By Linda Ferrer
July 22, 2016 marked a day of victory, not only for Rigoberto Juarez Mateo, but also for the Indigenous Q’anjob’al Maya community in the municipality of Santa Eulalia, Huehuetenango, Guatemala. In a split decision made by Judges Yasmin Barrios, Patricia Bustamante, and Gerbi Sical, seven Ancestral Authorities, including Rigoberto Juarez, Domingo Baltazar, Ermitano Lopez Reyes, Sotero Adalberto Villatoro, Francisco Juan Pedro, Mynor Lopez, and Arturo Pablo were released from prison, five of whom were acquitted of all charges.
Sixteen months ago, Rigoberto Juarez, one of nine Ancestral Authorities, was detained for his advocacy against two private hydroelectric and mining companies, Hidra Energia and Hidro Santa Cruz, respectively, for their failing to comply and consult with Indigenous communities’ prior to accessing licensure for their projects. Posing a threat to their natural resources, land, and way of life, those who resisted the projects faced threats, coercion, and were sometimes kidnapped, raped, or even murdered. Rigoberto Juarez and Domingo Baltazar, two well-known Indigenous leaders, traveled to Guatemala City to file reports on these various human rights violations to the Department of Public Ministry and the United Nations Commission for Human Rights but both were arrested by police without warrant or charges. They were illegally imprisoned without due process on that day of March 23, 2015. Rigoberto Juarez was placed in High Risk Group A preventive detention center for false accusations in a series of crimes which the private companies claimed against them. Sixteen charges were then made against him, including public disturbances of peaceful demonstrations, kidnapping, and intent to commit crimes. However, the lack of evidence and factual grounds for the heinous charges that were made only indicate that the hydroelectric and mining companies, working with the Mayor and judicial system of Guatemala, strategically organized the persecution and arrest of the community leaders in order to remove their voice and actions from the resistance movement he had begun and committed to since 2008. Read more…
Research Assistant, Project on Water Governance and Indigenous Law at UBC. Due: Sept 9, 2016 (12 pm)
The student research assistant will support projects for the Project on Water Governance and Indigenous Law, a multi-year SSHRC Partnership Grant.
Position will be approximately 10 hours per week from September to December, with the possibility of extension and further research collaboration.
- logistics for partner meetings (accommodation, travel, handouts, room arrangements)
- taking notes -background research including literature reviews and data base assessment
- logistics for summer meeting
- social media
- support for administrative tasks including copy-editing, network building and data assessment Qualifications
- interest/knowledge in Aboriginal issues, organizations, and resources
- a solid work ethic
- strong research skills
- excellent computer skills including Office, WordPress, and if possible
Adobe Creative Suite
- proven written and verbal communication abilities
- strong interpersonal and organizational skills
- an ability and willingness to work independently and on a team
- accuracy and attention to detail in creating and reviewing documents and databases
- aptitudes in prioritization and meeting deadlines
- skill in design and layout
This position is open to upper year undergraduate and graduate students at UBC.
Please send your cover letter and resume to email@example.com. Deadline to apply: Noon, Friday, September 9th 2016.
by Cultural Survival on March 10, 2016
The international community has been reeling after the gunning down of Indigenous Lenca activist Berta Caceres of Honduras, well known and loved around the world for her dedication and commitment to her community, their lands, and protecting the environment. Last week on March 3th, Berta was assassinated in her home by a death squad, after years of documented threats and harassment by Honduran military and private security of the hydroelectric dam company DESA. Here are six concrete actions you can take to fight back for Berta and multiply the work she was dedicated to.
1) Ask the FMO bank to withdraw investment from the Agua Zarca project.
Berta stood up to corporations and helped delay the construction of the Agua Zarca dam which, if built, would destroy her community’s land and the Gualcarque River in Honduras. The dam was delayed due to protests for so long that investors started pulling from the project. As a result, Berta became a target for corporate spying, intimidation, and ultimately murder, simply because money wasn’t being made. This is why we are calling on the largest remaining investor of the dam, FMO (a Dutch Development bank) to join the Chinese investors Sinohydro and the International Finance Corporation in withdrawing financial support for this project immediately.
2) Call on Authorities to Protect Gustavo Castro Soto, murder witness and assassination target.
Gustavo Castro Soto, a Mexican human rights defender, environmental activist and long-time ally of Berta and COPINH, was also shot during the attack. Gustavo is the sole witness of the murder, and is currently being held against his will by Honduran authorities. In a note to some friends on March 6, Gustavo wrote, “The death squads know that they did not kill me, and I am certain that they want to accomplish their task.” Take action to ensure his safety by calling on Honduran, Mexican and embassy authorities demanding security for Gustavo, and to halt the criminalization against COPINH.
3) Call on the U.S. Department of State to take concrete steps
Berta was a vocal opponent of US backed 2009 presidential coup in Honduras. COPINH denounced the coup d’état as an instrument of violence serving transnational corporations to exploit resources and to repress the dissent of social movements. She also opposed continuing US military bases on Lenca territory. The United States played has played a major role in legitimizing the 2009 coup and funding the right wing military government that has formed since. In 2011 Washington authorized $1.3 billion for U.S. military electronics in Honduras, and U.S. military expenditures for Honduras have gone up every year since 2009. Yet in the years since the coup, human rights violations in Honduras have increased at an alarming rate: roughly 150 environmental and human rights defenders have been killed. Berta was a strong opponent of US military presence in Honduras. The Department of State and the US ambassador to Honduras have issued statements of condolences to Berta Caceres family and condemning her death, but stop short of describing concrete steps being taken to address the underlying issues prompting her assassination.
