Category Archives: Latin America-Caribbean

Mexico: wages stay down in stalled economy

June 2014. Source: WW4 Report

Photo rom www.hispanidad.com

Photo rom www.hispanidad.com

Even as Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto continues to push for economic “reforms,” government agencies report that the economy still has one of the worst records in the hemisphere. Gross domestic product (GDP) grew just 1.1% in 2013, the poorest result in four years, and the government has reduced its forecast for growth in 2014 to 2.7%. The Banco de México, the country’s central bank, cut its key interest rate this June to stimulate economic activity, warning that the growth outlook was “weaker than expectations even a couple of weeks ago.” Only one-half of the population works in the formal economy, and even these workers are probably earning less than their parents did. Mexico’s legal minimum wage has fallen at least 66% in purchasing power over the last three decades, according to Alicia Bárcena, the executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC, CEPAL in Spanish). Continue reading

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Guatemalans file lawsuit against Canadian mining company for 2013 shooting

June 18, 2014. Source: Canadian Centre for International Justice and CALAS

Photo from CCIJ, Guatemalan victims, 1 Guatemalan lawyer, 2 Canadian lawyers

Photo from CCIJ,
Guatemalan victims, 1 Guatemalan lawyer, 2 Canadian lawyers

Seven Guatemalan men filed a civil lawsuit today in a Vancouver court against Canadian mining company Tahoe Resources Inc. for injuries they suffered last year when Tahoe’s security personnel opened fire on them at close range. The men, residents of San Rafael Las Flores, where the company’s Escobal mine is located, allege that Tahoe is legally responsible for the violence inflicted on them as they peacefully protested against the mine.

The claimants are supported in Canada by a legal team comprised of Vancouver law firm Camp Fiorante Matthews Mogerman (CFM) and the Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ). In Guatemala, they are represented by the Guatemalan Centre for Legal, Environmental and Social Action (CALAS). Continue reading

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Filed under Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean, Mining

Mexico: jailed activist’s family threatened

June 17, 2014. Source: WW4 Report

Photo from www.sinembargo.mx

Photo from www.sinembargo.mx

A group of Mexican legislative deputies announced on June 2 that they would call on the federal Governance Secretariat to guarantee the security of family members of Nestora Salgado, an imprisoned community activist from the largely indigenous town of Olinalá in the southwestern state of Guerrero. The announcement came one day after an attack on a bus that Salgado’s daughter Saira Salgado was riding from Olinalá to Mexico City for a scheduled meeting with legislators. Armed men stopped the bus shortly after it left Olinalá and without explanation executed a woman passenger. Saira Salgado said the victim was dressed the way she herself is usually dressed. After the murder, the men left without harming or robbing the other passengers. Deputy Roberto López, of the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), charged that the attack was not an isolated incident.

Nestora Salgado is a naturalized US citizen from Olinalá who migrated to the US and settled in Washington state. In recent years she began visiting her hometown and became involved in community affairs there; eventually she was elected head of the community police force. Community police forces are legally recognized in Guerrero, and Salgado originally had good relations with the state government. But in August 2013 she ordered the arrest of a local official, Armando Patrón Jiménez, in connection with cattle rustling and the deaths of two ranchers. Five days later Salgado herself was arrested on charges of kidnapping and removed to a federal women’s prison at Tepic in the western state of Nayarit. She has been held there since without access to a lawyer; her daughter’s meeting with legislators was intended to discuss their plan to have her transferred to a more accessible prison in Mexico City. Continue reading

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Filed under Latin America-Caribbean, Political Repression

El Salvador: US tries to block seed program

June 10, 2014. Source: WW4 Report

Photo from voiceselsalvador.wordpress.com

Photo from voiceselsalvador.wordpress.com

Four US-based organizations with programs centered on El Salvador were set to deliver a petition to the US State Department on June 6 with the signatures of some 1,000 US citizens opposing what the groups called the “intrusion of the [US] embassy in the sovereign politics of this country.” At issue was an indication by US ambassador Mari Carmen Aponte that the US may withhold $277 million slated for the second phase of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) aid program if the Salvadoran Agriculture Ministry continues its current practice of buying seeds from small-scale Salvadoran producers for its Family Agriculture Plan. The US organizations—the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), US–El Salvador Sister Cities, the SHARE Foundation, and Joining Hands El Salvador Network (RUMES)—charged that the US threat was made “with clear intentions to advance the interests of transnational agricultural companies.” Continue reading

