Peru: labor, rights groups condemn killing of Amazon protesters

On June 5 Peru’s largest labor confederation, the General Confederation of Peruvian Workers (CGTP), condemned what it called “the slaughter ordered by the government of President Alan García,” referring to the deaths of at least 20 police agents and indigenous protesters earlier that day when police tried to break up a demonstration blocking a road in Bagua province in the northern region of Amazonas. The CGTP called for Congress to repeal the decrees on drilling, mining and land rights that Amazonian indigenous groups had been protesting since April 9. The labor group had held a one-day national strike on May 26 to support the demands of the Amazonian indigenous group leading the protests, the Inter-Ethnic Association for Development of the Peruvian Forest (AIDESEP). (CGTP press release, June 5)

A June 5 statement by the Andean Coordinating Committee of Indigenous Organizations (CAOI) said “56 days of peaceful indigenous struggle and of supposed dialogues and negotiations…ended in the usual bullets, the same bullets as in more than 500 years of oppression.” The group, including organizations in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, called for indigenous people to hold sit-ins in front of Peruvian embassies and for United Nations agencies and international organizations like Amnesty International and the International Labor Organization to “send missions immediately to Peru to stop this violence and to see that indigenous rights are respected.” (CAOI statement, June 5 via Minga Informativa de Movimientos Sociales)

Colombian human rights and grassroots organizations planned a demonstration at the Peruvian embassy in Bogotá for the afternoon of June 8. Indigenous and other organizations in Mexico were to send an open letter to President García demanding the “cancellation of the international accords—like the FTA [Free Trade Agreement, TLC in Spanish]—that bring violence to the life of the Peruvian indigenous peoples.” The decrees the indigenous people oppose are part of a package intended to bring Peru into compliance with an FTA with the US that went into effect this year. On June 8 the London-based nonprofit Survival International called for petroleum companies to suspend their operations in the Amazon region until the situation is resolved. Peruvian organizations are planning a march in Lima on June 11 in solidarity with the indigenous protesters. (Adital, June 8)

Meanwhile, the Peruvian government may be using the events as a pretext for cracking down on opposition legislators in the Congress, which is dominated by García’s social democratic Peruvian Aprista Party (PAP). On June 6 Elizabeth León, vice president of the Congress’s Ethics Commission, said the commission would investigate whether there were grounds to take action against Congress members who had supported Alberto Pizango Chota, the AIDESEP president. Pizango reportedly went into hiding after the June killings. (24 Horas Libre, Peru, June 7)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, June 7

See our last post on the struggle in Peru