Around the Region

Brazilian minister suspends NGO contracts, partnerships

Brazil’s Environment Minister Ricardo Salles this month suspended all contracts and partnerships between the ministry and non-governmental organizations for 90 days while they undergo an in-house analysis, a move that environmental groups called “illegal.” A ministry statement said Salles’ Jan. 14 measure is aimed at allowing the agency to examine the “conditions, amounts and expiration dates” of the agreements. But critics say the measure reflects distrust of NGOs on the part of new Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. The president, who made a campaign vow to “end activism” in Brazil, issued an executive order on Jan. 1, his first day in office, requiring government monitoring of NGO activity in Brazil. On Jan. 2, a social-media post under his name asserted that indigenous peoples...

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Indigenous-rights plan approved in El Salvador

El Salvador’s government has approved a national plan to ensure recognition of indigenous legal, political and land rights, an initiative that experts say could benefit the environment. The El Salvador Indigenous Peoples National Action Plan (Planpies), approved by the Legislative Assembly in 2014 and signed last month, marks the first formal government recognition of indigenous rights. The terms of the plan were worked out in talks involving the government and the National Team of Indigenous Leadership (Enaci), a group representing the Lenca, Kakawire and Nahua peoples. At the signing ceremony, Salvadoran President Salvador Sánchez Cerén called the plan’s launch “one of the most important acts of justice in the history of El Salvador,” saying it puts an end to “centuries of exclusion of this noble...

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Chilean dam project halted amid dispute over evictions

Chile’s plans for a dam to provide irrigation and hydropower has touched off controversy in the Ñuble Region, some 400 kilometers (250 miles) south of Santiago. La Punilla dam, whose construction on the Ñuble River was first contemplated 70 years ago, would be 136 meters (446 feet) high, have an installed capacity of 94 megawatts and create a reservoir of 1,700 hectares (6.6 sq. miles). A 40-year concession for the US$600 million dam was awarded to the Italian construction company Astaldi in 2016. According to the Chilean Public Works Ministry, the dam will enable irrigation of 70,000 hectares (173,000 acres) in a fruit-growing region of some 5,000 farmers who often face water scarcity in the summer months. Causing friction is the fact...

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Peru takes aim at single-use plastic

Peru took a major step toward reducing plastic waste with a new law that will outlaw many throwaway plastic items by the end of 2021. The measure, signed into law Dec. 18, will phase in with different timing for various provisions. The ban will affect single-use plastic bags and other non-reusable plastics, drinking straws, and disposable food and drink containers made of plastic or polystyrene foam. The law requires that polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles manufactured in or imported to Peru include at least 15% recycled PET plastic. Of the 947,000 tons of plastic used annually in Peru, 75% is discarded and only 0.3% is recycled, according to government figures. Environmental and civil society groups are hailing the ban, which comes amid a flurry...

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