June 17, 2014. Source: WW4 Report
Photo from CBC
Chile’s environment, energy, agriculture, mining, economy and health ministers voted unanimously at a June 10 meeting to terminate plans for the $8 billion HidroAysén hydroelectric project, a complex of five dams that was to be built on the Baker and Pascua rivers in the Aysén region in southern Patagonia. Environmentalists and many area residents had vigorously opposed the project since it was first proposed in August 2007. HidroAysén supporters said the dams were necessary to meet energy requirements for the country, which currently gets about 40% of its power from hydroelectric projects. But Socialist president Michelle Bachelet, who began her second term on Mar. 11, has indicated that her government will push instead for more use of alternative sources and for the importation of liquefied natural gas. The companies behind the project—the Spanish-Italian electric energy consortium Endesa-Enel, which owns 51%, and the Chilean company Colbún S.A.—have 30 days to appeal the ministers’ decision. Continue reading
By Diego Cupolo, June 16, 2014. Source: Upside Down World
Rio Baker, the sight of one of five proposed HidroAysén dams in Southern Chile – Photo by Diego Cupolo
After eight years of demonstrations and sometimes violent protests, Chilean environmentalists popped champagne bottles and celebrated outside the ministry building after officials rejected the controversial Patagonian dam project last week.
The decision halts development of what would have become Chile’s largest energy endeavor in history, the $8B HidroAysén hydroelectric project, which involved building five dams in two of South America’s widest rivers along with 1,600 km of power lines through pristine Andean valleys and fjords to carry energy to the nation’s central regions.
In a report by the Associated Press, Patricio Rodrigo, executive secretary of the Patagonia Defense Council, called the moment “the greatest triumph of the environmental movement in Chile.” Continue reading
April 20, 2014. Source: Weekly News Update on the Americas
The central Chilean port city of Valparaíso remained under military control as of Apr. 15, three days after forest fires began sweeping into some of the city’s working-class neighborhoods, leaving at least 15 people dead and destroying 2,900 homes. Interior Minister Rodrigo Penailillo said the government hoped to have the fires under control by Apr. 16, but the national forestry agency indicated that it might take the 5,000 firefighters and other personnel in the city as long as 20 days to extinguish the fires completely. Some 12,500 people are now without homes in Valparaíso; this disaster follows an 8.2-magnitude earthquake in northern Chile that killed five people on Apr. 1 and made 2,635 homes uninhabitable.
Declared a World Heritage City in 2004 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Valparaíso is located in an area prone to forest fires. But experts and reporters said the extent of the devastation resulted less from natural conditions than from political failures. Witnesses reported that the firefighters–all unpaid volunteers, according to Chilean historian Sergio Grez–were slow to arrive when the fires started on the afternoon of Apr. 12, and they were equipped only with shovels and one truck. Driven by strong winds, the fires spread quickly through the close-packed wooden structures in the poorer neighborhoods, made vulnerable by decades of unplanned growth. Roads were often too narrow for fire engines, and there was no running water for fire hoses in the affected areas. Helicopters came with water hours later.
“We have been the builders and architects of our own dangers,” Valparaíso mayor Jorge Castro admitted on Apr. 13. Chilean president Michelle Bachelet told the national daily El Diario de Cooperativa on Apr. 15 that her government would try “to rebuild in a more orderly manner.” “It’s not enough to reinstall houses or support families,” she said. “We have to do something more substantive.” (El Mostrador (Chile) 4/14/14; Les InRocks (France) 4/14/14; US News & World Report 4/15/14 from AP)
April 13, 2014. Source: Weekly News Update on the Americas
On Apr. 7 a court in La Ligua, in Chile’s Petorca province, Valparaíso region, convicted agronomist Rodrigo Mundaca of slander and sentenced him to 541 days in prison for accusing former government minister Edmundo Pérez Yoma of water usurpation. Mundaca, the secretary of the Movement in Defense of Water, Land and the Environment (Modatima), also faces a fine. According to current Modatima spokesperson Luis Soto, the court’s decision won’t stop the group’s activist work. He said Modatima would take the case “to the Valparaíso Appeals Court, and if we aren’t successful there, we’ll go to the Supreme Court.”
