Archives for Indigenous protesters in Peru

RadioActive 6/18/09

Producers/Host: Meredith DeFrancesco and Amy Browne

(NOTE: This is a “fixed” version of the program, with the technical glitches edited out, and the complete first interview included)

Segment 1: We talk with a member of the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Pleasant Point about their council’s recent vote to terminate their relationship with the company who has been trying to build a Liquefied Natural Gas terminal there. It has been close to five years since plans for a proposed Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal were first visited upon the Passamquoddy Tribe at Sipayik, also known as Pleasant Point. It immediately sparked a controversy in which many tribal members felt Passamaquoddy history culture, environment and safety were being ignored by tribal, state and federal officials. The company Quoddy Bay , LLC, later named Quoddy Bay LNG, created by a large Oklahoma based company CEO, Donald Smith, who spear headed the LNG terminal plans with his son Brian Smith as project manager.
We covered this proposed project and the resistance against it over the years, from the beginning of the project, through public hearings, demonstrations, council votes, a lawsuit against the Bureau of Indian Affairs and many discussions on the significance such a project would have on the small piece of residential land where the Passamaquoddy tribe has lived on the Maine coast from time immemorial.
Though the last tribal governor and tribal council supported the Quoddy Bay LNG proposal and their payments, and though the company lobbied Pleasant Point and neighboring towns very hard, in October, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) dismissed Quoddy Bay LNG application to contruct an LNG terminal on grounds that incomplete information had been provided on their proposed operation and technology. Earlier this year, the company Quoddy Bay LNG had hired to perform engineering work on its pipeline sued the company for failure to pay. Last July the company stopped its quarterly payments to the tribe.
On June 9th, the Sipayik tribal council voted to end the project with Quoddy Bay LNG. This included vocal proponents of the project , including former tribal representative Fred Moore who helped to bring the project to the tribe originally.
We spoke with Madonna Soctomah. She is a Passamaquoddy tribal member at Sipayik, a former tribal representative to the Maine legislature, and a member of the Passamaquoddy organization Nulankeyutomonen Nkihtahkomikumon (“We Take Care of Our Land”), as well as the 3 Nation Alliance

Segment 2: On October 2007, a Peruvian Indigenous federation, representing 350,000 people in the Amazon region wrote a letter to the United States Congress urging them not to pass the US Peru Free Trade Agreement. In part, the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Amazon wrote : “We are convinced that the Free Trade Agreement would give incentives for further irreversible destruction of virgin rainforest, which will in turn increase global warming and displace our communities from their home territories” . The letter also underlined the increased power the Free Trade Agreement would give to oil, gas and mining companies, including so called “investor rights”, which allow foreign companies to sue the Peruvian government if they perceive the governments laws hinder company business and future profits. This could include policies pertaining to sustainable development, which indigenous groups have been working on for years. Following the negotiation for the FTA, Peru opened massive tracts of land in the Amazon for oil, gas and mining exploration, including previously “protected areas” belonging to indigenous peoples. Over the past decades indigenous communities have suffered from massive pollution and health problems as a result of oil operations, most recently emphasized in a lawsuit against Los Angeles based Occidental Petroleum. Now 70% of Peru’s Amazon is zoned for oil, gas and mining.
Regardless of massive campaigning and demonstration, the Free Trade Agreement was passed by Peru and by the United States Congress. Peruvian President Alan Garcia in turn passed a number of governmental decrees specifically aimed at adhering to the Free Trade Agreement ‘s stipulations and opening up the country to foreign investment.
This is the backdrop and instigation for the past more then 2 months of peaceful protests by over 30,000 indigenous people on the roads and waterways in the Amazon; And now, two weeks ago, the government’s attack, killing at least 60, and by some reports 250 demonstrators. Indigenous protestors have been demanding the repeal of president Garcia’s decrees, which also according to national and international organizations violates the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the ILO Convention.
We have with us today by phone Andrew Miller, the environmental and human rights coordinator for Amazon Watch. Thank you for coming on the program.