Peru blockades called off but controversy remains

By Rainforest Action Network

Here is the latest on the Peru conflict. As of Friday, June 19th, the BBC reported that due to the repeal of the two most controversial presidential decrees, the blockades were being called off. Indigenous federation leader Daysi Zapata said she expects President Alan Garcia’s administration to consult Indigenous communities on development plans that affect their land.

“If the government makes these mistakes again the Indigenous communities will rise again,” she warned in Upstreamonline. Meanwhile, Alberto Pizanga, another respected Indigenous leader, remains in Nicaragua where he was granted political asylum at the height of the violent police crackdown that left at least 34 people dead.

Over the weekend, the UN envoy called for an independent, international investigation into the clash between police and Indigenous protestors. President Garcia’s approval rating has dropped to an appallingly low 19 percent, and according to Reuters, tensions are still running high. And as Amazon Watch points out, since 2006, the government has authorized oil and gas concessions covering over 70 percent of the Peruvian Amazon, much of it on Indigenous lands.

You can help by encouraging the US government to take a stand against violence in Peru at RAN’s action center.

UN envoy calls for investigation into Peru clash
06/20/2009 | 12:06 PM

LIMA, Peru — A U.N. envoy on indigenous rights called Friday for an impartial, internationally supported committee to be set up to investigate bloody clashes between Peruvian police and Amazonian Indian protesters that killed at least 33 people.

The comment by James Anaya came a day after a leader of Peru’s main Indian confederation urged members to end road and river blockades in the Amazon region after Congress revoked two land-use decrees that angered indigenous groups. Indians lifted blockades of several jungle highways Friday, but anti-government protests continued in several highland cities.

Anaya, the U.N. special envoy for Indians’ human rights and freedoms, said that during his visit to Peru he had heard what he called “worrisome” testimony from Indian protesters alleging abuses by security forces.

“I am calling for an exhaustive investigation by a special, independent commission so that these allegations can be investigated and taken seriously,” Anaya said.

Peru’s Amazonian Indians have been opposing 11 decrees since last year that they fear would make it easier for private oil, logging and biofuel companies to acquire their traditional lands. The government argued the decrees were needed to bring investment and development to Peru’s impoverished jungle.

Indians started blocking highways, rivers and a state oil pipeline in the Amazon beginning in early April, and violence erupted June 5 when police broke up one road blockade.

The government says 23 police officers and 10 civilians were killed in the clash, and one policeman was missing. Indian leaders say at least 30 civilians died.

Anaya said Indians who participated in protests are still missing, but added that he could not say how many and that he was not in a position to make conclusions about Indian allegations of more dead civilians.

He called for a committee, with participation from local Indian leaders and an international body like the U.N. or the International Labor Organization, to establish how the violence broke out and monitor efforts to locate missing Indians.

Many protesters went into hiding after the violence for fear of arrest. Anaya urged Peru’s government to review the charges levied against the president of the main Amazon Indian confederation, Alberto Pizango, and dozens of others as a measure “to create confidence and advance dialogue” with Indian groups.

Pizango left Peru for political asylum in Nicaragua on Wednesday after being charged with sedition and rebellion. – AP