The UK-based advocacy group Survival International has published an eyewitness account of the killings in the Peruvian Amazon that caused shockwaves around the world. The report contains dramatic photos by two Belgians, Marijke Deleu and Thomas Quirynen, who were caught up in the June 5 police attack on the roadblock in Bagua province and were themselves shot at.
The report, “Death at Devil’s Bend: an eyewitness account” provides a dramatic narrative of the day’s events, which ended with a large number of people, both police officers and indigenous protesters, dead. (The exact numbers are still unclear.) The incident has been described as “the Amazon’s Tiananmen.”
The photographers, now on a tour of the UK, said in a statement: “We saw people being shot before our eyes, and we were ourselves shot at. Whilst it is clear that policemen were sometimes targets, the overwhelming majority of the victims we saw were indigenous people, and other protesters who came out to support them.”
Stephen Corry of Survival added: “This report shows, in shocking detail, what happens when Amazon Indians try and defend their lands. Peru’s police reacted with overwhelming force and brutality. Even the president is promoting a racist reaction by calling the Indians ‘savages’. This incident will be seared into the memories of Indians for decades. Only a proper inquiry, and prosecutions where appropriate, might lessen the immense damage already done. The underlying problem must also be addressed. Are oil company interests more valuable than human rights?” (Survival International, June 19)
See our last post on the struggle in Peru.