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Filed under Green Economy, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean

Mexico: Atenco campesinos face new land dispute

June 11, 2014. Source: WW4 Report

Photo by Javier Salinas

Photo by Javier Salinas

While historic leaders of the community protested nearby, an assembly in San Salvador Atenco, a town in México state northeast of Mexico City, voted on June 1 to allow the sale of almost 2,000 hectares of communal land to private parties. Members of the Front of the Peoples in Defense of the Land (FPDT) charged that they had been barred from the assembly, which they said was packed with people who were not participants in the ejido (communal farm) that legally controls the land. According to the FPDT, the June 1 vote was engineered by current ejido president Andrés Ruiz Méndez, a member of the governing centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), as part of the Ciudad Futura (“Future City”) development plan for the region, which includes a new international airport for Mexico City and will disrupt the area’s traditional farming practices.

The FPDT was formed in 2001 to oppose an earlier plan—heavily promoted by the center-right government of then-president Vicente Fox Quesada (2000-2006)—for a new Mexico City airport. The Atenco group defeated the plan in 2002 but was hit hard by a May 3-4, 2006 confrontation with México state police which resulted in the deaths of two protesters, 209 arrests and accusations that police agents systematically beat and sexually abused prisoners. The state governor at the time was the PRI’s Enrique Peña Nieto, now Mexico’s president. A state court sentenced 12 FPDT leaders to lengthy prison terms for their role in the incident, but the federal Supreme Court overturned the sentences in June 2010 after an international campaign for the prisoners’ release. Continue reading

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Carbon neutral tourism falters in Tobago

By Jewel Fraser, June 5, 2014. Source: IPS

Photo by Jewel Fraser/IPS

Photo by Jewel Fraser/IPS

SCARBOROUGH, Jun 5 2014 (IPS) - An initiative to reduce the carbon footprint of Tobago’s tourism sector may be stymied by “bread-and-butter issues” and the failure of government authorities to vigorously pursue the initiative.

In 2012, the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) completed a pilot project for the Caribbean Carbon Neutral Tourism Programme (CCNTP) in four Caribbean countries, including Tobago, with the aim of enhancing the tourism sector’s resilience to climate change,

However, the initiative in Tobago has borne little fruit, with some who work in the sector saying they learned about the programme only from media reports.

Tourism is a vital part of Tobago’s life and economy, with reports stating that tourism provides more than 40 percent of Tobago’s employment and 90 percent of its export earnings.

As it is now, everybody is going about business as usual. [Reducing carbon emissions] is not much of a concern. The greater concern is bread and butter issues.” — Dexter Black, president of the Reef Tour Operators

Continue reading

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Filed under False Solutions to Climate Change, Greenwashing, Latin America-Caribbean

Photo essay: zapatistas show dignified rage and demand justice and an end to violence targeting their communities

By Tim Russo, June 3, 2014. Source: Upside Down World

Photo Tim Russo

Photo by: Tim Russo

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos rides horseback in front of the Zapatista support base members in La Realidad during an homage to fallen compañero – Galeano – killed in a paramilitary attack against Zapatista members in La Realidad on May 2, 2014.  Thousands gathered in La Realidad to show there digna rabia, dignified rage, demand justice and an end to the on-going violence directed towards Zapatista indigenous communities in Chiapas. The May 2nd attack was the first such attack directly in a Zapatista Caracol – Cultural Center of Resistance and Autonomous Governance. SupMarcos made his final speech as spokesperson for the EZLN and announced that he was being relieved of duty, bringing an end a character that had become a “distraction” to the movement. Continue reading

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Filed under Chiapas, Latin America-Caribbean

Sign on to STOP GE Trees in Brazil!

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Please sign your organization onto the letter below protesting the legalization of genetically engineered trees in Brazil. To sign on, please send your name, organization and country to the following address: info@globaljusticeecology.org  before June 15th.