Pérez Yoma is a Christian Democratic Party (PDC) politician who served twice as defense minister under former president Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle (1994-2000) and then as interior minister in the first term (2006-2010) of current president Michelle Bachelet. He owns 90% of an agricultural firm, Sociedad Agrícola El Cóndor Ltda. Modatima says the company has taken water illegally from the Los Ángeles estuary for its crops, depriving local farmers and small businesses of the resource, which is scarce in much of Chile. The group has made the same accusation against Agrícola San Ignacio, owned by Ignacio Alamos, and Agrícola Iguana, owned by Marcelo Trivelli. Apparently Pérez Yoma sued for slander after Mondaca aired the charges on CNN Chile during a 2012 interview. (El Ciudadano (Chile) 4/5/14; Radio Universidad de Chile 4/8/14; Modatima communiqué 4/9/14)
By José Aylwin, Nancy Yáñez, Rubén Sánchez (excerpt). Source: World Rainforest Movement
Historically, relations between Mapuche indigenous communities and the forestry industry have been marked by conflict, primarily because of the expansion of industrial tree plantations on lands that are part of the Mapuche territory and the impact of these plantations on the communities’ habitat.
There are three business groups that control most of the forestry industry in Chile: Forestal Arauco, Compañía Manufacturera de Papeles y Cartones (CMPC) and MASISA. According to figures from 2007, these three companies owned a total of 1,715,910 hectares of tree plantations in Chile, mainly in the regions of Biobío, La Araucanía, Los Ríos and Los Lagos. In these same regions, tree plantations in the traditional Mapuche territory account for an area three times greater than the indigenous lands recognised by the state.
Most of the tree plantations have been established on traditional Mapuche lands. The communities affected by this industry are claiming their right to tenure over the lands occupied by the plantations, which were usurped from them both during the colonial era and following the military coup of 1973. Continue reading
Filed under Actions / Protest, Biodiversity, Corporate Globalization, Food Sovereignty, Forests, Green Economy, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean, Political Repression, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests
By Emily Jovais, February 3, 2014. Source: International Rivers
Photo: Patagonia Sin Represas
On January 30, after two years of waiting, the Comité de Ministros (Committee of Ministers) dealt a substantial setback to the project. The Committee announced its highly-anticipated decision to NOT rule on appeals to HidroAysén’s environmental approval. Instead, the Committee requested additional studies to evaluate the impacts of the dams.
The Committee of Ministers – the highest administrative authority in Chile – reviewed 34 appeals related to the 2,750-megawatt energy project and identified two areas where more investigation is needed – the hydrological impacts on the two rivers on which the five dams would be built, and the impacts the migration of 5,000 construction workers to the region will have on Aysén. These studies will determine daily water flow if the dams become operational and will include an assessment of the project’s potential impact on surrounding glaciers.
“This delay is a strong sign that HidroAysén will not be a part of Chile’s energy future,” said Amanda Maxwell, our colleague in the Consejo de Defensa de la Patagonia (CDP) from the Natural Resources Defense Council. Continue reading
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, December 25, 2013
A Mapuche Indian leader who became the face of Chile’s environmental movement was found floating in a reservoir she spent a decade trying to prevent from being created, and the authorities said Wednesday that they were awaiting autopsy results although the death appeared accidental. The leader, Nicolesa Quintreman, 73, who was nearly blind, was found Tuesday, a day after she was reported missing. With her sister Berta, Ms. Quintreman became a national figure in Chile during protests against the construction of a hydroelectric dam on tribal land in the forested mountains of southern Chile.
Filed under Climate Change, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Greenwashing, Hydroelectric dams, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean, Water, Women
By Sally Burch, December 16, 2013. Source: ALAI
Land-grabbing involving huge amounts of land, a phenomenon that arose principally in the last decade and which has been accentuated since the food crisis of 2008, is radically transforming agrarian structures in the world, displacing campesinos (peasant farmers) and increasing the hold of agroindustry. In Africa and Asia, this phenomenon mainly results from agreements between States, where a government agrees to the buying or renting of huge extensions of land – one hundred, two hundred thousand hectares or more – in another country, in order to produce food under their control and to export it, and thus guarantee the food security of their populations.Nevertheless, the process has taken on a distinct characteristic in Latin America, as Cristobal Kay, a specialist in development and agrarian reform, explains. In our Continent, it is not other States but mainly big trans-Latin corporations that are investing in neighbouring countries. In an interview with ALAI, Kay noted that, as this process increases, it becomes much more complex to envisage agrarian reform in the countries affected.
An academic specialized in development theory, who studied first in Chile and in England and is now a professor at the Institute of Social Studies in The Hague, Cristobal Kay recalls that in Latin America, this phenomenon has its roots in the “lost decade” of the 1980s, with neoliberal policies. When States abandoned policies of credit and technical assistance to campesinos and lowered customs barriers to the importation of foods, peasant economy became marginalized and many campesinos had to seek other sources of income, when not to emigrate. On the other hand, the rural sectors that benefited were those capitalist agricultural producers that had access to investment and the necessary knowledge to move into new export markets, with new products such as broccoli and other vegetables, fruit and African palm oil.