Rio Napo

Don Vicente Mamallacta: A Kichwa Shaman

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Don Mamallacta Vicente is a yachak in his 80s. Yachak is the Kichwa word for shaman or natural healer. Another term often used in the region is curandero or ayahuasquero.

His healing powers and energies are from a different time and age and he here (Sat 14 Jun 2008) speaks about his extraordinary life as a shaman, – including paddling for a year, leaving behind a wife on the border only to find her married to another shaman, who was out to kill him, upon returning from collecting salt on the Marañon river, deep in the Peruvian jungle, far away; then finding a new wife and altogether fathering ten children and healing many peoples lives throughout his own.

There are three parts:

(Don Vicente – Speaking of his life: Part I)

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Jatun Sacha once again – or how to volunteer for the greater good, not for profit.

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WordPress offers statistics about who visits your blog – and I just checked an incoming link which someone followed from that anti-social networking commerce site called Fakebook. The latest two postings in the Fakebook group featuring the link to the colonos blog suggest that our commentary on Jatun Sacha’s involvement with Big Pharma (which is no big secret, just google for a while and you will see for yourself) is “interesting read at any rate“, although, “I’m not saying you have to believe it but i recommend having a look” – good job that criticism is taken, sort of, seriously:

Nick wrote at 11:11pm on May 31st, 2008
I found that too after I googled Jatun Sacha.. quite a few previous volunteers have come across it… interesting read at any rate.
Alistair wrote at 9:27am on April 5th, 2008
I found this website which makes some pretty dire claims against Jatun Sacha, to do with biopiracy and corporations. I’m not saying you have to believe it but i recommend having a look.

http://colonos.wordpress.com/2007/05/03/jatun-sacha-the-long-sneaky-arm-of-pfizer-et-al/

So should you find yourself in the lucky position that you can make it to Ecuador (or Peru) for the purpose of volunteering, then do yourself and the world a favour: do your research well: who is who – and what do they (really!) do?

Can you not find the right kind of thing – that fits your social, cultural and political principles, then get in touch.

Colonos has worked and continues to work with people in the Napo-Ucayali corridor on a grassroots level. For instance we have sown the seeds for a network of community based botanical gardens in the region – and idea that emerged in the Napo (Ecuador) and Pucallpa (Peru) regions independently (thousands of kilometers apart) and the practitioners of which we are merely bringing together and helping them do what they want to do.

The work includes working with Kichwa and Shipibo people and offers great opportunities to get soil under your nails, doing research and analytical work (ecological, political, cultural etc.), talking to plants and animals, drinking ayahuasca and work with shamans and other traditional healers, such as midwives. Whatever tickles your fancy! The work is coordinated from England and by the “Grupo Sabio”, which meets regularly in Tena, Napo, Ecuador.

One of the people we work with used to work for Jatun Sacha (who consistently “forgot” to pay him) until he realised what was going on and what the Peace Corps, whose army of volunteers occupy large parts of the socalled developing world, has become (that is: a Pentagon outfit; see below for more) and what it always was: a forefront of capitalism and Euro-American developmentalism, culturally imposing itself through the manual labour of unwitting volunteers in good faith that they are making a difference for the better, not worse.

Make up your own mind – but do your home work!

More on Pentagon Peace Corps (..talk about an oxymoron..):

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Climate Change, bio-cultural diversity and livelihoods: the stewardship role of indigenous peoples and new challenges

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These are the conclusions of a report on the “IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION MEASURES ON INDIGENOUS PEOPLES AND ON THEIR TERRITORIES AND LANDS”, by the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues’ Seventh session, New York, 21 April -2 May 2008 on the Special Theme: “Climate Change, bio-cultural diversity and livelihoods: the stewardship role of indigenous peoples and new challenges” with regard to the Implementation of the recommendations on the six mandated areas of the permanent Forum and on the Millennium Development Goals (Download the full E/C.19/2008/10 report here: unpfii-report-on-climate-change.pdf):

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What does a Christian of the Left do when the people protest?

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The answer is easy: DECLARES A STATE OF EMERGENCY, SENDS IN THE ARMY, THROWS PEOPLE IN PRISON!