Campaign to STOP GE Trees Sign On Statement to Support the call by Brazilian and Latin American groups to reject Genetically Engineered eucalyptus trees

(Sign on before 15 June!)
FuturaGene, a biotechnology firm owned by Brazilian pulp and paper company Suzano, has requested authorization from the Brazilian Biosafety Commission (CTNBio) for the commercial release of its genetically engineered eucalyptus trees in Brazil.A letter has been issued by Brazilian and Latin American organizations (including CEPEDES; Terra de Direitos and the Latin American Network against Plantations) to CTNBio to urge them to deny this approval. As the Brazilian Open Letter (attached below) explains, if approved, use of GE eucalyptus trees will aggravate the already well-known negative impacts that non-GE industrial eucalyptus tree plantations already pose to communities´ livelihoods.

We ask your organization to sign on to the statement below in support of this Brazilian letter, which will be sent to CTNBio, the Brazilian governmental institution in charge of authorizing the release of GMOs. Their letter expresses deep concern and urges the CTNBio not to authorize the commercial release of GE eucalyptus by Suzano/FuturaGene.

To sign on in support of this letter protesting the legalization of genetically engineered trees, please send us your name, organization and country to the following address: info@globaljusticeecology.org  before June 15th.

Thank you,

The Campaign to STOP GE Trees
 including Biofuelwatch, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, Global Justice Ecology Project, Indigenous Environmental Network, World Rainforest Movement

Statement in Support of the “Open Letter to CTNBio”:

The Campaign to Stop GE Trees, an international coalition of 248 groups from 49 countries, founded in 2004, supports a global ban on commercial deregulation of genetically engineered trees (also known as genetically modified trees) based on serious concerns about their impacts on biodiversity and human rights. The Campaign supports the position expressed herein, in solidarity with Brazilian and Latin American groups, calling upon CTNBio to pay heed to public resistance to GE trees and reject Futuragene’s request for commercial approval of GE trees.

The Campaign is joined by the undersigned organizations from around the world that endorse the call for a global ban on the release of genetically engineered trees into the environment, as well as those scientists and organizations that are calling for a moratorium on the release of GE trees until they are proven to have no damaging social or ecological impacts. As no such proof of safety currently exists, but there is significant evidence to the contrary, the release of GE trees must be stopped.

It is, for example, well-documented that increasing the growth rates of plantation trees (as Suzano has done with their GE eucalyptus
trees) results in the rapid expansion of plantations, not the opposite. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization between the years 1990 and 2010, the average yield of wood from plantations doubled, yet the amount of land occupied by those plantations increased over 60% from 97 million to 153 million hectares.

[http://www.fao.org/docrep/013/i1757e/i1757e.pdf, Table 5.5, page 94]

Additionally, in 2008, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, to which Brazil is a signatory, called for the application of the Precautionary Approach regarding GE trees, and a comprehensive and transparent assessment of their long-term social and ecological risks prior to any open release into the environment. If CTN Bio approves the commercialization of the GE eucalyptus in question, this decision would directly contravene decision IX/5(1) of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

The decision IX/5 (1) of the UN CBD Conference of the Partiesfrom 2008 states <http://www.cbd.int/decision/cop/?id=11648>

The Conference of the Parties, Urges Parties to:

(r) Reaffirm the need to take a precautionary approach when addressing the issue of genetically modified trees;

(s) Authorize the release of genetically modified trees only after completion of studies in containment, including in greenhouse and confined field trials, in accordance with national legislation where existent, addressing long–term effects as well as thorough, comprehensive, science-based and transparent risk assessments to avoid possible negative environmental impacts on forest biological diversity; [1]/

(t) Also consider the potential socio-economic impacts of genetically modified trees as well as their potential impact on the livelihoods of indigenous and local communities;

(u) Acknowledge the entitlement of Parties, in accordance with their domestic legislation, to suspend the release of genetically modified trees, in particular where risk assessment so advises or where adequate capacities to undertake such assessment is not available;

(v) Further engage to develop risk-assessment criteria specifically for genetically modified trees;

