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.

Protestors Blockade Chevron HQ’s in San Francisco

Contra Costa Times article

Protestors Blockade Chevron HQ’s in San Francisco

By Sophia Kazmi

Public protests in San Ramon and Lafayette on Monday slowed traffic and galvanized opinions on the fourth anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq.

In San Ramon, traffic on city streets and northbound Interstate 680 slowed to a crawl when protesters brought their message to the gates of oil giant Chevron’s headquarters in Bishop Ranch. And Monday evening in Lafayette, an estimated 350 people attended an anti-war rally at the crosses display. Both events were peaceful.

In San Ramon, dozens of people stood for about four hours outside Chevron’s gates, denouncing its interest in the Iraq war and the company’s alleged destruction of the climate and the environment around the world.

“We came here to hold Chevron accountable for their actions,” said Joshua Russell of Oakland, a member of the Bay Rising Affinity Group.

Some protesters carried signs, others were chained to black oil drums painted with statements such as “Stop the Iraqi oil theft.” Some sang, others wore giant heads of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

Protesters were angry about a draft oil revenue law being discussed in Iraq’s parliament that could allow foreign investment in Iraq by allowing regional oil companies to sign with foreign oil companies for exploration and development. Many said this law would reduce the control the country has on its oil fields and that foreign companies would not have to hire Iraqi companies or Iraqi workers.

Iraqis “need to take whatever is theirs,” said Sureya Sayadi of San Ramon. “It’s not for America to decide. It’s not for Chevron to get.”

The peaceful group — no arrests were made Monday — also took on global warming, saying companies such as Chevron are not doing enough to stop it. And, fast forwarding to the future, protesters held a funeral procession for earth’s last piece of ice.

Chevron spokesman Kent Robertson said Chevron is not involved in Iraqi oil production; rather, it is providing technical assistance in developing that country’s oil industry.

Chevron issued a short statement about Monday’s protest, saying it “strongly supports anyone’s right to express their opinions,” and adding, “Around the world Chevron has an excellent reputation as a company that operates responsibly while producing critical products that improve people’s lives.”

About 20 police officers watched the crowd, mostly to ensure the safety of the protesters, said Jimmy Lee, Contra Costa sheriff’s spokesman.

By the end, protesters said they had a successful day and felt as though they had made a difference.

“We were able to disrupt a day at Chevron headquarters, and none of us are going to jail,” Russell said.

Things got more heated in Lafayette, where an evening vigil to remember war dead attracted at least 350 war protesters and supporters who verbally sparred at the hillside of crosses that has become a symbol for the country’s divided views.

Both sides tried to drown the other out, with supporters of the Iraq mission hollering “Shame on you” and protesters countering with “Shame on Bush.”

“Thank God for those men and women who are willing to put it on the line,” said Lafayette resident Charles Haig to cross supporters. Haig’s son, David, is serving in Iraq.

Cross organizer Jeff Heaton, who stepped up to a microphone amid shouts of “traitor,” said soldiers’ deaths “will not be in vain if we see to it that their deaths and injuries inspire us to change the course of history.”

The names of soldiers on crosses, which had been a source of friction at a March 8 rally, were removed this past weekend. A few remained in cases where families requested it.

Staff writers Katherine Tam and George Avalos and the New York Times contributed to this story. Reach Sophia Kazmi at 925-847-2122 or

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