Peru: Amazon natives broach separatism

Indigenous peoples in Peru’s Amazonas region have held demonstrations over the past weeks at the site of the June 2009 massacre at Curva del Diablo, in the municipality of Bagua. The action was called to protest that 54 indigenous leaders are now facing life terms if convicted in the Bagua violence, while only one member of the National Police is behind bars in the affair, with another two already released. On Feb. 26, when the road at “Devil’s Curve” was blocked by hundreds of members of the Awajún and Wampis peoples, one large group of participants refused to join in the singing of Peru’s national anthem that opened the gathering. Carlos Altamirano Rafael, leader of the Interests Front of Condorcanqui, said he believed that no justice is possible within Peru, and that the two peoples should declare independence or unite with Ecuador.

“We are trying to see in what manner we can disengage from the country as an indigenous nation,” Altamirano said. “The other initiative is for us to go, with our territory and population, in a unanimous and voluntary form, to the Ecuadoran side.” (AIDESEP, March 5;, Feb. 26)

The Awajún and Wampis territory is bisected by the border with Ecuador, in an area already contested by the two nations. The Condorcanqui community has been among the most militant in Amazonas region, even taking mineral company workers hostage during the 2009 protests.

Three police generals, Luis Elías Muguruza, Javier Luis Uribe and Raúl Silverio Alván, were convicted by a Military Police Tribunal in March 2011 for dereliction of duty in connection with the Bagua massacre, but received sentences of only 36, 24 and 12 months, respectively. (Servindi, March 18, 2011)

In a development that seems to be related to political rivalries rather than the indigenous struggle, the regional vice president of Amazonas, Augusto Wong López, was assassinated by uknown gunmen in Bagua last month. (Perú21, Feb. 10)

  1. Peru: Wampis people declare autonomy

    After broaching actual secession from Peru, the Wampis people last year declared the nation’s first Autonomous Indigenous Government, which will not seek independence but intends to protect their rights and their territory. The announcement was made Nov. 29 at the community of Soledad, Río Santiago district, Amazonas department. The autonomous government that brings together 100 Wampis communities, representing over 10,000 people that reside in territory that extends across 1.3 million hectares (3.2 million acres), about the size of the state of Connecticut. (ICTMN, Jan. 24, Intercontinental Cry, Dec. 4; Forest Peoples Programme via Scoop, Dec. 1)