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa removed the head of the state-owned oil company, saying the government needed to re-establish order at PetroEcuador after protests shut $3 million of daily production in the country. PetroEcuador President Carlos Pareja was fired today and replaced by Fernando Zurita, a Navy admiral, the government said in a statement. Oil produces about a quarter of state revenue…. Correa declared a state of emergency for the company, saying it was so badly run he was left with no option other than bringing in the Navy. An emergency order may be applied to Orellana province, Ecuador’s main oil-producing area, if the protests over jobs and environmental concerns don’t end, he said….“It is necessary to urgently intervene in the whole of the PetroEcuador system to safeguard national interests,” Correa said today in the statement. Correa named Pareja to the post when he took power in January…. Protesters demanding jobs, better roads and environmental cleanup forced the company to shut 47 oil wells at the Auca and Cononaco fields this week, trimming 20 percent of production at PetroEcuador’s biggest unit. Ecuador is South America’s fifth- largest oil producer, with average daily output of 500,000 barrels….“A lot of money is being lost daily” because of the protests, said Zurita, speaking at the presidential palace in Quito. He said his first task will be to establish order in Orellana and arrest protesters, PetroEcuador employees or anyone else who hampered oil production.”

Reuters managed to report on Correa without mentioning that he was a “leftist” – perhaps in shock and awe, after all this is a proper job that only few right-wingers can match:

“Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa on Thursday declared an Amazonian province under a state of emergency to quell a protest that has slashed the state’s oil output by 20 percent, said a presidential spokeswoman….He also removed Interior Minister Gustavo Larrea, a close adviser, for not stamping out the protest of villagers in the oil-rich province of Orellana, the spokeswoman said. They are demanding more funding for infrastructure projects….The state of emergency bans public gatherings and marches and sets curfews.”

It was still in the early days of Correa’s presidency – back in April – that more powers were invested in the army and the police for these purposes – he obviously knew what the increased development with the Chinese partners in the Amazon would mean: environmental protest against the exploitation and labour protest against not getting any jobs as part of new developments (the jobs mostly go to crews from the outside). It was that same week that Correa first spoke of leaving the oil in the soil……. What oil is to be left in what soil?? one thinks as part of the Ecuadorian Amazon sinks into a state of emergency and the control over the oil is left in the hands of the army..

Correa’s idea of saving the Amazon: a new airport?

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Rafael Correa is being billed as a great hope for his own version of “21st century socialism”, for “his” proposal to leave the oil in the soil – and he talks about respect for the traditional culture of the people who live in the Ecuadorian Amazon. But the last thing the people who live traditionally in the Amazon they could possibly need is an airport; so that’s what they’ll have? But let us first take a look at the facts about the historical genocide and the current situation for the people at the receiving end of Correa’s revolution:

“Manuela Omari Ima, who is the new chairperson of Waorani women’s organization, Amwae, has first hand experience in the devastating consequences of oil exploration. “The indigenous peoples of the Ecuadorian Amazon have been decimated in just a few decades,” she says. “The Waorani people alone numbered around 16,000 at the end of the 1960s, when the oil exploration began. Today, there are no more than about a thousand of us left… I don’t know how much longer we can survive under the current conditions. Perhaps the industry will out-live us – judging by how it has wiped out other tribal peoples in the Amazon. Maybe the earth will have nothing left to give when the companies leave.” … Altogether, an estimated 90% of the indigenous peoples in the Amazon region of Ecuador have been wiped out over the past few decades”

An airport in the Ecuadorian Amazon can serve only people employed by the extractive industries, politicians and celebrities on photo shoots, cocaine gangsters, mercenaries and stupid tourists that should stay at home – it is total disrespect for the people of the Amazon, many of whom have serious financial problems getting on a 50 cent bus to take a dying child to the hospital in town. There is already one airport too many – in Tena.

“President Correa will seek Chinese investment in a major airport in the Ecuadorian Amazon, where construction is planned to start in 2008, the ministry said… Ecuador is seeking and enlarging cooperation with and investment from China, the ministry said. “The diplomatic relations between the two countries, since established in 1980, have witnessed more progress,” the ministry added… Ecuador has received 1.8 billion U.S. dollars of investment from China, making it the leading recipient of Chinese investment in Latin America. In the first nine months this year the bilateral trade volume has topped 669 million dollars.”

