

The GCU arrived onsite wearing bio-hazmat suits and with giant banners saying the “99% V. Monsanto” and “Seminis and Monsanto bringing weed killer GMO food to your table.” Next week there will be more protests all over the nation.

“In the name of Wall Street profits, chemical corporations such as Monsanto genetically engineer crops to withstand high doses of their toxic weed killers that contaminate our food and water, and have not been proven safe. We deserve to know what we are eating and we should put the GMO crops back in the lab and off the kitchen table.  The US chemical lobby has so far made sure Americans are kept in the dark and we are tired of inaction by Obama, “ said GCU unit member Rica Madrid.

“We are here today in civil disobedience because we believe strongly that we have no other option,” said GCU unit member David Pillar. “Its time for healthy food now.”

On Sept. 17, 2012 Occupy Monsanto is calling for hundreds of actions internationally.

From Occupy Monsanto: