Category Archives: Brazil

Exhibition: ‘Looking to the Future: Children of the Amazon and Mexamerica’ in Paris all this month

12705184_10207690382110457_6462740429685922510_nThis month in Paris, some of my photos from Brazil will be exhibited at the Maison des Associations in the 11th Arrondissement as part of a show called “Looking to the Future: Children of Amazonia and Mexamerica” (“Regard sur l’Avenir; enfants de l’amazonie et Méxamérique”). The Facebook event is here. The exhibit will be up through the month of March. On March 22, the documentary Voix d’Amazonie (Amazon Voices — trailer here) will be shown. If you’re in Paris, check it out!

Here’s a blurry pic of the last show in Paris, in December, which I neglected to mention on this blog. Since I happened to be in town reporting on the Tribunal for the Rights of Nature I was able to stop by. The two photos at bottom left are mine:

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Flyer for the last show:

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Ecuador condemned at the new Tribunal for the Rights of Nature in Paris (Mongabay)

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José Gualinga, a Sarayaku leader, testifies at the Tribunal about his people’s successful efforts to halt seismic testing for oil in their territory. Photo by Karen Hoffmann.

Last weekend, while the official COP21 negotiations were going on north of Paris at a site called Le Bourget, leaders of indigenous nations in North and South America were in Paris calling for justice for what they say are ongoing violations of the rights of the earth itself.

The “rights of nature” were recognized in the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba, Bolivia, in 2010, designed as an alternative to the COP meetings. The declaration, which gave rise to the International Tribunal for the Rights of Nature, created “a manifesto for earth justice,” in the words of the president of the current tribunal, Cormac Cullinan, author of Wild Law. The book, published in 2003, lays out a case for granting legal rights to communities and ecosystems.

The first such tribunal was held last year in Quito, Ecuador, and its second session was almost a year later in Lima, Peru.

Among the cases heard by this tribunal, several dealt with oil exploitation in Ecuador — a country that, ironically, was the first to include the rights of nature into its 2008 constitution. One of these cases focused on Yasuní National Park.

Yasuní is a UNESCO World Heritage Preserve and a biodiversity hotspot. Nowhere else are there more documented species of mammals, birds, amphibians and vascular plants. As one presenter noted, in one tree in Yasuní, one can find 94 species of ants; one hectare holds more tree species than the US and Canada together.

But Yasuní also sits above the largest oil reserve in Ecuador – 846 million barrels – presenting a threat to the people and animals living in it. More at Mongabay.com>

Elections in Brazil: a win for Rousseff, and China

It’s become a cliché to liken this Brazilian election to a telenovela. Yet it does seem a fitting analogy for a campaign season that saw one of the candidates die in a plane crash and his vice-presidential candidate — environmentalist Marina Silva — then soar in the polls, only to come down equally suddenly after some of the most negative attack ads in the country’s political history. Pro-business candidate Aécio Neves and incumbent Dilma Rousseff were neck-and-neck going into Sunday’s second round, but in the end, Rousseff claimed victory, albeit by a slim margin.

Of all the candidates, the one with the most dramatic story was Silva, who would have been Brazil’s first black president. The daughter of rubber tappers in the Amazon, illiterate until age 16, she rose through the ranks in Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s Workers’ Party (PT) to become his minister of the environment. However, she differed with her party on several key issues, including the building of massive hydroelectric dams in the Amazon region — a major part of the PT’s platform for energy independence. In the current election, she was the running mate of PSB candidate Eduardo Campos, whose sudden passing thrust her into the spotlight.

After Silva was defeated in the first round of elections on October 5, it looked to her supporters as though their hopes of a more environmentally friendly, progressive Brazil were dashed. Worse yet, to many, she shot back at the PT’s negative campaigning by publicly endorsing Neves, a pro-business governor from Brazil’s wealthy, white south.

Neves and Rousseff, who was chief of staff under Lula and has carried forward his policies in her three years as president, faced off in the second round. In the end, slightly more than half of Brazilians preferred the status quo, and Rousseff claimed victory with 51.6% of valid votes.

So what will Rousseff’s win mean for the environment, and for Brazil’s relationship with its number one trading partner, China?

Read more at China Dialogue >

PHOTO/ Mismatch: why are human rights NGOs in emerging powers not emerging? (openDemocracy)

Anti-Belo Monte graffiti in Altamira, Brazil. Karen Hoffmann/Demotix.

My photo of anti-Belo Monte graffiti in Altamira, Brazil, was used in this openDemocracy story by Lucia Nader, who is Executive Director of Conectas Human Rights, a Brazil-based NGO with national and international projects. (“Belo Monstro” and “Eletromorte” are plays on words: The consortium building the mega-dam is called Eletronorte, and “morte” means “death” in Portuguese.)

From Lucia’s piece: “There is a perverse see-saw effect in place within the BRICS countries. In Brazil, as the government grows in prominence and companies become more global and voracious, human rights NGOs face a sustainability crisis and find their budgets shrinking. Are these two developments connected?” More >

International Human Rights Day Roundup: Brazil, Colombia, US events

A roundup of news and events around International Human Rights Day, today, December 10:

BRAZIL

Some positive news: yesterday,  the country initiated its first human rights trial. Rebecca J. Atencio reports over at Transitional Justice in Brazil:

In a landmark for transitional justice in Brazil, prosecutors yesterday initiated the country’s first criminal trial of an individual state security agent in a federal court in São Paulo. The accused is Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra, a retired colonel. … Yesterday’s hearing involved three witnesses who testified about the disappearance of Edgar de Aquino Duarte. Duarte disappeared after being detained at the DOI-CODI and DEOPS torture centers in São Paulo in 1973.

Until now, all attempts in Brazil to try accused dictatorship-era torturers have been blocked by the 1979 Amnesty Law. In 2010, the country’s Supreme Court upheld the interpretation of the law as extending to  state agents who engaged in human rights crimes. Yet there are indications that the Amnesty Law’s protection of accused human rights violators may be crumbling. Brazil’s new Attorney General recently indicated a possible change in interpretation of the controversial law.

COLOMBIA

From the Latin American Working Group (LAWG):

Today on International Human Rights Day, thousands of Colombians will take to the streets in support of the ongoing peace process. Bringing together the voices of victims of violence, women, trade unionists, artists, campesinos, students, intellectuals, indigenous and Afro-descendants, this mobilization aims to promote a peace process that includes a social and human rights agenda.

On International Human Rights Day, share this image to show your solidarity for peace in Colombia!

Colombians will express their support for peace and their continued outrage over the human costs of the war:  forced displacements, widespread massacres, threats against unionists and human rights activists, and the exclusion of indigenous and Afro-descendant communities. It’s a demonstration of hope, with Colombians coming together with the dream of creating a lasting peace.

Even with the ongoing peace process, there still is a human rights crisis in Colombia. Displacement continues, with 2,700 people forced from their homes last month just in Buenaventura. Human rights defenders, journalists and union members continue to be harassed and threatened for the work they do. Land restitution under the Victims’ Law continues at a snail’s pace and is jeopardized by the presence of paramilitary successor groups that threaten the safe return of communities.

Here at the LAWG, we believe that in order to build a just and lasting peace, the underlying human rights, economic and social aspects of the conflict must be addressed. This means addressing human rights violations by all parties to the conflict and creating space for civil society participation in the peace process and its implementation. It means there must be truth, and there must be justice.

There’s a long road ahead, but it’s time to say yes to peace.

In DC today, there was a vigil for Colombian victims of human rights violations that featured “an altar with pictures of civilian victims of the Colombian internal armed conflict, and victims of armed actors outside of ‘war zones’; candles to remember these victims; Colombian music; and a reading of victims’ names, with Presentes in response; flyers to distribute containing information about peace and human rights issues in Colombia.”