In the last ten years the Ecuadorian Amazon has been halved and towns like Tena doubled. Some peoples almost eradicated. Will it never stop? If Correa’s government is a socialist revolution, then what does it take to challenge the destruction of the Amazon rain forest?

Esperanza Martinez on Yasuni and the ITT proposal.

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This article by CarbonWeb.org deserves to be reproduced in full:

Yasuni – Our Future in Their Hands?

Ecuador proposes to claim compensation in exchange for leaving crude oil in the ground. Esperanza Martinez examines what this means for resource sovereignty.

Oil, for countries that possess it, is often centre stage when it comes to issues of sovereignty. Invasions have been launched to access it and military and political interventions pushed through to control it, leaving the door wide open for corruption.

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Leave the Oil in the Soil: Yasuni, ITT, the Huaorani people and the Amazon.

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There is a potentially radical process unfolding – keep the oil in the soil:

“In the heart of the Amazon basin lies the most biologically diverse forest on the planet, Yasuní. Yasuní National Park is home to the Waorani and some of the last indigenous peoples still living in isolation in the Amazon, whose ancestral lands sit atop Ecuador’s largest undeveloped oil reserves, the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) oil block … In 2007, the new government of President Correa has offered an unprecedented and historic proposal: Ecuador will not allow extraction of the ITT oil fields in Yasuní, if the world community can create a compensation trust to leave the oil permanently in the ground and fund Ecuador’s sustainable development into the future. The groups listed on this website portal, LiveYasuni.org, endorse this policy.

For a general overview visit http://www.sosyasuni.org/ – which is part of the Amazonia por la Vida Campaign (which is incidentally also the subtitle of the colonos blog) – and which is a social movement to expand the “keep the oil in the soil” proposal to include not only the ITT blocks, but the whole region, which is home to one of the world’s greatest diversity of species (some of which are from before last ice age) and home also to the Huaorani people and along the Napo river there are many Kichwa communities as well. Missing from the proposal, then, are at least:

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A Network of Sub-Empires: Babylon Under Siege?

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Rafael Correa is in China – signing with Chinese President Hu Jintao “14 bilateral accords and memorandums of understanding on oil, mining, railroads, tourism, health, agriculture and other sectors“.

So what does Correa’s understanding with China mean? Firstly, it means annihilation of Taiwan and Tibet:

Correa said China has a time-honored history and is full of vigor and vitality and it has made enormous achievements in embarking on the path of development suitable to its national realities. Ecuador shares brotherly friendship with China, he said, expressing hope that both sides will show mutual understanding and learn from each other so as to push bilateral ties for new progress. He reaffirmed Ecuador would adhere to the one-China policy.

Well, you might say, this is a socialist revolution and takes time to build – the means justify the end – and you win some and you lose some. But is it really best understood as socialism, this “21st century socialism”?

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Invitation to Expedition in the Napo-Ucayali Corridor: June/July 2008

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It is still early days of planning, but a small group of people are planning to travel, for the second time, down the Napo river – doing workshops relevant for indigenous peoples’ struggles, such as shamanic civil rights, and healing sessions in communities along the 1000km long and very exciting route from the beginning of the River Napo in Tena, Ecuador to Iquitos (where it meets the Amazon and the Ucayali rivers). The journey goes through one of the most biodiverse regions in the world – right past the Yasuni National Park, before crossing the border into Peru. After visiting The 4th International Amazonian Shamanism Conference: Magic, Myths and Miracles, which will be held in Iquitos, Peru – July 19th – 26th, 2008, we might continue to Pucallpa….

Sunrise on the River Napo

Contemporary developments in the global economy are very significant for the Amazon rain forest. While this might be said to be true for anywhere at any point in time there are nevertheless good reasons for paying special attention to what maybe the last battle for the survival of the largest rain forest in the world, the loss of which it should need no further justification to lament – and that is the basis upon which this invitation is written….

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A summary of the Ecuadorian revolution: the rise of the Constituent Assembly

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Roger Burbach’s informative piece called “Ecuador’s Popular Revolt: Forging a New Nation“, although dated October 8 seems to be written before the landslide victory of Correa’s alliance became clear:

Final results won’t be known until late October, however preliminary results indicate that Correa’s party, Alianza Pais, won around 70% of the vote, giving it some 80 of the 130 assembly delegates. Correa can also expect support in the assembly from representatives of the Socialist Party of Ecuador — Broad Front, the Movement for Popular Democracy and indigenous party Pachakutik — Nuevo Pais.

The outcome was a huge blow to the right-wing opposition, whose traditional parties all scored pitiful votes. The Social Christian Party, the country’s largest party, scored less than 4%. The “anti-corruption” PRIAN of Alvaro Noboa — Correa’s opponent in the presidential election run-offs last year and Ecuador’s richest man — scored around 6%.

However, this does not make it any less valuable – it provides a summary of the Ecuadorian revolution that is well worth a read. Whether it quite warrants such a conclusion is another matter:

In Ecuador, as well as in much of Latin America, we are witnessing a revolution from below, a popular awakening that is challenging the traditional political parties and demanding a new system of governance that responds to the interests and needs of the popular classes. It is this rich mixture of forces at the grass roots that is opening up new vistas as the 21st century advances.

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Thank you very much for a very nice comment :)

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Colonos has received this very nice comment, which deserves promotion:

by Phillip Bannowsky | phillipbannowsky.com |

Greetings,
I lived in Ecuador in the early 90s and have visited and written about the country from time to time.

I observed a series of Indigenous and popular “levantimientos” in Ecuador from 1992, the Quincentennial of the Spanish invasion, until 2001 (See my article in NACLA Report on the Americas, March April 2001). Each one showed an increasing sophistication, militancy, and organization. While each seemed to fall short of dislodging the oligarchy or binding them to solid agreements, each succeeded in building the intellectual and political infrastructure leading to the triumphs of the current era. Meanwhile, the politics at the top—of the oligarchs, the bananeros, the Congress, the Presidency, and the oil companies—stumbled on, as if no amount of corruption or incompetence could ever undermine the whole juggernaut.

Given the complexity of Ecuadorian society and the legacy of corruption, poverty, and exploitation, it’s hard to imagine some sort of ideal revolution ascending. but it’s hard not to be hopeful that these changes will finally be in the right direction, while barely capable of stemming the colono tide.

I found your comments about economic development in the encounter of Indigenous with the rest of the world interesting. I wrestled with that issue in my novel, The Mother Earth Inn, in which I also treated the contradictions among and within various Ecuadorian sectors.

It’s an interesting blog. I’ve been to Tena. Incredible birds. I am glad I found you. Good luck.

We sincerely thank Phillip for his comment.

Free Software in Ecuador: Correa’s got that one right!

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Rafael Correa is taking quite some critical heat for his double standards or disregard -even- for the general livelihood of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon and the rain forest that they live in – but here’s something that he’s got right: use Free Software, says the President (naturally speaking in Spanish):

But take a look at this video, too, and consider the natural beauty that will have to be destroyed in order to pave the way, literally, for the Latin American integration, as the neo-socialist improvement or progress based on capitalist commodity forms is called (in English):

The YouTube initiatives are part of the hip strategies of Correa’s government, appealing to a whole new demographic class in Ecuador – a middle class consuming the remittances that their migratory family members send back from, mainly, the U.S. and Spain. Both the cash and the migrant workers are in the millions – only oil and bananas in that republic are greater posts in the economy. These are the people behind Correa – and they want more cars, more roads to drive them on (Quito is already suffocating with cars, which have more then doubled in recent years!) and more plastics from China and more sausages from Spain – that is the essence of Latin American integration: global capitalism and commodity circulation.

The mainstream catches up with colonos: the corridors will destroy the Amazon

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In today’s Guardian there is an article echoing what’s been a central subject of this blog for quite some time:

Projects to upgrade road and river transport, combined with work to create dams and lay down extensive power and communications cabling, will open up previously inaccessible parts of the rainforest, raising the risk of widespread deforestation that could see the loss of the entire Amazon jungle within 40 years, the environmental group said.

What kind of sunshine stories, Mr. Correa, can make up for that?