Puerto Rico Towns Sue Oil Companies for Climate Denial

Dec 5, 2022
12:12 PM

Homes are flooded on Salinas Beach after the passing of Hurricane Fiona in Salinas, Puerto Rico, Monday, September 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Alejandro Granadillo)

PUERTO RICO: A group of 16 municipalities filed a lawsuit on November 22 against multiple Big Oil companies for downplaying the risks of their fossil-fuel products on climate change.

The towns say over a dozen oil companies, including Shell PLC and Exxon Mobil Corp., knowingly created a “fraudulent marketing scheme” to convince customers fossil fuel activity has no effect on the climate.

The marketing campaign, which spanned decades, violates U.S. racketeering and antitrust laws, the lawsuit said. The suit also said the companies should be held financially responsible for the devastating 2017 hurricane season, which was made worse by climate change.


CHILE: On Thursday, President Gabriel Boric celebrated the International Court of Justice’s ruling on the Silala River case, affirming its international waterway status.

Disputes over the Silala River began in the 1990s but came to a head in 2016 when Chile filed a lawsuit at The Hague to declare it an international waterway, in response to Bolivia stating it would charge for use of the river. Bolivia has struggled with establishing access to waterways for over a century.

Six years and several countersuits later, The Hague now urges both nations to cooperate.

In a statement, Boric said, “Chile went to the Court for legal certainty and obtained it.” Bolivia’s minister of foreign affairs, Rogelio Mayta, has stated that Bolivia now also has rights to use the river.

BRAZIL: Brazilian deforestation in the Amazon decreased compared to last year according to data published on Wednesday by the National Institute for Space Research. This year, some 4,500 square miles were lost, as compared to last year’s 5,000 square miles.

President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva vows to curb deforestation, which had increased by over 60 percent during current President Jair Bolsonaro’s term.

Representatives of Bolsonaro and Da Silva meet with U.S. officials today in Brazil to discuss topics including climate change. Da Silva said he plans to visit President Biden before January 1.


COLOMBIA: Colombia asked that the Biden administration grant temporary legal status to its citizens now living in the United States—and to consider Colombia’s initiative to offer nearly 1.8 million Venezuelan migrants temporary legal status.

President Gustavo Petro is committed to the “generous policies” of his predecessor to address migration, wrote ambassador to the U.S. Luis Alberto Murillo Urrutia in a letter released on Tuesday to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Urrutia added that “migration is a regional issue that should be addressed under the principle of shared responsibility.”

If granted, Colombian citizens living in the United States will not be returned to Colombia and will be permitted to work until their home country’s situation improves.

PERU: Impeachment proceedings against President Pedro Castillo begin on December 7, marking the third formal attempt to oust the leftist leader since he took office in 2021. He will also have to face constitutional complaints from the attorney general in Congress to respond to constitutional breaches and corruption.

Anti-government protests broke out two weeks ago demanding the resignation of President Castillo. Back then, opposition lawmakers did not have the number of votes needed to move forward with proceedings. However, on Thursday, with 73 votes in favor, 23 against, and six abstentions, Congress initiated the motion.

Peru has had five acting presidents since 2016, of which none have completed a full term.


CUBA: Activists and human rights organizations warn that Cuba’s new criminal code could limit free expression and protest. The new code, which was enacted last week, is a modified version of the country’s 1987 regulations.

Some of the changes are longer prison sentences for “public disorder” and “insulting national symbols.” It also includes punishment for digital offenses like disseminating false information online. Activists fear the new code will affect journalists, protestors, social media users, and opposition leaders.

Cuba has previously faced criticism for its treatment of anti-government protestors. More than 500 protest participants are currently serving prison sentences, according to the advocacy group Justice11J.


GUATEMALA: The prominent newspaper El Periódico said Tuesday that it would stop its print edition, as part of a “restructuring process” that it had initiated this month.

The move came after the government had arrested the paper’s founder José Rubén Zamora, who was detained on charges of “possible money laundering,” said a spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office. Referring to the period of time since Zamora’s arrest, El Periódico said, “These 120 days of political and economic pressure have forced us to rethink what it means to do journalism.”

All of the newspaper’s reporters have been let go. Zamora remains in pre-trial detention.

HONDURAS: The Honduran government announced Saturday that it will suspend constitutional rights in parts of two major cities —San Pedro Sula and the capital Tegucigalpa— to combat gang violence and extortion.

The move is part of a broader national security effort known as a “state of exception” that will enter into force on December 6 and last 30 days. The measure shares similarities with the state of exception in El Salvador.

The Center for Study of Democracy said the “iron hand” policy will have short-term success but is not “financially or politically stable” in the long term.


CANADA: There has been an increase in Mexicans seeking asylum in Canada this year. Numbers have climbed to 8,000—a five-fold increase since 2021 and twice as many as in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic restricted travel.

Compared to the United States, obtaining asylum in Canada presents fewer obstacles, which has in part motivated the increase in asylum seekers there. The two countries enjoy visa-free travel, and many asylum seekers are flying directly to Montreal.

Once there, claimants are held to the United Nations’ standard of a “convention refugee,” which requires a well-founded fear of persecution in their home country.

MEXICO: Mexico’s Ministry of Culture announced on Thursday that 223 archeological pieces were returned from the Netherlands after an agreement.

The return follows a trend within the international community to return cultural and heritage objects to their place of origin. Mexico has prioritized this repatriation of heritage in recent years, filing lawsuits abroad to counter the auction of heritage pieces.

The returned objects have been inspected by the National Institute of Anthropology and History, where they remain for analysis and safekeeping, and have been confirmed as pre-Columbian artifacts from across the region, dating as far back as 1200 B.C.


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