In the early morning hours of June 5, Peruvian national police 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 Amazonas region. Several thousand Awajun and Wambis indigenous people were forcibly dispersed by tear gas and bullets, leaving at least 25 dead and many more injured.
Police began to approach the protesters as they were sleeping along the Fernando Belaúnde Terry road. Protesters refused to move from the roadblock as helicopters dropped tear-gas bombs from above. Eye-witnesses report that police attacked from both sides, firing into the crowd as people fled into the hills. As the unarmed protesters were killed and injured, some wrestled rifles away from the police and fought back, resulting in deaths of seven police officers.
The National Police claimed that the protesters had firearms, necessitating the use of bullets for dispersal. This claim is refuted by dozens of local witnesses, including journalists. who reported that the protesters had been entirely peaceful and only bore traditional spears. “The lives of the indigenous is worth nothing for the government,” said Alberto Pizango, leader of the Peru’s Amazonian indigenous alliance AIDESEP.
Indigenous peoples have vowed to continue protests until Peru’s congress revokes the “free trade” decrees issued by President Alan García 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 Congress was scheduled to debate the revocation of decree 1090 again this week; however, Garcia’s congressional bloc once again prevented the debate. AIDESEP has called for a nationwide general strike starting June 11. (www.amazonwatch.org”>Amazon Watch, Indian Country Today, June 5)
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