Senior figures in Peru are threatening a clamp-down on both Peruvian and foreign NGOs in the wake of the violent protests which have erupted in the country’s Amazon region. The Congressional Foreign Relations Committee is examining a proposal to restrict the funding of Peruvian NGOs by outside agencies. Many indigenous organizations have for decades received financial support from Western funding agencies.
In a related development, a senior Peruvian congressman, Luis Gonzáles Posada, attacked Survival International and Amazon Watch for “promoting a campaign of slander against Peru,” and has suggested the government sue them for $100 million. President Alan García also alleged that “international NGOs” have incited the violence.
Stephen Corry, director of Survival International, said: “Rather than worrying about the activities of NGOs, the Peruvian authorities and Congressmen ought to be seriously worried about what the events of the last 11 days have done to Peru’s international reputation, which lies in tatters. The truth about what happened at ‘the Amazon’s Tiananmen’ is slowly emerging, but what is really needed is an independent and impartial inquiry. Already it seems clear that a large number of indigenous people have disappeared, and that is obviously very worrying.”
Corry added that “Survival International is also very concerned at attempts to demonize AIDESEP, which is a long-established and highly-respected organization.” The Inter-ethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (AIDESEP) has been leading the protest campaign in the rainforest. Its founder, Evaristo Nugkuag, won the Right Livelihood Award, the “Alternative Nobel Prize,” in 1986. (Survival International, June 17)
Last week, the Peruvian government ran an advertising campaign showing images of dead police officers with multiple spear wounds. This continued, even as one minister of García’s cabinet, Minister of Women’s Affairs Carmen Vildoso, resigned in protest. AIDESEP, which claims 350,000 followers, protested that the ads depict indigenous people as savage killers.
Maria Zavala, Peru’s representative to the Organization of American States, said June 9 in Washington that only nine Indians had died out of 34 deaths reported since the June 5 violence in the Amazon. She said the rest of the casualties were of police killed trying to restore order.
The official claim of 34 deaths including nine native people is in sharp contrast to as many as 40 deaths among indigenous rainforest inhabitants reported by AIDESEP after the June 5 violence. Independent human rights groups in Peru are investigating the possible disappearance of corpses at protest scenes in the Amazon.
Shapiom Noningo, the leader who has replaced Alberto Pizango as AIDESEP president, called on the government to stop criminalizing indigenous leaders. Pizango—who had been elected by all Amazon tribes as head Apu, or biggest chief—is wanted in Peru and has been granted asylum in Nicaragua. (Indian Country Today, June 15)
See our last post on Peru.