represion_catapaAs many as 100 of indigenous protestors were killed early Friday morning in the northern Peruvian province of Bagua, as 600 Peruvian riot police were ordered to disrupt a peaceful road blockade launched in April as a part of a national protest against a new series of laws that would allow an unprecedented wave of logging, oil drilling, mining and mono-crop agriculture in the Amazonian jungle.

Police fired live ammunition and teargas into the crowd armed with indigenous spears.  Peruvian authorities report 22 police were killed and 2 missing, while the indigenous community says at least 40 people, including 2 children were killed.  If you think the numbers don’t add up, you’re right.  Police have been accused of burning indigenous bodies, throwing them in the river and removing wounded from the hospital in order to hide the real number of casualties.

A state of emergency has been declared in the region, a military curfew imposed, and police continue to patrol Amazonian towns.

I am reminded of an interview I had last month with rebel rocker and peace activist, Michael Franti. “Now is the time when we need to stand up and yell fire,” Franti said.  “If ever there was a time that we need to say something is happening, let’s deal with it, it’s now.”

For 56 days, nearly 2,500 indigenous people have blocked roads, waterways and oil pipelines in opposition to new laws being fast tracked by Peruvian president Alan Garcia to facilitate the implementation of the US-Peru Free Trade Agreement, which came into effect February 1st of this year.  The Peruvian congress refuses to repeal laws, positioning the indigenous as against free trade and development.

Garcia, a free trade advocate, has defended police actions, stating that the nation’s 40,000 indigenous do not have the right to deny 28 million Peruvians the benefit of Amazonian resources.  Garcia has further been quoted as saying that anyone who attempted to impede access to the Amazon would lead Peru into “irrationality and a backward primitive state.”

Never mind the fact that indigenous rights to ancestral land are protected by UN International Labor Organization Convention 169, under which governments are required to take “coordinated and systematic action” to protect the rights of these peoples and to guarantee respect for their integrity.

In Peru, the total opposite is taking place, as indigenous peoples are literally and forcefully being removed from the path of corporate capitalism, so that private investment firms can go about their business without the troublesome task of consulting the communities who’s livelihoods depend on those resources.  Protestors are being portrayed in the national media as savage police killers, terrorists, and a nuisance to national development.

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In essence, Alan Garcia and government of Peru are using the US FTA, which then presidential hopeful Barack Obama once held up as a model free trade agreement, to undermine indigenous rights.  Indigenous leader Alberto Pizango of the Peruvian Jungle Inter-Ethnic Development Association (AIDESP) has accused the government of indigenous genocide.  Pizango and other leaders are facing potential arrest on charges of rebellion.

YELL FIRE!

The Confederation of the Eagle and the Condor from Abya Yala North (North America) issued a statement of solidarity against the genocide on Monday:

“We demand accountability from the US Government, President Barack Obama and the US society as a whole for the issue of complicity with the ongoing genocide occurring throughout the Amazon Basin of Abya Yala South […]

We demand an immediate moratorium on all trade agreements hemispherically between the US and the government states of the OAS, until a comprehensive review and report on these compacts be undertaken by the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples […]

Any such trade agreements among the states that do not integrate the recognition, respect and protection for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as referenced by the UN Declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples is hereby proclaimed illegitimate in our hemisphere of Abya Yala […]

The paradigm of social economic development driven by capitalist expropriation and exploitation of Indigenous lands and labor has come to an end.  It has died, with the blood of the jungle of the Peruvian Amazon the death certificate has been delivered to the world.  A new, yet ancient, global ecological-economic framework is emerging at great cost, but also with great promise to effectively address the global climate crisis.  The recognition of the rights of Indigenous Peoples is the first step […]

Now is the time for the realization of Integrity, integrating justice and dignity along with all of our fellow ‘Americans’ of this continent Abya Yala in a new world hemispheric policy of Self Determination and Reciprocity with Respect for the Rights of the Nations of the Indigenous Peoples at a continental level […]

The time has come to not only change but TRANSFORM our collective continental society of the Americas, breaking the chains of centuries of European-American racism and colonization, expropriation and exploitation […]

In pursuit of peace, and in solidarity with our relatives of the Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon of Peru, we deliver this message of conscience and call to justice.”

11-dsc_0513This week, Peruvian officials will meet with US Trade Representative Ron Kirk in Washington for discussions on the FTA implementation.  Now is the time to send a strong message to our government that we stand with the indigenous people of the Peruvian Amazon and reject the killing and destruction, which current U.S. free trade policies promote worldwide.

YELL FIRE!

What you can do:

  1. The Quixote Center is circulating a letter to President Obama asking him to denounce the violence and call on USTR Ron Kirk to respect ILO Convention 169 and ensure that the US-Peru FTA conforms with these laws.
  2. If you live in the Washington, D.C. area, Witness for Peace is organizing a protest at Peruvian Embassy, 1700 Massachusetts Avenue NW today, Thursday, June 11, at 3:30pm.  For more information, please call 202-403-1752.
  3. Inform yourself about US trade policies and fair trade alternatives.  A list of resources with regard to this conflict appear at the end of this post.
  4. Raise the issue on your campus and with your Congressional representatives.  Americans for Informed Democracy’s Global Development program is supporting students interested to launch trade-related campaigns in the Fall semester.  You can take up indigenous rights, labor rights, environmental protection, access to medicines, or your campus’ support for fair trade alternatives.  Contact Sarah@aidemocracy.org for more information.

Resources:

Democracy NOW:  http://www.democracynow.org/2009/6/8/peruvian_police_accused_of_massacring_indigenous

Latin American Press:  http://www.lapress.org/articles.asp?art=5871

On the ground investigation from Amazon Watch: http://www.amazonwatch.org/

Webpage for the Peruvian Jungle Inter-Ethnic Development Association (AIDESEP):  http://www.aidesep.org.pe/index.php?id=5

An in-depth report from NACLA:  https://nacla.org/node/5879

Blog thoughts from Ben Powless, a Mohawk from Six Nations in Ontario, studying Human Rights, Indigenous and Environmental Studies at Carleton University in Ottawa:  http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/ben-powless/2009/06/peru-battle-lines-drawn-over-amazon

New York Times article, posted by Bilaterals.org:
http://www.bilaterals.org/article.php3?id_article=15312

2007 Press release from Oxfam America, expressing concern over the US-Peru FTA’s potential to deepen poverty:
http://www.oxfamamerica.org/newsandpublications/press_releases/archive2007/trade-deal-with-peru-fails-to-measure-up-for-development

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