Peru: land decrees overturned in victory for indigenous movement

Indigenous groups in Peru have called off protests after two controversial laws, decreed by President Alan García to implement a free trade agreement with the US, were revoked by the country’s Congress in an 82-12 vote late June 18. “This is an historic day for indigenous people because it shows that our demands and our battles were just,” said Daysi Zapata, vice president of AIDESEP, the Amazonian indigenous alliance that led the protests.

Following the repeal of legislative decress 1090 and 1064, Zapata struck a conciliatory tone. “After so many confrontations between our leaders and the government, I believe the time has come for both of us to sit down at the dialogue table,” she said.

García acknowledged in a televised speech the day before the vote that his government had committed a “series of errors” by not including indigenous groups in discussions over the decrees before he issued them. But other disputed decrees issued by García remain in effect, raising the possibility of continued protests.

Despite AIDESEP calling an official end to the protest campaign, it remains to be seen if all the roadblocks will be disbanded. Indigenous groups blocked the key Tarapoto-Yurimaguas road connecting northern Pacific ports with Brazil told the Los Angeles Times earlier in the week that they wanted several other decrees signed by García in the last year revoked before they reopen the road. However, after the vote, Pio Inuma Canchari, leader of the Achawi Native Confederation, told Peru’s RPP Noticias the blockade would be suspended as a good faith gesture.

Congressman Freddy Otarola of the opposition Peruvian Nationalist Party told reporters after the vote that seven other García decrees are “unconstitutional” and should be revoked. He also said he would seek a vote for the “censure” of García’s Prime Minister Yehude Sinom and Interior Minister Mercedes Cabanillas for their roles in provoking the crisis.

The repeal of the offending decrees has not led to the demobilization of protests that have for several days paralyzed the southern Andean province of Andahuaylas, Apurímac region, where campesinos have blocked roads and occupied the airport, both in solidarity with AIDESEP and to press their own demands for better services, such as paved roads, improved schools and completion of an irrigation canal. In the local pueblo of Huancarama, some 1,000 protesters June 17 seized the mayor, Carlos Cavero of García’s ruling APRA, and other town officials, accusing them of not supporting the strike, and of failure to implement promised development projects. The officials were freed after Prime Minister Simon agreed to visit Andahuaylas and meet with strike leaders. (NYT, LAT, BBC News, El Comercio, Lima, RPP Noticias, Peru, 24 Horas Libre, 24 Horas Libre, Peru, June 19; Correo, Lima, June 18; RPP Noticias, June 17)

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