Around the Region

‘Time-frame’ argument against Indigenous land rights rejected

In a lopsided and precedent-setting 9-2 vote, Brazil’s Supreme Court (STF) has rejected an agribusiness-backed attempt to deny Indigenous people rights to ancestral lands they didn’t physically occupy in 1988. The 11-member court’s vote, finalized Sept. 21, rejects a so-called “time-frame” argument positing that Indigenous people could only hold claim to land they were occupying in October 1988, when the current Constitution was enacted. Experts say the decision will affect jurisprudence on all future Indigenous land claims and efforts to create Indigenous territories in Brazil. Sônia Guajajara, Brazil’s minister of Indigenous peoples, hailed the vote in a televised interview as “a great achievement” for Indigenous peoples that was attained after years of struggle and protest. So did hundreds of Indigenous people awaiting the decision in Brasília, the country’s capital. A majority of Supreme Court justices agreed in oral arguments that Indigenous peoples hold rights to...

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News both bad and good reported from Galápagos

Two developments—one concerning, the other exciting—drew attention to Ecuador’s Galápagos chain in September: a surge in bird deaths on two islands, and the discovery of a hydrothermal field 2,500 meters below the ocean’s surface northwest of the archipelago. The avian-health worries initially focused on the islands of Wolf and Genovesa, where unusual numbers of birds died and in other cases were observed exhibiting erratic behavior or appeared sick. As of press time, testing of dead birds was being conducted by the Galápagos National Park Directorate (DPNG) and the Agency for Regulation and Control of Biosecurity and Quarantine for the Galápagos (ABG). Authorities say preliminary results show that three of five specimens registered positive for the H5N1 avian-flu virus, which has been spreading worldwide among birds, poultry, and even some mammals. Avian flu has taken a steep toll on seabirds on South America’s Pacific coast this year...

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New debt-for-nature swap targets three areas of Peru

A $19.5 million debt-for-nature swap involving the Peruvian and U.S. governments and four U.S.-based green groups seeks to increase protection of landscapes around protected areas in the Peruvian Amazon. The deal, announced Sept. 11, focuses on three main geographical areas—the northeastern Loreto and east-central Ucayali regions; the Pasco-Junín area in Peru’s central Amazon; and Cusco and Madre de Dios, from the eastern flank of the Andes to the lowlands. In all three regions, protected areas are threatened by illegal gold mining, logging and deforestation for agriculture. Under the agreement, Peru over seven years will channel US$15 million that would normally go to its debt payments into a conservation fund. That fund will be supplemented with US$3 million from the four participating conservation groups—Conservation International, the World Wildlife Fund, The Nature Conservancy and the Wildlife Conservation Society. Interest income is expected to...

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