Write to the US state department demanding the following:
Pressure Honduran authorities to ensure the security and prompt release of Gustavo Castro.
Support COPINH’s demands that the Honduran state sign an agreement with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to send independent experts to conduct a clean, impartial, and transparent investigation.
Ensure that no US aid goes to military units repressing the Lenca people of Rio Blanco and encourage the Honduran government to withdraw the military from the zone.
4) Ask Congress to Suspend Funding for the Alliance for Prosperity
Berta was a vocal opponent against the Alliance for Prosperity, a plan for US funding to Central America was recently approved by US congress to provide $750 million in military financing and training million to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, as well as to facilitate investment in extractive industries, including a massive gas pipeline from Mexico to Central America. But preconditions for percent of the total funds mean that countries will have to prove they are working to reduce migration and human trafficking, combat government corruption, and decrease poverty—just some items among a considerable list. The U.S. State Department and Agency for International Development, which are jointly in charge of administrating the money, will have to report to Congress by September 30 2016 on whether sufficient progress has been made, and if not, funding can be suspended.
5) Keep the pressure on through social media.
Tweet US and Honduran officials:
6) Spread the word
Share this list with family, friends, and networks, as well as the following statements from Berta’s family and colleagues:
Statement from the daughters, son, and mother of Berta Cáceres
Urgent denunciation by COPINH
2067 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02140
Flagstaff Commits 3.6 Billion Gallons of Treated Sewage for Snowmaking on Sacred Mountain City of Administrator Shuts Public Out of Controversial Decision
For Immediate Release
August 9, 2014
FLAGSTAFF, AZ — City of Flagstaff Utility Director Brad Hill single-handedly authorized a controversial 20-year contract to extend sale of treated sewage for snowmaking on the San Francisco Peaks in Northern Arizona. He refused to hear public comment preceding his decision.
“This extension amounts to committing 3.6 billion gallons of treated sewage to be sprayed on a sensitive mountain ecosystem. This is where Indigenous People pray and where children will be exposed to harmful contaminants in snow made from this effluent.” said Klee Benally, volunteer with Protect the Peaks, “This is incredibly offensive, unsustainable and ultimately irresponsible considering the escalating water crisis we’re facing in the Southwest.”
“To add insult to injury,” Mary Sojourner, Protect the Peaks volunteer, said, “I find it reprehensible that we, the public who will be affected by this decision, were not allowed to make comments; and that an open review process was not put in place.”
The decision to extend the contract was made despite pleas from local residents and Indigenous People. “This type of agreement is short sighted and unsustainable in our continuous drought situation and also shows a total lack of regard for the 13 Indigenous Nations for whom the Peaks are sacred,” said Dawn Dyer, Protect the Peaks volunteer.
On July 22, 2014, when Arizona Snowbowl was 2 years into their original 5 year contract. Snowbowl manager J.R. Murray petitioned for the twenty-year extension. The volume of treated sewage effluent provided to Snowbowl and the duration of time for snowmaking, November to February, has not been changed. The City is required to deliver Class A reclaimed water – though since it has problems at its two reclaimed water treatment plants, it is questionable if the City can consistently deliver effluent at that standard. Flagstaff’s reclaimed water also contains high amounts of selenium and other dangerous contaminants.
City officials acknowledge that reclaimed wastewater may contain antibiotic resistant bacteria and pharmaceuticals, but have no timeline for testing and mitigating these issues. It is illegal to ingest reclaimed wastewater through the eyes, mouth, ears or skin due to its fecal coliform and chemical content. In spite of this, state agencies are turning a blind eye to these facts when considering matters with Snowbowl – thus the City and state agencies are therefore putting thousands of skiers and families at risk.
Over thirteen Indigenous Nations have expressed overwhelming opposition to the use of reclaimed wastewater on the San Francisco Peaks, citing the damage it will do to medicinal plants, animals, culture, and the sanctity of this sacred site. The Forest Service, City of Flagstaff, and Arizona Department of Environmental Quality have all colluded to push snowmaking through and to ignore any voice against such action.
Currently, Flagstaff taxpayers are subsidizing Snowbowl’s reclaimed wastewater use for dirty snow. Arizona Snowbowl receives reclaimed wastewater for a fraction of the cost that city residents would, resulting in millions of dollars of Flagstaff tax payer funds subsidizing this unsustainable business, a business not even within city limits.
A council ordinance adopted in 2002 and reaffirmed by council in 2013, states that all agreements for existing treated sewage effluent customers are reviewed, approved, executed and enforced by the Utilities Director. Snowbowl manager J.R. Murray lobbied city officials to get the extension approved.
Arizona Snowbowl operates their private business on the Peaks under permit from the US Forest Service. The Forest Service approved ski area expansion and treated sewage snowmaking in 2005. The Coconino Forest Service Environmental Impact Statement (page 3-121) stated, “It is unrealistic to think that the Snowbowl would be a significant driver of tourism activity or the economy.”
The Hopi Tribe currently has a lawsuit against the City of Flagstaff to halt the sale of wastewater for snowmaking. The lawsuit asserts that the contract is not in the public’s best interest. In spite of the pending suit, the City of Flagstaff is undermining their concerns and ultimately judicial processes, which if regarded, should have put the City’s contract on hold until the lawsuit was resolved.
After years of legal battles, protests, teach-ins and more than 50 arrests resulting from protests to protect the Peaks, Snowbowl started making snow in 2012. The recent decision extends the contract through 2034.