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Poor Take on Rich to Save Rain Forest

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Embera Wounaan boy by sensaos.

By Ben Cohen

An astonishing, inspiring story on how some of the world's poorest people in the Amazon rain forest took on the most powerful corporations and won.

Earlier this year, Peru's right-wing President, Alan Garcia, sold the
rights to explore, log and drill 70 per cent of his country's swathe of the
Amazon to a slew of international oil companies. Garcia seems to see
rainforest as a waste of good resources, saying of the Amazon's trees: "There
are millions of hectares of timber there lying idle."

There was only one pesky flaw in Garcia's plan: the indigenous people who live
in the Amazon. They are the first people of the Americas, subject to wave
after wave of genocide since the arrival of the Conquistadors. They are
weak. They have no guns. They barely have electricity. The government didn't
bother to consult them: what are a bunch of Indians going to do anyway?

But the indigenous people have seen what has happened elsewhere in the Amazon
when the oil companies arrive. Occidental
Petroleum are facing charges in US courts
of dumping an estimated nine
billion barrels of toxic waste in the regions of the Amazon where they
operated from 1972 to 2000. Andres Sandi Mucushua, the spiritual leader of
the area known to the oil companies as Block (12A)B, said in 2007: "My
people are sick and dying because of Oxy. The water in our streams is not
fit to drink and we can no longer eat the fish in our rivers or the animals
in our forests." The company denies liability, saying they are "aware
of no credible data of negative community health impacts".