Peru: Garcia Gov’t. Committing Massacres of Indigenous in Resource Rich Amazonas

Posted on June 8, 2009


Since April 9th communities in the Peruvian Amazon have been protesting new laws passed by President Alan Garcia’s government that usher in the Free Trade Agreement with the United States and authorize an unprecedented wave of extractive industries into the Amazon Rainforest.

Over 30,000 indigenous people have been blockading roads, rivers, and railways to demand the repeal of these new laws that allow oil, mining and logging companies to enter indigenous territories without seeking their prior consultation or consent as required under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Peru‘s President Alan Garcia has said that “small groups” must not stand in the way of “development” of the Amazon.

Ironically, Peru was the country that introduced the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on the floor of the General Assembly when it was adopted in September 2007.

(Above info excerpted from Amazon Watch news releases and pic below from dawn.com)

peru-protests-608

Two news releases from AMAZON WATCH follow

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 2009-06-06

In Bagua, Peru: Gregor MacLennan + 511 – 993 916-389
In the U.S.: Atossa Soltani 202-256-9795 atossa@amazonwatch.org, Nick Magel 419-283-2728 nick@amazonwatch.org

Police Open Fire on Indigenous Blockade in the Peruvian Amazon – 25 Civilians and 9 Police Dead, 150 Injured

Garcia Government Criticized for Orchestrating Violent Attack on Peaceful Blockade While Censoring Congressional Debate on “Free Trade Laws”

Peru Ministers Under Report Number Indigenous Peoples Dead and Injured

Interviews with Eyewitnesses and High-resolution Photos Available Upon Request

Photos of June 5 Police Attack on Peaceful Blockade in Bagua

Bagua, Peru (June 6, 2009) – In the early morning hours on Friday, Peruvian Special Forces staged a violent raid on a group of indigenous people at a peaceful blockade on a road outside of Bagua in a remote area of the northern Peruvian Amazon resulting in 25 civilians confirmed dead and more than 150 injured. Over 600 police attacked several thousand unarmed Awajun and Wambis indigenous peoples including many women and children and forcibly dispersed them using tear gas and live ammunition.

Dramatic photos (available on http://www.amazonwatch.org) of the attack show clearly the police brutally beating and shooting demonstrators at close range. At 2am police began to approach the demonstrators as they were sleeping along the Fernando Belaúnde Terry road. Demonstrators refused to move from the roadblock as police in helicopters fired teargas grenades and live ammunition. Eyewitnesses report that police also attacked from both sides firing live rounds into the crowd as people fled into surrounding steep hillsides, many becoming trapped. As the unarmed demonstrators were being killed and injured some wrestled with police, fighting back in self-defense, which resulted in the reported deaths of nine police officers.

In local radio reports the chief of police claimed that the indigenous demonstrators were armed and fired first. This claim has been strongly rejected by dozens of local eyewitnesses including local journalists who confirmed that Amazonian demonstrators have been entirely peaceful and only bear traditional spears and in no way provoked any violence. A point highlighted by the fact that the blockades have been going on for 56 days without a single incident.

Gregor MacLennan of Amazon Watch who is currently in Bagua gathering first hand testimonies from blockade participants, local journalists and residents stated: “All eyewitness testimonies say that Special Forces opened fire on peaceful and unarmed demonstrators including from helicopters, killing and wounding dozens in an orchestrated attempt to open the roads. It seems that the police had come with orders to shoot. This was not a clash, but a coordinated police raid with police firing on protesters from both sides of their blockade.”

“There have been many accounts of atrocities committed by the Special Forces. Some have reported seeing the police throwing liquid on the cadavers and burning them. Also local residents have given accounts of having seen police throwing bodies of dead civilians into the river in an apparent attempt to underreport the number of dead. We’ve also received accounts that some of those injured were being detained by security forces and denied medical attention leading to additional deaths. There are many people still reported missing and access to medical attention in the region is horribly inadequate.”

Peru’s Ombudsman’s office issued a strong statement yesterday demanding an end to the violence. Letters condemning the government’s actions are pouring in from thousands of Peruvians and international human rights activists and organizations. Today, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the chair of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues of the United Nations issued a letter expressing “shock and deep distress at reports received of atrocities committed” and calling on the government to “Immediately cease all violence against indigenous communities and organizations.”

Indigenous peoples have vowed to continue protests until the Peruvian Congress revokes the “free trade” decrees issued by President Garcia under special powers granted by Congress in the context of the Free Trade Agreement with the United States.

In the past two weeks, the Constitutional Committee of Congress has ruled that legislative decrees 994 and 1090 were unconstitutional. The Peruvian Congress was scheduled to debate the revocation of decree 1090 again on Thursday, however, Garcia’s political party, for the third time, prevented the debate preferring instead to attack the peaceful blockades. The government Ombudsman office has filed a legal action with the constitutional tribunal regarding the unconstitutionality of decree 1064, which affects the land rights laws in Peru.

“Garcia has rejected several congressional debates on the decrees, opting for violent attacks and brute force that will only worsen this conflict. It is outrageous that the ministers are now attempting to blame the victims for this incident and cover up the number of indigenous people
dead,” said Gregor MacLennan.

The protests have provoked national debate about government policies in the Amazon that ignore indigenous peoples and encourage large-scale extractive industries in Amazonian lands. Indigenous peoples assert that new laws undermine their rights and open up their ancestral lands to private companies for mining, logging, plantations, and oil drilling without their consultation or consent.

AIDESEP, the national indigenous organization of Peru presented a legal petition yesterday for “precautionary measures” to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights requesting intervention to prevent more bloodshed. Orders for the arrest of leaders of AIDESEP, including Alberto Pizango who is being charged with sedition, were put in effect on Friday.

