Guyana indigenous people charge land abuses

Guyana’s indigenous people are accusing the government of snatching their traditional land through poor demarcation as the authorities try to benefit from a U.N. program to preserve the country’s rainforests, Reuters reports. The World Bank has given Guyana $3.6 million to help prepare a plan for the U.N program to slow deforestation. But Amerindian leaders insist the government’s proposals do not address its international obligations to indigenous groups.

“We have urged governments and international agencies to protect our traditional practices and help resolve outstanding land issues,” Tony James, president of Guyana’s Amerindian Peoples Association (APA), said at a World Bank meeting. Amerindian communities make up about 10 percent of the population of Guyana, a former British colony next to Venezuela.

The country is mostly covered by forests and boasts one of the world’s most varied biodiversities. Indigenous leaders say the government is taking over traditional lands through poor demarcation, and that in some areas communities were demarcated without their knowledge.

The Amerindian Act of 2006 gives Amerindian villages legal powers to manage and conserve their lands. “Some community lands are being sliced by half, some by quarter, some by three-quarters,” said John Adries, the leader of the Parima community, which numbers 600 Arekuna people. In an example of what they said was poor planning, they said a hospital that serves indigenous people in the mountain village of Kato was left out of land demarcated by government.

Guyana’s government is seeking international partnerships and incentives to protect 15 million hectares (37 million acres) of forest. Amerindian communities have been told they can opt into the initiative or choose not to be part of it. Amerindian communities have in the past been sharply critical of Guyana’s low carbon strategy, a forest-saving deal with Norway that could earn the country $250 million over the next five years.

For the original Reuters report go to http://af.reuters.com/article/energyOilNews/idAFN3025160320100630?sp=true

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