WikiLeaks cables reveal US fear of indigenous movements in Andes

A diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks sheds light on why the United States opposed passage of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Jan. 28, 2008 cable, from the US embassy in La Paz and entitled “Bolivia: Repercussions of UN DRIP,” states: “Although most indigenous leaders seem to view the UN Declaration as a ‘feel good’ document that will give them more inclusion in the public sector, some leaders are citing the Declaration in support of concrete aims like self-governance and control over land and resources. Post will watch for further developments, particularly with regards to property rights and potential sovereignty or self-rule issues.”

The cable was written by Washington’s then-ambassador Phillip Goldberg. President Evo Morales expelled Goldberg in September of 2008, accusing him of spying and attempting to divide the country. The US denied the allegations. Goldberg is now US assistant secretary of state for Research and Intelligence.

In previous diplomatic cables exposed by Wikileaks, Washington threatened Iceland over its relations with the US if the island nation supported the UN declaration. Other cables revealed that the US undertook a campaign to dissuade Ecuador from voting in favor of the declaration.

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the General Assembly on Sept. 13, 2007. The United States was the last country to signal support—giving only “provisional support” in 2010. The US was preceded by Canada, which also gave provisional support. (Censored News, Sept. 8)

Another released cable, entitled “‘Evo Morales is Our President’: The Anti-System Project,” was sent from the embassy in Lima to the State Department on June 26, 2009. This cable warned of “the anti-system movement” in several South American countries, including Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador, stating that this trend threatened “the pro-growth model.”

Despite Peru’s recent “economic success,” the cable stated, “anti-system radicals” could take “political advantage” of the “persistent endemic poverty and social inequality, the absence of state from large swaths of national territory, and clumsy, sometimes jarring public action when the state does intervene…to undermine Peru’s progress, weaken the government and lay the groundwork for a more systematic assault on the pro-growth model. Public and private statements by the diverse and not necessarily unified leaders of the anti-system movement paint a compelling portrait of their real aims, which can be summarized in the words of one Peruvian indigenous leader that ‘Evo Morales is our President.’ Foreign participation in this anti-system movement, including from Bolivia, is real but maybe not as central as some analysts maintain.”

The “jarring action” referred to was presumably the June 2009 Bagua massacre, in which National Police opened fire on indigenous Awajún (Aguaruna) protesters, who were blocking a road in Peru’s Amazonas region. The incident sparked a general uprising throughout Peru’s eastern lowland rainforest.

While the embassy cable described Peru as “a regional good news story,” citing its “sustained, solid economic growth, burgeoning trade and foreign investment,” it also warned: “If poverty rates have fallen to below 40 percent, a politically significant number of Peruvians continue to live in precarious conditions with close to 20 percent of the population at or near subsistence level.” (Indian Country Today, Sept. 13)

WikiLeaks revelations became an issue in Peru’s presidential elections earlier this year.

See our last posts on Bolivia and Peru, and the WikiLeaks scandals.

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