Peru: violence and protest sweep Amazon regions

On March 1, National Police opened fire on a roadblock being maintained by small-scale independent miners on the Interoceanic Highway being built through Peru’s Amazon region of Madre de Dios. The roadblock, between the regional capital Puerto Maldonado and the town of Mazuco, had been launched the previous day by some 2,000 miners and indigenous supporters to protest a campaign by military troops against unlicensed gold-mining operations in the region. The local Miners Federation (FEDEMIN) said the police fired without provocation, and that four miners were killed and 15 gravely wounded. The National Police said officers were “forced” to open fire when the protesters began ransacking trucks backed up at the roadblock, that only two were killed, and that several police officers were among the wounded.

FEDEMIN president Florentino Sucso said that mining camps and dredges had been bombarded from the air in the crackdown that sparked the protest, and the government has acknowledged that the Air Force was involved in the operation. After the deadly highway incident, FEDEMIN leaders met for talks with Peru’s Environment Minister Antonio Brack in Puerto Maldonado. After the meeting, Brack said the crackdown would be suspended to give miners an opportunity to register with the government. FEDEMIN and the regional indigenous alliance FENAMAD have called for an indefinite strike until Urgent Decree 012-2010, ordering the crackdown, is formally overturned. (Con Nuestro Peru, March 3; RTTNews, Living in Peru, March 2; FEDEMIN statement via Wauqi, March 1)

Last month, trade unions and social organizations in Peru’s principal Amazon riverport of Iquitos, Loreto region, shut down the city in a strike, blocking streets in massive marches carrying torches and black flags, to demand the government declare a state of emergency over an outbreak of dengue fever. By official figures, 14 died in the outbreak, and protesters charged that the government’s response was insufficient. (La Republica, Lima, Feb. 9)

World War 4 Report sources in Iquitos report widespread rumors both that government funds for mosquito eradication were pocketed by corrupt local administrators, contributing to the outbreak, and that the death toll has been grossly underestimated, with the true figure in the scores or possibly hundreds.

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

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