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Crisis in Peru



[June 11: Update from NY Times Protestors gird for a long fight.]

[June 10: Update from Democracy Now includes interview with Q’orianka Kilcher, of part Indigenous Quechua descent, who is heading to Peru to support the Amazonian protest.]

Peru Protest - June 5, 2009
Peru Protest – June 5, 2009 – Photo: Thomas Quirynen / Reuters

Luien Chauvin reporting for TIME magazine says, Peruvian President Alan Garcia is furious. His plans to open huge parts of the country’s Amazon jungle to foreign investors are crumbling … a casualty of violent protests by indigenous people in the northern jungle last weekend. … The violence was unleashed when police officers received word from Lima, the capital, to remove the protesters who were blocking a highway and the nearby pumping station on the northern pipeline.

According to a report from BBC there are charges of a cover-up as to the total causualties. After visiting the area, near the town of Bagua Grande, 1,400km (870 miles) north of the capital Lima, rights lawyers said hundreds of people could not be accounted for. Another BBC report says,The situation is more polarised than ever, with the government calling indigenous protesters extremists and their leader, Alberto Pizango, being charged with sedition and rebellion. He has been granted asylum by the Nicaraguan government, after seeking refuge in their embassy in Lima.

Alberto Pizango
Alberto Pizango speaking in Lima. Photograph: Reuters

According to Mongabay, More than 70% of the Peruvian Amazon has been allocated for oil and gas extraction, and the current government of Alan Garcia has been pushing for more. Unfortunately, as usual, these policies are promoted by and only benefit a handful of people, but negatively impact the lives of many. However, Garcia’s government did not foresee the potential consequences of their actions.

An excellent paper published in August 2008 by Dr. Matt Finer and collaborators, Oil and gas Projects in the Western Amazon: Threats to Wilderness, biodiversity and Indigenous Peoples, predicted that “environmental and social impacts are likely to intensify without improved policies” … Yesterday, we witnessed the authors’ predictions come true when a number of indigenous civilians and police died as a result of violent clashes over oil and human rights in northern Peru.

Indigenous people in Peru have been protesting the Garcia government’s newly created laws that favor and facilitate rapid oil and natural gas extraction in Amazonian Peru. Many of the oil and gas concessions that the government has granted overlap with areas already protected for wildlife and indigenous groups. … Regardless of exactly who did what, we know that indigenous people of Peru and other Amazonian countries, in addition to the incredible biodiversity of western Amazonia, are facing huge threats on many fronts.


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