After 16 years, Peru’s single-chamber Congress finally passed into law on May 19 the rights enshrined in International Labor Organization Convention 169, which commits nations to protecting indigenous and tribal peoples. In 1994 Peru ratified ILO Convention 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries, which establishes in article 6 the right of native peoples to be consulted on matters affecting their territories. In the intervening years, some 70% of the Peruvian Amazon has been opened to oil companies, and mining projects on indigenous lands have proliferated in the Andean sierras.
The Ley de Consulta Previa (Law of Prior Consultation) sets criteria for identifying indigenous peoples, and defines the stages that must be completed as part of the consultation process. In addition, it appoints the National Institute for the Development of Andean, Amazonian and Afro-Peruvian Peoples (INDEPA) as the government agency responsible for implementing and enforcing the law. One-third of Peru’s population of 28.7 million are indigenous people. There are 7,515 recognized indigenous communities, of which 6,067 are in the Andean highlands and 1,448 in the Amazon rainforest.
The law still awaits the signature of President Alan García. Indigenous organizations are vigorously supporting it, but the law has met opposition from the business sector. The president of the National Confederation of Private Business Associations (CONFIEP), Ricardo Briceño, said it is not entirely satisfactory because it does not expressly ban indigenous peoples from exercising the power of veto. (La Primera, Lima, June 8; IPS, June 1)