‘Peruvian Indians are being driven to desperate measures to try and save their lands which have been stolen from them for five centuries.
‘Their protests signal that the colonial era has finally drawn to a close. No longer are Amazon Indians prepared to put up with the illegal and brutal treatment which has been routine. That’s finished. This is the Amazon’s Tiananmen. If it finishes the same way, it will also end Peru’s international reputation.
‘Oil companies operating in Peru should suspend their operations until calm is restored and the Indians’ communal land rights are properly respected – only then can they negotiate as equals.’ — Stephen Corry, Director, Survival International, 8 June 2009
The Government of Peru, under the presidency of APRA‘s Alan García, has taken the dangerous step of backing up its intentions to allow oil companies to occupy and devastate indigenous lands with fierce violence. Over the past few days, heavily armed police, decked out as storm troopers (they look almost identical worldwide), have gone to the Amazon to forcibly remove thousands of protesting indigenous people from a blockade they had mounted to protest and impede encroaching oil and natural gas exploration, logging, and the threat of large-scale agriculture. The protesters come from many indigenous groups, including Achuar, Arabela, Asháninka, Awajún, Huambisa, Kichwa, Matsigenka, Shawi and Wampis.
The government of García, with the support of the national Congress, decreed new laws in compliance with a U.S.-Peru trade free trade agreement. According to an AP report, García, who as a previous president had challenged international financial institutions, is now “a free-market champion who is opening vast tracts of jungle to oil exploration by companies including France’s Perenco SA, Spain’s Repsol-YPF and U.S.-based ConocoPhillips.” Survival International adds to that list Canada’s Petrolifera and Brazil’s Petrobras. According to Survival International, already 70% of the Peruvian Amazon has been auctioned off to transnational oil corporations.
At least 30 indigenous protesters have been killed, and the videos below demonstrate some of the excessive force used by the police. Undaunted and fighting back, indigenous fighters killed some 23 policemen (see the news report sympathetic to the police at the very bottom of this post), some having been allegedly abducted, disarmed, speared, and in some cases their throats were slit. Appealing to long-established Latin American racist imagery, President García has accused the indigenous protesters of “savagery” and “barbarity”.
In addition, García has called for the arrest of Segundo Alberto Pizango Chota, the leader of AIDESEP, an organization representing 350,000 indigenous people of 57 native Amazonian nations, comprising 1,350 communities and 16 different language groups. AIDESEP is a constituent member of COICA, a trans-national Amazonian indigenous federation. Pizango has taken refuge in the Embassy of Nicaragua in Lima, which has agreed to grant him political asylum (see Survival International for more).
I personally would like to make it explicit that I fully support any actions that the indigenous protesters themselves deem to be appropriate in resisting internal colonization and further expropriation. They have every right to defend their land and their communities, and as in Canada, and other imperial states running various occupation regimes, the state’s use of violence is indefensible and must be countered by all means available.
To support Peru’s Indians, and for more news, see Survival International, and especially:
’27 dead’ as blockade broken up by authorities (5 June 2009)
Please be advised that the videos below sometimes show very graphic scenes of violence and in some cases dead bodies. The three Spanish language news videos are from Peruvian television, the first two from Punto Final.