Indigenous Peoples, “A Hindrance to Commercial Interests,” Amnesty International (AI) Concludes
Para leer en español: http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2011/08/05/politica/018n1pol
** The organization presents a report about the condition of communities in Latin America
** Projects of multi-nationals for exploiting natural threaten lands and their existence
By: Armando G. Tejeda, Correspondent
Madrid, August 4.
The original peoples of America, from Canada to the Southern Cone, live affected by numerous projects for development and extraction of natural resources, because the majority of them are established in their territories and suppose a real “threat,” which can lead to their “disappearance.”
According to Amnesty International’s report on indigenous peoples, Sacrificing rights in the name of development, to the historic marginalization and discrimination is now added “connivance” among the different states with large multi-national [corporations], that besides provoking environmental disasters have sown division and discord among indigenous communities.
Motivated by International Indigenous Peoples Day, which is celebrated on August 9, AI called upon the governments de America [meaning the whole continent] to “stop giving priority to development projects over the rights of those communities,” because they are the principal ones prejudiced by plans for the extraction of minerals, energy resources or by big tourist consortia taking advantage of nature spots. That occurs in the Amazon, but also in the United States, Canada, and Central America or in the Southern Cone. It is calculated that 40 million indigenous peoples live in America.
“It is alarming to verify how the human rights of millions of indigenous peoples all over America are continuously violated. Their cultural and physical survival are now in danger because there is no political will for recognizing, respecting and protecting their rights, when these are considered an obstacle to economic growth,” explained Susan Lee, director of AI’s Regional Program for America.
One of the report’s conclusions, based on field work and on compiling denunciations and alerts by the communities themselves, is that indigenous peoples have been converted into a “hindrance to commercial interests, because of which they threaten them, evict them by force, displace them and even kill them in their zeal to exploit natural resources of the zones in which they live.” A drama that has been sharpened by financial factors, like the extraction of natural resources that sustain the economies of several countries in the region and the recurring corruption of the governments with big businesses.
For example, the construction of the Belo Monte Dam continues on the Xingu River in Brazil, in the Amazon Region, despite the order of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to stop the project until its impact on communities is exhaustively evaluated. In countries throughout the region like Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama and Peru the indigenous peoples have not been consulted before approving laws that threaten their means of life. Development plans have also been realized on ancestral lands without respecting their right to free, previous and informed consent.
Fernanda Daz Costa, editor of AI’s report, explained to La Jornada that: “the increased interest in certain raw materials and natural resources in the territories of these populations is worrisome.
“But she also emphasizes that the organization of the indigenous to express themselves has been increasing. Nevertheless, the constant is a scenario of intense social conflict that in many cases derives into violence, confrontations in which State agents are involved. Or the security services of the corporations that seek to extract natural resources exercise the violence. Thus external agents (the corporations) operate to divide the populations. There are cases of communities that confront each other.
The investigator recognized that it is “difficult” to prove the relationship of big corporations to political assassinations, judicial persecution, threats and the forced disappearance of indigenous leaders. “But there are many indicia and denunciations” that point to that theory, that of the participation of security services of the de multi-nationals in the creation of paramilitary groups or “that they eliminate problematic leaders. All that with the connivance of the government or of the State,” explained Daz Costa. She cited as a paradigmatic case the Sarayacu community in Ecuador, which is now before the CIDH. “In this case the community proved that the Texaco Corporation arrived accompanied by the army in the decade of the 1990s and committed numerous kidnappings, threats, violence and murders. Let’s say that the corporation and the government acted in a coordinated way,” she explained.
She indicated that there are numerous denunciations of the alleged link with multi-nationals that finance paramilitaries, which in the case of Colombia have occasioned death and destruction in the country. “Many times the axis of the discrimination is that the State does not have sufficient legal tools to demand that the corporations act based on human rights. The State’s legal organisms do not function or simply impose corruption.”
The complete report can be consulted at the following address: www.amnesty.org
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Friday, August 5, 2011