By Nicole Tirado, Paula Gamboa, Tatiana Valenzuela, Yuliana Aborda, Roxanna Barrera and Diana Carolina Ortiz
Our history teacher says that, in the twenty-first century, citizens do not engage with political parties because what moves them now is the analysis of concepts and narratives that shape them as political subjects—as citizens with voices and rights. This implies awareness and the memory that, in Colombian history, fear has lived with us as another citizen. Part of Colombia’s origin has been violence, and with it comes fear; we know this, as do those who govern us. For this reason, nowadays we’re going through a national strike whose main slogan is fear. Current events are nothing other than the repetition of Colombian history: fear of death, missing people whose mothers mourn their absence, corpses that cannot be identified, and speeches that endorse violence by armed forces, who profess to defend the public good but not the public, not the people of their own country.
This article was originally published here on Human Rights Pulse on April 21, 2021.
“If I become President, there will not be another centimeter of indigenous land [demarcated].”
This statement and statements like it—including several where “centimeter” was replaced by “millimeter”—cropped up frequently in the campaign rhetoric of Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro’s far-right populism and militaristic disregard for minority groups—including Indigenous nations, Black Brazilians, and LGBTQ+ people, among others—have made him immensely popular. It has also made him one of the greatest dangers to environmental conservation and the advancement of Indigenous rights. His presidency has seen large-scale destruction of Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest and encroachment on Indigenous lands by mining and logging companies. Yet, the centrality of Indigenous groups to Bolsonaro’s anti-environment campaign makes them key stakeholders in any effort to protect the Amazon. Since Indigenous rights and conservation are so closely interlinked, it is crucial that conservationists recognize the invaluable knowledge of Indigenous leaders.
Barbara Crane Navarro is a French artist, author, and activist who currently lives near Paris. Over a period of 12 years, she spent the winter months with the Yanomami people in Venezuela and Brazil, an experience which has inspired her artistic practice and her decades-long effort to draw attention to the devastation of the Amazon Rainforest. From creating burning art installations to writing and illustrating a children’s book series, Crane Navarro is a prolific artist who has the power to instill a sense of urgency, responsibility, and connectedness in all those who interact with her creations.
We spoke with her about her biggest inspirations, what she is currently working on, and what makes the rainforest invaluable.
The following photos belong to Barbara Crane Navarro and have been republished with her permission.
Imagine waking up one day to the news that your land, which you and your tribe have subsisted on for generations, has been sold by the government to someone else. In return, you will be moved to a small plot of land without the same kinds of resources as before. This loss of land creates a domino effect of loss in other areas such as income, traditional environmental knowledge, and general stability. Through green grabbing, government entities or private investors use their power over Indigenous and Afro-descendant groups to confiscate land under the guise of environmental conservation.
Across Latin America, the centuries-old issue of land conflict is gaining new dimensions as nations are increasingly bound into globalised supply chains of resources, food and energy (Peluso & Lund, 2011). The growing influence of corporate actors has transformed struggles over who has the right to inhabit and work the land, as states respond to competing claims from powerful enterprises and rural residents, who are often poor and indigenous. This essay will examine how the authorities in Chile and Honduras have repressed the protests of communities against the appropriation or contamination of their lands by these commercial interests. Despite the many differences between these countries – Chile being one of the most peaceful and prosperous nations in the Americas, Honduras one of the poorest and most violent – they share many similarities in this respect. Via a process that Bessant (2016) calls the ‘criminalisation of dissent’, their governments have prohibited rural activism through authoritarian legislation and violence in order to serve the interests of powerful national and multinational corporations.
The following text is an excerpt from a research paper written in spring 2017. To read the full text and to see the sources used, click here.
Between 1997 and 2013, Chile experienced a shift in mortality rates of diseases considered “modern” or “western” like cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The number of deaths caused by malignant tumors of the colon, sigmoid, rectum, anus, liver, pancreas, trachea, bronchus, lung, head, lymphatic tissues, hypertensive disease, cardiac arrhythmias, arteriosclerosis, aneurisms, and aortic dissections have dramatically increased in the last two decades. Within 16 years, the number of deaths from cancer of the colon, sigmoid, rectum, anus, pancreas, trachea, bronchus, lung, and head have more than doubled. Those caused by hypertension jumped from 1,700 in 1997 to 4,574 in 2013. Moreover, the number of deaths from cardiac arrhythmia more than tripled in this time (DIES-MINSAL Series Principales causas de muerte tasas según sexo Chile).
The New York Times headline on October 19 read: “Body Found in Argentine River Shakes Up Election.” Al Jazeera stated on October 22: “Santiago Maldonado’s death overshadows elections.” “A missing-person case looms over Argentina’s midterm elections,” was The Economist headline on September 7. These headlines contextualize the discovery of Santiago Maldonado’s body in terms of national politics and fail to capture the indigenous struggle at the root of his disappearance. Maldonado was present at a mapuche indigenous protest on August 1 in the Patagonian region of Argentina when he disappeared. Cristina Kirchner, the former president of Argentina who has not been shy about her discontent with Mauricio Macri’s government,has used Maldonado’s disappearance as further criticism. Ultimately, the coalition of parties of incumbent Macri proved successful in the elections despite the discovery of Maldonado’s body, securing a significant political victory by dominating “the top five population centers of Buenos Aires City, and Buenos Aires, Córdoba, Santa Fe and Mendoza provinces.” While the international community and Argentine politicians have gravitated to Maldonado’s death as a political instrument in these elections, the death has struck a different chord among the Argentine population. Widespread protests demanding his reappearance in Argentine cities occurred, and with his death an investigation must now be held to determine the cause of death and possible involvement of law enforcement.