(w) Note the results of the Norway – Canada Workshops on Risk Assessment for emerging applications for Living Modified Organisms (UNEP/CBD/BS/COP-MOP/4/INF/13);

(x) Welcome the decision of the fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol to establish an Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group on Risk Assessment and Risk Management that is also mandated to address the issue of genetically modified trees;

(y) Collaborate with relevant organizations on guidance for risk assessment of genetically modified trees and guidance addressing potential negative and positive environmental and socio – economic impacts on the conservation and sustainable use of forest biodiversity associated with the use of genetically modified trees;

(z) Provide the available information and the scientific evidence regarding the overall effects of genetically modified trees on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity to the Executive Secretary for dissemination through the clearing-house mechanism;

[1]/ Where applicable, risks such as cross-pollination and spreading of seeds should be specifically addressed.

We therefore support the call to CTNBio and the Brazilian government made by Brazilian and Latin American groups to reject the application of Futuragene to commercially plant genetically engineered eucalyptus trees.

Signed:

The Campaign to STOP GE Trees (International)

Global Justice Ecology Project (US)

EcoNexus (Europe, UK)

Indigenous Environmental Network (North America)

Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (Canada)

Biofuelwatch (US, UK)

World Rainforest Movement

For your information

Brazilian OPEN LETTER TO BE SENT TO CTNBio

OPEN LETTER TO BE SENT TO CTNBio

To: Brazilian National Technical Biosafety Commission (CTNBio)

We, the undersigned, have been informed that FuturaGene, a biotechnology firm wholly owned by the pulp and paper company Suzano, has submitted a request for commercial planting of its yield enhanced genetically modified eucalyptus trees.

Suzano/FuturaGene, as well as other companies like Fibria (ex-Aracruz) and ArborGen, have been conducting research and field experiments on GM Trees for years.

Suzano/FuturaGene´s interest has been to increase the productivity of their tree plantations. They argue that their new GM tree will result in a 20% increase in productivity and by doing so will increase “competitiveness and environmental and socio-economic gains through higher productivity using less land and therefore overall lower chemical inputs and lowered carbon release, as well as making land available for food production or conservation and enhancing the income of outgrowers.” (1) These myths do not stand up to real facts and are addressed below.

GM TREES WILL ADD TO THE PROBLEMS CAUSED BY INDUSTRIAL TREE PLANTATIONS, NOT REDUCE THEM

The use of faster growing GM trees in industrial plantations will exacerbate the already well-known negative social and environmental impacts caused by industrial tree plantations while introducing yet further impacts and knock-on effects due to the additional risks inherent to genetic engineering.

Industrial tree plantation companies have long promised that gains in productivity would lead to less land use. This is a myth. In Brazil, for example, where the productivity of monoculture tree plantations per hectare increased from 27 m3/ha/year in the 1980s to 44 m3/ha/year currently, the area covered by plantations has increased from about 4 million hectares at the end of the 1980s to more than 7.2 million hectares today. Historically, there is thus no evidence that in Brazil, increases in productivity led to less land being occupied by industrial tree plantations. A newly formed association, Indústria Brasileira de Árvores (Ibá), representing the Brazilian industrial tree plantation industry states that they intend to double the area of industrial tree plantations to 14 million hectares by 2020.

SUZANO SEEKS TO EXPLOIT NEW MARKETS FOR PLANTATION TREES

Suzano recently opened a new pulp mill in the state of Maranhão with an 1.5 million tons/year capacity. Huge areas of land covered with tree monocultures will be needed to fulfill Suzano’s wood demand for pulp, as well as for an added demand, in particular its plans to explore new uses of its wood with a project in the same state to produce and export wood pellets for energy production, to cofire with coal in the UK. The use of biomass for industrial scale energy production remains highly controversial, and its negative social, environmental and climate impacts have been documented widely. Both the pulp and wood pellet projects aim solely at profiting from new market opportunities, which is the mission of Suzano.