More of today’s events, via AAAS’ Scientific Responsibility, Human Rights & Law Program:

HUMAN RIGHTS DAY EVENTS

Standing Up for Indigenous Rights in Brazil (The Platform)

 

A Kamaiurá cacique in the village of Ipavu on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Xingu Indigenous Territory in Mato Grosso, Brazil.

25th anniversary of Constitution sees massive mobilisation across country and around the world

Night is falling in Brazil’s Xingu Indigenous Territory. In the centre of a thatch-roof hut stands Raoni Metuktire, cacique (chief) of the Kayapó people. All day long, on the 50th anniversary of the founding of the territory, other indigenous leaders have been speaking on everything from the need for better education to the dangers of the Belo Monte mega-dam being built in the Amazon.

The third largest dam in the world, Belo Monte will flood 500 square km and dry up 100 km of river. The particular section of the river most affected is home to communities of the Kayapó, Juruna and Arara tribes, among others, and a total of 20,000 people will be displaced. Belo Monte, one of dozens of giant dam projects planned for the Amazon region, typifies the Brazilian government’s preference for development over conservation.

Raoni begins a war dance and a low chant that builds to a crescendo. He speaks forcefully, in the Kayapó language.

His nephew Megaron Txucarramãe, himself a highly esteemed Kayapó leader, translates: “I want you to feel strong, you are great! I want to see you fighting!”

The wooden disk in Raoni’s lip punctuates his exhortation. The gathered tribes, from the Arara to the Xavante, painted in ink made from the genipapo fruit, loudly cheer their assent.

Chief Raoni Village 2 - River

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A famous picture of Raoni has lately made the rounds on the internet. In it he sits, head in his hands, overcome by emotion. The photo is usually captioned something like: “Chief Raoni cries for his forest.”

The photo points to an essential truth – Brazil’s tropical forest is being destroyed at an accelerating rate, and Raoni is a legendary and outspoken defender of indigenous rights. But the picture is not what it seems. According to the Daily Kos, the actual explanation for Raoni’s display of emotion is that he has just been reunited with a member of his family.

The danger of facile Facebook memes like this one is that they distort reality. In this case, the picture could be considered to rob Raoni of his agency. It harkens back to the “crying Indian” ads of the 1970s in the U.S. (The actor in which, incidentally, was an Italian-American in makeup and a wig, and which may have contributed to more pollutionthan it prevented.) Such images depict natives as passive victims, taking it lying – in Raoni’s case, sitting – down, while the bad white guys take their land and pollute their water.

The story is, of course, based on five centuries of truth. And in countries with any surviving indigenous populations, it goes on today. According to the NGO Survival International, a proposed Brazilian constitutional amendment would give Congress the power to participate in the demarcation of indigenous lands. A bill currently under discussion would open up indigenous land for army bases, mining, dams and other industrial projects, and another would open up indigenous reserves to large-scale mining for the first time. More at The Platform > 

What a police-occupied favela looks like

My images, of UPP police in Chapeu Mangueira and Babilonia favelas, from June 2011. AFP story from this weekend.

Sgt. Vagner Luis de Assis of the UPP (Brazilian Pacification Police Units) stands in front of a graffiti-painted wall in Rio de Janeiro’s Chapeu Mangueira favela.

 

UPP police interact with the community at a recreational spot in the Chapeu Mangueira favela, Rio de Janeiro.

Brazilian marines and paramilitary police stormed one of Rio’s most notorious shantytowns Sunday, as the city cleans up ahead of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games.

It took just 20 minutes for the security forces to take over the Manguinhos slum in the predawn raid involving 1,300 police assisted by helicopters hovering overhead, and armored personnel carriers carrying 170 marines that plowed through road obstacles set up in the narrow streets.

No shots were fired, but three people were arrested. Police said that five alleged drug crime bosses that had fled to a nearby favela were killed on Saturday.

Authorities said they had seize 60 kilograms (132 pounds) of cocaine in the raid.

Police also increased their presence in Jacarezinho, a nearby favela and a major crack cocaine consumption center. Some 1,300 heavily armed police participated in the operations, officials said. More >