Alberto Pizango, exiled president of Peru’s national organization for Amazonian indigenous peoples, AIDESEP, was arrested May 26 at Lima’s airport as he arrived from Nicaragua, where he was granted political asylum in the aftermath of last June’s Bagua massacre. He faces charges of “sedition, conspiracy and rebellion” for his alleged role in the Amazon violence. AIDESEP sees the charges as part of a wider campaign by the government to undermine Peru’s indigenous movement.
Pizango arrived in Lima together with AIDESEP’s vice-president Daysi Zapata Fasabi and Q’orianka Kilcher, the actress of indigenous Peruvian descent who played the role of Pocahontas in the film The New World. In a statement before his arrest, he said he had “waited too long and will make this enormous sacrifice.”
The charges against Pizango were made after hundreds of peaceful indigenous protesters were attacked by Peruvian police on June 5, 2009, an incident that led to 33 deaths dying and at least 200 injured and sparked protests against Peru’s government around the world. According to government figures, the dead included 10 civilians and 23 police officers.
In England, Survival International director Stephen Corry responded to the news of the arrest by saying, “We urge the Peruvian government to drop all charges against Alberto Pizango and enable him to return to his position as AIDESEP’s president.” (BBC News, Survival International, May 27)