A coalition of human rights and environmental organizations are urging the Garcia Government to stand down and cease violent confrontations by the military and calling for solidarity demonstrations at Peruvian Embassies around the world. There were demonstrations on Friday at the Peruvian Government missions in San Francisco and Washington, DC. More are planned next week.

AIDESEP, the national indigenous organization of Peru has called for a nationwide general strike starting June 11th.

For Background information see additional links and http://www.aidesep.org.pe.

“Amazon Watch, AIDESEP
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE     2009-06-08

In the U.S.: Nick Magel 1-419-283-2728 nick@amazonwatch.org
In Peru: Gregor MacLennan + 511 – 993 916-389

Eyewitness Reports Accuse Peruvian Police of Disposing the Bodies of Dead Indigenous Protesters

Garcia Government Makes Troubling
Racial Slurs and Fear-mongering

Indigenous Leaders and Allies Call for an
End to Violence on All Sides

High Resolution Images and B-ROll from
June 5th Bagua, Peru Tragedy Available for Download

High Resolution Images and B-ROll from June 5th Bagua, Peru Tragedy Available for Download

Bagua, Peru (June 8, 2009) – In the aftermath of Friday’s bloody raid on a peaceful indigenous road blockade near Bagua in the Peruvian Amazon, numerous eyewitnesses are reporting that the Special Forces of the Peruvian Police have been disposing of the bodies of indigenous protesters who were killed.

“Today I spoke to many eyewitnesses in Bagua reporting that they saw police throw the bodies of the dead into the Marañon River from a helicopter in an apparent attempt by the Government to underreport the number of indigenous people killed by police,” said Gregor MacLennan, spokesperson for Amazon Watch.

“Hospital workers in Bagua Chica and Bagua Grande corroborated that the police took bodies of the dead from their premises to an undisclosed location. I spoke to several people who reported that there are bodies lying at the bottom of a deep crevasse up in the hills, about 2 kilometers from the incident site. When the Church and local leaders went to investigate, the police stopped them from approaching the area,” reported MacLennan.
\
Police and government officials have been consistently underreporting the number of indigenous people killed by police gunfire. Indigenous organizations place the number of protesters killed at least at 40, while Government officials claiming that only a handful of indigenous people were killed. Also the Garcia Government claims that 22 police officers were killed and several still missing.

“Witnesses say that it was the police who opened fire last Friday on the protesters from helicopters,” MacLennan said. “Now the government appears to be destroying the bodies of slain protesters and giving very low estimates of the casualty. Given that the demonstrators were unarmed or carrying only wooden spears and the police were firing automatic weapons, the actual number of indigenous people killed is likely to be much higher.”

“Another eyewitness reported seeing the bodies of five indigenous people that had been burned beyond identification at the morgue. I have listened to testimony of people in tears talking about witnessing the police burning bodies,” continued MacLennan.

At least 150 people from the demonstration on Friday are still being detained. Eye-witness reports also confirm that police forcibly removed some of the wounded indigenous protesters from hospitals, taking them to unknown destinations. Their families expressed concern for their well being while in detention. There are many people still reported missing and access to medical attention in the region is horribly inadequate.

The Organizing Committee for the Indigenous Peoples of Alto Amazonas Province issued this statement: “It is appalling that political powers have acted in such a cruel and inhuman manner against Amazonian Peoples, failing to recognize the fundamental rights and protections guaranteed to us by the Constitution. We express deep grief over the death of our indigenous brothers, of civilians and the officers of the National Police.”

The government expanded the State of Emergency and established a curfew on all traffic in the region from 3 pm to 6 am. Indigenous and international human rights organizations are worried about plans of another National Police raid on a blockade in Yurimaguas close to the town of Tarapoto where thousands are blocking a road.

President Alan Garcia is being widely criticized for fomenting a climate of fear mongering against indigenous peoples by drawing parallels to the brutal Shinning Path guerrilla movement of the 1980s and early 1990s, and by vaguely referring to external and anti-democratic threats to the country.

The Amazonian indigenous peoples’ mobilizations have been peaceful, locally coordinated, and extremely well organized for nearly two months. Yet Garcia insists on calling them terrorist acts and anti-democratic. Garcia has even gone so far as to describe the indigenous mobilizations as “savage and barbaric.” Garcia has made his discrimination explicit, saying directly that the Amazonian indigenous people are not first-class citizens.

“These people don’t have crowns,” Garcia said about the protesters. “These people aren’t first-class citizens who can say – 400,000 natives to 28 million Peruvians – ‘You don’t have the right to be here.’ No way. That is a huge error.”

Ironically, Peru was the country that introduced the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on the floor of the General Assembly when it was adopted in September 2007.

A coalition of indigenous and human rights organizations will protest in front of the Peruvian Embassy in Washington D.C. on Monday, June 8 at 12:30 pm.

Indigenous peoples have vowed to continue protests until the Peruvian Congress revokes the “free trade” decrees issued by President Garcia under special powers granted by Congress in the context of the Free Trade Agreement with the United States.

Among the outpouring of statements condemning the violence in Peru were those from Peru’s Ombudsman’s office, the chair of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, a coalition of 45 international human rights organizations, Indigenous organizations from throughout the Americas, and the Conference of Bishops of Peru. Also famous personalities including Q’orianka Kilcher, Benjamin Bratt, Peter Bratt, and Daryl Hannah and Bianca Jagger called on the Peruvian Government to cease the violence and seek peaceful resolution to the conflict.

AIDESEP, the national indigenous organization of Peru has called for a nationwide general strike starting June 11th.

Amazon Watch is continually updating photographs, audio testimony, and video footage from Bagua on http://www.amazonwatch.org.
# # #photo © Amazon Watch

http://www.amazonwatch.org/newsroom/view_news.php?id=1843

Advertisements