Today the world’s media carry the story of the Peruvian Congress having suspended the destructive decrees that caused a non-violent, yet forceful uprising by indigenous peoples organising to defend the Amazon from the oil and gas industry. It is not a victory – merely one less defeat! The forest continues to be destroyed. Drilling, pumping, spilling roads building and Christian conquest of hearts, souls and minds through concerted violence, repression, manipulation, false promises (“Jesus will buy you a fridge and a car”) and disrespect for the inhabitants of what was once the world’s largest (rain) forest, but which is now better described as a region threatened by destruction, deforestation, desertification, in brief, death. However, at least, for now the attempt to accelerate further the destruction has been pushed back, but not stopped. The struggle continues…..
Congress temporarily suspended two decrees issued by President Alan García that had helped set off recent protests by indigenous groups fearful of large oil and logging investments in the Peruvian Amazon. The decrees would open vast jungle areas to investment and allow companies to bypass indigenous communities to get permits for projects. The protests resulted in repression by security forces and apparent reprisals by Indians last week that left dozens dead.
See also: Top name brands implicated in Amazon destruction, New Greenpeace report shows how the cattle industry in Brazil is feeding demand for raw resources and “Slaughtering the Amazon”
The following interview was published in Le Monde on 25 May 2009 and translated by NOT BORED! 27 May 2009. It also appears in the Tarnac9 blog, and here, as well as in this tag collection. Spread the word!
LeMonde | 5.25.09 – Here are the responses to the questions that we [Isabelle Mandraud and Caroline Monnot] posed in writing to Julien Coupat. Placed under investigation on 15 November 2008 for “terrorism,” along with eight other people interrogated in Tarnac (Correze) and Paris, he is suspected of having sabotaged the suspended electrical cables of the SNCF. He is the last one still incarcerated. (He has asked that certain words be in italics.)
Q. How are you spending your time?
A. Very well, thank you. Chin-ups, jogging and reading.
Q. Can you recall the circumstances of your arrest for us?
A. A gang of youths, hooded and armed to the teeth, broke into our house. They threatened us, handcuffed us, and took us away, after having broken everything to pieces. They first took us into very fast cars capable of moving at more than 170 kilometers an hour on the highways. In their conversations, the name of a certain Mr Marion (former leader of the anti-terrorist police) came up often. His virile exploits amused them very much, such as the time he slapped one of his colleagues in the face, in good spirits and at a going-away party. They sequestered us for four days in one of their “people’s prisons,” where they stunned us with questions in which absurdity competed with obscenity.
The one who seemed to be the brains of the operation vaguely excused himself from this circus by explaining that it was the fault of the “services,” the higher-ups, all kinds of people who want [to talk to] us very much. Today, my kidnappers are still free. Certain recent and diverse facts attest to the fact that they continue to rage with total impunity.
Q. The sabotage of the SNCF cables in France was claimed [by someone] in Germany. What do you say about that?
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Acción Ecológica is an environmental NGO in Ecuador, which includes a wide variety of actors in diverse groups. They do a lot of good work and offer an institutional setting, training and education as well as a platform for action and publication of research to protect the environment against the Ecuadorian state, which is more industrial and progressive than ever.
Recently rumours started circulating that there was a plot against Acción Ecológica – that the government, currently in serious stand-offs with the people in connection particularly with the aggressive expansion of the mining industry, wants to shut down Acción Ecológica.
It is unclear what exactly is happening, but the the story is – more or less – that they got a letter from the HealthDepartment (through which the NGO was legalised as a juridical person) saying that their juridical status has expired. The official explanation is that that is the case for all organisations that became legal institutions over 20 years ago (before the Department of the Environment existed) and that it’s just a bureaucratic formality to now get registered as juridical entity via the Dept. of Environment.
On their website Acción Ecológica says that the Health Department said they’d withdraw the juridical status of Acción Ecológica because they have not fulfilled the objectives for which they were set up. Something might smell fishy and Acción Ecológica therefore calls for support.
CONSIDER THIS. A fine example of the distortion of the rule of law that the Terrorism Act of 2000 is. It provides the opportunity to switch of due process and being innocent until proven guilty – moreover, and the important catalyst here, it encourages mis- and uninformed people to call the authorities on their neighbour. Boy Cry wolf, where do we go from here? Like climate change processes operate through positive feedback loops, so do law and culture. Two people have probably just been radicalised – and thousands give them their support. As the leaders of the world creep further and deeper into the ir castles their guns and laws are all the more loud. A downward spiral for profit.
I’m writing to call your attention to a recent incident at the University of Nottingham, where one of our graduate students at the School of Politics and International Relations and an administrative member of staff at the Department of Engineering were arrested by armed police under the Terrorism Act of 2000.
Their alleged “crime” was that the graduate student had downloaded an Al-Qaeda training manual from a US government website for research purposes, as he’s writing his MA dissertation on Islamic extremism and international terrorist networks. He had then sent this to his friend in the Department of Engineering for printing. The printed material had been spotted by other staff and reported to the University authorities who passed on the information to the police.
The two were then arrested by armed police on May 14 and held for six days without charge, before being released without charge on May 20. During the six days they were imprisoned, the men had their homes raided and their families harassed by the police. It is worth noticing that in talking to one of my colleagues, a police officer remarked that the incident would never have occurred if the people involved had been blonde, Swedish PhD students (the two men were of British-Pakistani and Algerian backgrounds respectively).
The incident was recently reported in the Times Higher Education Supplement online:
Needless to say, this raises hugely important issues both about academic freedom and civil liberties. Obviously, there is the issue that for those of us involved in research on contentious issues we will by necessity have to consult primary materials of a controversial nature, and the fact that the material is controversial should not lead to it being deemed as illegitimate research material. Moreover, we should not under any circumstances have to fear for infringements upon our civil liberties as a consequence of doing our jobs. Moreover, it goes without saying that the university should guarantee the academic freedom, freedom of speech and expression, and civil liberties of all members of staff and students, irrespective of ethnic and religious background or political beliefs!
I would be most grateful if you could circulate this e-mail as widely as possible in the interest of raising awareness and attention about this incident and the wider issues of academic freedom that it gives rise to, to as many of your friends and colleagues as possible!
Please consider writing to the University of Nottingham to express your concern about this case. Letters should be sent to the Registrar, Dr Paul Greatrix, at firstname.lastname@example.org; please send a copy to email@example.com.
Dr. Alf Gunvald Nilsen
RCUK Fellow, Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice, School of Politics and International Relations, University of Nottingham
University Park, Nottingham, NG7 2RD, England, UK
Office: (0044) (0) 1159514032