BRAZILIAN PEOPLE AND ENVIRONMENT WOULD PAY THE COSTS

While profits from this expansion accrue to Suzano shareholders, the social, ecological and economic costs as well as increased risk to regional food sovereignty and health will be borne by the Brazilian public, and local communities surrounded by plantations in particular.
Many and serious conflicts over access to land already exist, and living conditions of communities surrounded by Suzano’s operations have deteriorated to the point that communities are now struggling to guarantee their food sovereignty and are increasingly at risk of losing their territories (2) .

GM CROPS LEAD TO INCREASED APPLICATIONS OF AGROTOXINS

Further, there is no plausible reason to expect that the use of “chemical inputs”, including agrotoxins, will decrease as a result of planting GM trees. On the contrary, it will increase with the increasing occupation of land which is planned to take place and the intensification of growing cycles and the ensuing nutrient depletion of soil and land. Brazil, sadly, is already the world’s leading consumer of agrotoxins, causing injury to hundreds if not thousands of victims per year, putting further strain on already insufficient public health provision. Industrial tree monocultures, lacking biodiversity, and promoted at very large scale, will augment the application of agrotoxins by huge amounts. The argument used by the GM technology lobby that the introduction of GM crops—such as soy and maize—results in less use of pesticides and fertilizers has already been proven to be false. In countries including Brazil, Argentina, and the United States – front-runners in GM soy & maize production—research has shown not a decrease, but rather an alarming increase in the use of agrotoxins (3).

DAMAGING SOIL AND WATER SUPPLIES

Genetically modifying trees to make them grow faster, while planting them on a continuously expanding portion of the land in ever larger industrial tree plantations, will only lead to further depletion of soil nutrients and fresh water. This is especially true for eucalyptus trees, already notorious for their voracious water consumption, which has been shown to result in the overall drying out of surrounding soils, springs and waterways. Communities living around non-GM tree plantations within and outside of Brazil have already widely reported water shortage and soil depletion. The introduction of faster growing GM Trees will only further aggravate this situation.

UNEXPECTED NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF GM CROPS COULD BE EVEN WORSE IN GM TREES

Serious uncertainties exist with respect to the potential environmental and socio-economic impacts of genetically engineered trees. Unexpected effects have already been reported for GM food crops, including for example the proliferation of herbicide resistant weeds, the emergence of secondary pests decimating crops, altered fertility such as higher rates of outcrossing, as well as increased allergenicity. Given the long and often complex life-cycle of trees and their interaction with biodiversity, predicting the outcomes and impacts of GM trees is practically impossible. While eucalyptus is non-native to Brazil, it is widely planted, and contamination of non-GM eucalyptus trees by GM eucalyptus is another serious risk, although FuturaGene, paradoxically, welcomes it (4). Will it alter invasiveness, attract new pests, weaken or deter predators? Such questions have neither been asked nor are there data to provide answers. The catalog of risks is high.

Based on the history of industrial tree plantations and the introduction of GM crops in general, we object to and deny industry’s claim that society as a whole would benefit from the commercial release and planting of GM trees. Existing evidence points squarely into the opposite direction. The only benefit we see from this new high-risk technology with unknown future impact (and possible associated incalculable cost) is that of increased profits to Suzano’s shareholders.

WE URGE NOT TO AUTHORIZE THE COMMERCIAL RELEASE OF GM TREES

For the aforementioned reasons, scientists, lawyers and organizations around the world are calling for a global moratorium on the commercial release of genetically modified trees, due to their unknown but potentially severe social and ecological impacts and incalculable economic risks, which would overwhelmingly accrue to the public.

Therefore, the undersigned organizations and people wish to express their deep concern and urge the CTNBio not to authorize the commercial release of yield enhanced GE eucalyptus by Suzano/FuturaGene or by any other company that also has, or will present in future, a request for such a release.

Signatures follow

Notes

1- See FuturaGene web site at http://www.futuragene.com

2 -
http://wrm.org.uy/pt/livros-e-relatorios/plantacoes-de-eucalipto-para-energia-o-caso-da-suzano-no-baixo-parnaiba-maranhao-brasil/

3 – See
http://www.gmwatch.org/files/GMsoy_Sust_Respons_SUMMARY_SPA_v1.pdf

4 – See
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/nov/15/gm-trees-bred-world-energy


http://www.wrm.org.uy

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests