Victory in Venezuela: Indigenous communities win fight against coal mines

(Special note: This article was written by friends of Rising Tide in
Venezuela, the eco-indigenous defense group Homoetnatura and regards
the latest announcements purportedly by President Hugo Chavez and his
call to not open new coal mines in the state of Zulia, on indigenous
lands. We in Rising Tide are elated and happy to hear this great news,
but are still committed to accompanying the indigenous and ecologist
resistance in Venezuela against the fossil fuel infrastructure that
support Big Coal and Big Oil in the region- namely the trans-guajira
poliduct, the Bolivar or America Harbor, and the rail-lines that are
part of the coal industry expansion in Zulia ).

In Caracas we buried the coal phantom.
The Venezuelan Minister of the Environment prohibits the opening of new
coal mines in the state of Zulia

Sociedad Homo et Natura
Environmental Collectives
Indigenous Communities of Wayíºu and Yukpa of Sierra de Perij’a

Caracas, March 21, 2007 – By presidential decree, the Minister of the
Environment, Yubiri Ortega de Carrizalez, announced yesterday before
the Yukpa and Wayíºu indigenous people of the Sierra de Perijá, the
prohibition to open new coal mines in the state of Zulia. Additionally,
by the same presidential mandate, it was rejected the expansion of the
Guasare and Paso Diablo mines projected by Corpozulia and Caribozulia.

Yesterday, the indigenous resistance of the Perija, the social
movements and the ecologists who mobilized to take over the Ministry
against the mining industry, felt that they had buried the coal phantom
and its entire threat in Caracas, which for years had hurt the
indigenous peoples of the state of Zulia. However, until the current
mining concessions in indigenous lands are not revoked by decree, the
fight goes on.

In a meeting with indigenous leaders from the Ukpas and Wayuu, the Home
et Natura Society and alternative community media outlets, the Minister
of the Environment indicated that she has hope in the new model ordered
by President Chavez, which is already underway in the fields of
ecology, agriculture, tourism, and sustainable development.

We know that the transnational powers interested in the coal in Zulia
will keep promoting the survival, by all means, of their coal
mega-project. There are still questions on the future of the Nigales
bridge, America Harbor (currently Bolivar Harbor), and the Zulia
railways, all of which are part of the expansion plans of the coal
mines that were scheduled to open in indigenous territories that have
now been prohibited by the presidential mandate.

The downfall of the miserable

Martinez Mendoza threw his final thrust by organizing a paid counter
demonstration, forcing the Mara community councils, the mining workers
and their families to open more coal mines, after hearing the
presidential proposal: agriculture, cattle breeding and tourism in
exchange of more coal. On Thursday, the envoys paid by Mendoza
abandoned the black script ordered by Obis Prieto (president of
Carbozulia) and accepted the sustainable development proposal in
exchange for the prohibition of coal mines. This initiative will be
taken to Mara next Thursday.

If the coal mines, for all of which they represent, the global mourning
of thousands of families that have lost their children and spouses; the
social misery that they have caused in their path; the pollution of the
soil, the air, and the water; the loss of the woods and rivers; are
forever prohibited and if the Venezuelan state finally decrees the
prohibition of coals mines in favor of sustainable agricultural and
cattle breeding projects that are pro-life, then the eyes of world
would find ourselves looking at an exemplary act of social justice and
the beginning of a necessary change.

The coal mining and its plans, destroyed entire towns in Mara,
destroyed woods and rivers, left the Bari indigenous people without a
land, subordinated the indigenous leadership for decades, and left
their own people subject to shame and rejection.

President Chavez, by saying today that there will be no more coal mines
in Zulia, you are giving back hope for the future to the Wayíºu de Mara
and Páez people, to the indigenous of the Sierra de Perijá and to life
itself. We are looking forward to the decree that will forever prohibit
this dark curse.

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