Peru: indigenous occupy Amazon airfield

On the morning of April 16 at least 200 indigenous Yashínanka and Yines occupied the airport in Atalaya, capital of Atalaya province, Ucayali region, in Peru’s Amazonian area. The Inter-Ethnic Association for Development of the Peruvian Forest (AIDESEP) had been leading a strike since April 13 (or earlier, according to one source) around demands for the repair of environmental damage and for an end to illegal cutting and to the granting of land for mining and oil drilling without consultation with the local communities. The protesters also demanded that the government drop the proposed Law 840/2006, known as the “Law of the Forest,” which would increase private investment in the development of state-owned forests.

AIDESEP vice president Daysi Zapata Fasabi said Prime Minister Yehude Simon had promised to hold a dialogue with the indigenous groups on April 16, but the government announced on April 13 that the meeting was postponed until April 20. “The government is laughing at the indigenous people,” she told the media. “We’ve been disrespected again.” The occupation of the airport was said to be disrupting operations by the Repsol, Pluspetrol and Petrobras oil companies since it kept employees from reaching the companies’ camps. AIDESEP leaders said 1,350 indigenous communities supported the strike, which could escalate to include the blockage of rivers like the Urubamba if the government doesn’t pay attention to the demands. (El Comercio, Peru, April 16; La Primera, Peru, April 17; La República, Peru, April 20)

According to a report released in March by the government’s Office of the Ombudsperson (the Defensoría del Pueblo), during the past year conflicts over mining and drilling have grown to make up 49% of the country’s social conflicts; 13% were over local government issues and 9% concerned labor issues. Sociologist Nelson Manrique says the increase in conflicts about environmental issues resulted both from the government’s style of encouraging development and from a growing awareness of the issue in the population. He predicted that these conflicts would continue but that labor disputes would increase sharply over the next few months because of the economic crisis affecting Peru. (Adital, April 17 from Ecoportal)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, April 19

See our last posts on the Peru and the struggle for the Amazon.