Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Blood at the Blockade: Peru's Indigenous Uprising

Hello folks,

Below is the intro to a story posted on the website of NACLA about the indigenous uprising in Peru, which was violently repressed last week. It is written by Peruvian historian and author Gerardo Renique. Check it out when you have a chance, it places the entire massacre into a political context that unfortunately has been totally absent in the corporate media coverage of the events.


Blood at the Blockade

Jun 8 2009
By Gerardo Rénique

On June 6, near a stretch of highway known as the Devil's Curve in the northern Peruvian Amazon, police began firing live rounds into a multitude of indigenous protestors – many wearing feathered crowns and carrying spears. In the nearby towns of Bagua Grande, Bagua Chica, and Utcubamba, shots also came from police snipers on rooftops, and from a helicopter that hovered above the mass of people. Both natives and mestizos took to the streets protesting the bloody repression.

From his office in Bagua, a representative of Save the Children, the child anti-poverty organization, reported that children as young as four-years-old were wounded by the indiscriminate police shooting. President Alan García had hinted the government would respond forcefully to "restore order" in the insurgent Amazonian provinces, where he had declared a state of siege on May 9 suspending most constitutional liberties. The repression was swift and fierce.

By the end of the day, a number of buildings belonging to the government and to García's APRA party had been destroyed. Nine policemen and at least 40 protestors were killed (estimates vary). Overwhelmed by the number of wounded, small local hospitals were forced to shutter their doors. A Church official denounced that many of the civilian wounded and killed at the Devil’s Curve were forcefully taken to the military barracks of El Milagro. From Bagua, a local journalist told a radio station that policemen had dumped bagged bodies into the Utcubamba River.

Indigenous leaders have accused García of "genocide" and have called for an international campaign of solidarity with their struggle. Indigenous unrest in the Peruvian Amazon began late last year. After an ebb of a few months, the uprising regained force again on April 9. Since then, Amazonian indigenous groups have sustained intensifying protests, including shutdowns of oil and gas pumping stations as well as blockades of road and river traffic.

The Devil's Curve massacre is not the only instance of repression. García recently sent in the Navy to violently break through indigenous blockades on the Napo River, also in northern Peru. But few expected such a violent reaction from the government. García says the response was appropriate and blamed the indigenous for thinking they could decide what happens in their territories: "These people don't have crowns. They aren't first-class citizens who can say… 'You [the government] don't have the right to be here.' No way." The president called the protestors "pseudo-indigenous."


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