As you must know by now, the violent repression of Indigenous protests in the northern Peruvian Amazon last week has been met with widespread international outcry, as well as solidarity protests held in 11 cities worldwide. Below is a post from Amazon Watch about these developments, making the links between the US-Peru Free Trade Agreement and the violence spearheaded by the government of Alan Garcia.
On Friday on WBAI Radio, we discussed these developments with Atossa Soltani, Executive Director of Amazon Watch, along with Peruvian author and activist Gerardo Renique, who wrote a detailed analysis about these developments for NACLA's website. To hear the entire hour of the program, click here. Below, I share with you the press release from Amazon Watch.
US Urged to Take Position on the Necessity of Decrees for FTA
Photos, Audio Clips, and Video Footage from Bagua, Peru Available on www.amazonwatch.org
b-roll video of June 5 Incident available
Lima, Peru (June 11, 2009) – Six days after National Police violently attacked indigenous people in Bagua, Peru protesting free trade decrees that threaten to open the Amazon to oil, mining, and logging operations the Peruvian Congress issued a 90-day suspension of legislative decrees 1090 and 1064 yesterday in order to restore dialogue. Indigenous peoples are seeking revocation not suspension of all 10 decrees, and it remains to be seen if the action will lead to a re-start of talks with Amazonian indigenous peoples.
It should be noted that such an act of Congress on Thursday of last week could have avoided the bloodshed in Bagua if Garcia’s APRA party (American Popular Revolutionary Alliance) had not blocked congressional debate on the decrees.
Pressure is mounting on the Garcia Government from within Peru and worldwide to end attacks on indigenous peoples’ rights and use peaceful means of reaching agreement with indigenous peoples. Also yesterday, Garcia’s Cabinet Member, Minister of Woman resigned in protest over the government’s public discourse about the Bagua incident.
In a written statement, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights condemned the violence that took place on June 5, called for a judicial inquiry into the violence, and reminded the Peruvian government of their obligation to respect human rights at all times and that no State of Emergency may legally suspend such rights. The Commission repeated an early warning against criminalizing protest: “Criminalizing legitimate social mobilization and social protest, whether through direct repression of the demonstrators or through an investigation and criminal prosecution, is incompatible with a democratic society in which persons have the right to express their opinion.”
Human Rights Watch sent a letter to Ms. Gladys Margot Echaíz Ramos, Attorney General of Peru, calling for “a prompt, thorough, and impartial investigation that is capable of identifying and holding to account those responsible for the commission of crimes,” adding that they had received credible reports that police violently attacked the indigenous protests and thus fueled the conflict.
This week, Protesters have gathered before Peruvian embassies and consulates in such cities as Lima, Washington D.C., Quito, Houston, and Denver. Today, more demonstrations are planned in Bonn, Madrid, Brussels, Paris, Rome, and Turin in solidarity with the general strike and protests throughout Peru. Also tens of thousands of people across the world have sent letters to the Peruvian government demanding an end to the violence and full respect for the rights of full self-determination of indigenous peoples.
Hollywood personalities such as Q'orianka Kilcher, Benjamin Bratt—both of Peruvian descent, Bianca Jagger, and Daryl Hannah made statements denouncing the violence and calling for respect for indigenous peoples’s rights. Q’orianka Kilcher, who is of part Quechua Huachipaire indigenous descent from Peru, decried the Garcia Administration’s use of violence against indigenous protesters and their media campaign of demonizing indigenous peoples in an interview on Democracy Now!
“It’s horrible the way the Garcia regime is, in a sense, is trying to brainwashing Peruvians to think of its indigenous peoples as second-class citizens, as barbarians, as horrible people,” Kilcher said.
Kilcher is on her way to Peru and called on President Obama to get involved to help avoid further violence.
International human rights organizations are also calling on the Peruvian government to cancel arrest warrants for and guarantee respect for the rights of indigenous leaders who were hundreds of miles away from Bagua during the confrontation. No dialogue process will be possible if the representatives of the various indigenous peoples fear for their safety.
In this spirit Amazon Watch urges the Peruvian government to abide by its legal obligations to respect the rights of free speech and assembly and refrain from use of force indigenous mobilizations and protests in Tarapoto and Yurimaguas.
The climate is still extremely tense in the Bagua region. Numerous indigenous people and civilians are still reported missing. It is urgent for the government to demilitarize the region, enable health workers and rescue teams to search for the missing, establish an independent investigative commission, and repair damages.
The Inter-Ethnic Association for Development in the Peruvian Jungle, AIDESEP, announced it is sending a delegation from Lima to Bagua to investigate the number of people killed and missing telling the press in Lima, “People are speaking of more dead, even people whose bodies have been burned, but we don’t want to give numbers until a delegation is able to travel to Bagua and talk to authorities and the family members of those missing.”
Amazon Watch calls on the United States government to call on Peru to respect the indigenous peoples’ rights to self-determination established in the Peruvian Constitution and The United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Amazon Watch calls on the Peruvian government to fully repeal all decrees that would violate or undermine the self-determination of the indigenous peoples of Peru.
Amazon Watch is continually updating photographs, audio testimony, and video footage from Bagua on www.amazonwatch.org.
B Roll and hi-res photos available here: