|50 Days of Protest and One Massacre in the Peruvian Amazon|
|Written by Ben Powless|
|Saturday, 06 June 2009 12:40|
I'm writing this right now from Peru after having taken part in a 5 day Indigenous Peoples Summit held in Puno, Peru in the high Andes. At that gathering we heard from representatives, including Alberto Pizango, elected representative of the Peruvian Amazonian peoples, about the ongoing protests they were waging, and the repression faced as a result, from their opposition to some of the plans the Peruvian government has for 'developing' the Amazon region and opening it for oil, mineral, logging, and agricultural exploitation, on the homelands of many Indigenous communities. In response, there have been over 50 days of continuous protest, shutting down parts of the Amazon and the Andes.
Alberto Pizango addresses a crowd of around 3000 Indigenous Peoples from across the Americas gathered in Puno, on Lake Titicaca. He was interrupted repeatedly by cheers from the crowd, "Pizango, we're with you!"
This morning, the situation took a turn for the worst. The government reacted by sending in police to violently remove the protesters, with different reports claiming as many as 20, 30, or more lives lost in the violent fight that erupted. The protesters had been sleeping at a roadblock maintained over the past few weeks when helicopters arrived and shot at people below, according to witnesses and local journalists. The government has also put out an arrest warrant for Pizango, who spoke today in Lima, for instigating the violence, as if to pretend the intense anger and frustration isn't coming out of the communities themselves. This is not how World Environment Day should be celebrated.
The government has recently signed a number of free trade agreements, including with the US and Canada, and has been seeking to change their domestic laws to encourage foreign investment in the Amazonian region, for the benefit of those companies and the central government in Lima. Many of those new laws have been ruled unconstitutional, and have been in violation of Indigenous Peoples' rights to Free, Prior and Informed Consent, as well as participation in decision making, rights affirmed by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. They threaten the fundamental rights of the Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon, and cannot be allowed to go through.
In response, there has been an upsurge of coverage of the situation, bringing the crimes of the current President Garcia into international light. Many Indigenous groups, human rights organizations, and environmental groups have called for him to step down and have also issued calls for demonstrations at Peruvian embassies around the world "until the bloodbath is stopped and the legislative decrees for the Free Trade Agreement with the United States are repealed." Already demonstrations have been held in Washington, another one being held tonight in front of the Peruvian mission in Los Angeles. Indigenous groups in Peru are calling for letters to be written to the president, as well as international bodies like the United Nations and Amnesty International.
Please take a moment to read more and consider what you can do to help.
Please go here to send a letter to the President of Peru, and show him that the international community is watching and is outraged: http://www.amazonwatch.org/peru-action-alert.php
You may also donate to the cause with the following bank information: account number is 395-11-35-338057 (in nuevos soles, Peruvian currency) of the "Banco de Crédito del Peru" The contact information is Nicanor Alvarado Carrasco, coordinator of the "Vicaría del Medio Ambiente de Jaén". Phone: +511 076 433948.
For more information:
http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2009/06/05-7 - News release from Amazon Watch
http://peruanista.blogspot.com/2009/06/alert-massacre-in-peru-police-shoots-at.html Blog and photos
http://www.reuters.com/article/marketsNews/idUSN0530387520090605  - Reuters report
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/americas/2009/06/200965222937993477.html  - Al Jazeera coverage
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5j9pNpad9T95Yc7VQREA4BViTQRhwD98KMT982 - Associated Press report
http://www.vicariatodejaen.org/paroindigena.htm - Many photos and more information (Spanish)
Messages below from the Coordinating Body of Andean Indigenous Organizations - one of the main organizers behind the Indigenous summit of last week.
COORDINATING BODY OF ANDEAN INDIGENOUS ORGANZIACIONES - CAOI (Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Chile, Argentina)
Call to International Tribunal
INTERNATIONAL DENUCIATION of President Alan García Pérez of Peru and his admistration for
Bloody Repression of Indigenous Peoples in the Peruvian Amazon, At least ten to twenty dead.
Urgent: Call to Peaceful Protest in front of the Peruvian Embassies of all countries
In Fulfillment of Commitment to Continental Indigenous Solidarity
Fourth Continental Summit of Indigenous Nations and Pueblos of Abya Yala
Date: June 5, 2009
The APRA government of Alan García Pérez has unleashed a bloody repression in the Peruvian Amazon this morning. The information is unclear, with no official figures, but reports vary that between ten to twenty dead in Bagua, Corral Quemado area and in the Devil's Curve. Once again, the intent is to impose death over life, slaughter over dialogue. It is the dictatorial response that after 56 days of peaceful indigenous struggle and attempted dialogue and negotiations ends with the bullets of massacres, the same of over 500 years of oppression.
Today, more than ever, it is urgent to implement the commitment of continental solidarity of the Fourth Continental Summit of Indigenous Peoples and Nationalities of Abya Yala (Puno, Peru, 27 to May 31) and to realize solidarity with the Peruvian People of the Amazon by conducting protests outside the embassies of Peru in all countries, every day, demanding a stop to the bloodshed and repeal of the legislative decrees of implementation regarding the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with United States. Further, to call for an international tribunal against President Alan García Pérez and his government, for its intrigue and repression: it is in debt of at least ten people dead.
The current events have occurred just hours after the Congress, in an openly provocative act, decided to postpone further discussion on the repeal of the legislative decrees of implementation for FTA that facilitate the invasion indigenous territories, while the executive branch moved to send an additional numerous police contingent to the Amazon region.
We call upon indigenous organizations, social movements and human rights organizations around the world to take concrete action: letters to the Peruvian government, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples, Amnesty International, Survival International, the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, Inter-American Commission Human Rights, International Labor Organization (ILO Convention 169) calling to immediately send missions to Peru, in order to stop the violence and respect indigenous rights.
The organizations of the UN must act resolve and join in the demand raised by the chairman of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Victoria Corpus Tauli, to lift the state of emergency in the Peruvian Amazon, to cease the repression and to honor the international standards that guarantee the exercise of indigenous rights.
Today in Lima, the Peruvian social movement organizations, articulated in the Community Front for Sovereignty and Life will mobilize at 5 pm from the Plaza Francia, demanding to put to a stop the suppression and the repeal of legislative decrees affecting the rights land of Andean and Amazon peoples and national sovereignty.
¡No more repression!
¡Immediate repeal of anti-indigenous legislative decrees of the FTA!
Ben Powless is Mohawk from Six Nations in Ontario. He is currently studying Human Rights, Indigenous and Environmental Studies at Carleton University in Ottawa, after spending a year in an international exchange program, studying sustainable rural development between Alberta and Mexico. He has been involved with the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition since its inception, working at both the national level and with the Ottawa Chapter. He is also heavily involved with the Indigenous Environmental Network. He also sits on the board of the National Council for the Canadian Environmental Network, is on the Youth Advisory Group to the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, and is very involved in the local Aboriginal community.