On Friday, June 5th, 2009 over 60 indigenous demonstrators and 20 police officers were killed in the province of Bagua in Peru. 600 police and helicopters fired live rounds of ammunition and tear gas into a peaceful blockade of a road leading into the Amazon and indigenous lands. Activists and people in the Bagua province have been protesting to protect their lands and natural resources from the opening up of the Amazon to private investment. Foreign companies are seeking opportunities for new oil reserves, biofuel plantation development, mining sites, and forestry. The Peruvian government, under the direction of President Andy Garcia, has passed a series of laws made possible by the passage of the Peru Free Trade Agreement with the US and Canada. In the past few days, the true nature of this “Free Trade” agreement and its devastating effects has been exposed. While running for president, Barack Obama supported the Peru Free Trade Agreement, saying it could be a model for renegotiating the Colombia FTA.
Gregor MacLennan, who is in Peru currently and works with Amazon Watch, stated on Democracy Now, “What the government did when it was given powers in the context of the free trade agreement was issue a series of laws that never went through congress, that were never consulted with indigenous people, that basically restructure land rights, taking away land from indigenous people, and allow land, rainforest, to be reclassified as agricultural land, basically opening legal loopholes for biofuel companies to move in with plantations, for oil companies and mining companies to be able to work in the area without the troublesome part of having to negotiate or speak to the local communities before using their lands.”
Indigenous leaders and demonstrators have been arrested, with one, Alberto Pizango, being forced to flee charges of sedition and seek asylum in Nicaragua. One protestor said, “We have carried on this fight for more than fifty-seven days. The government has killed our indigenous brothers in Bagua. If the government repeals the law, we will lift the strike. Our leader, Alberto Pizango, did not send armed men; it was the army.”
Demonstrators have said they will continue to hold blockades and prevent the government from encouraging the exploitation of their land, with a possible general strike planned for Thursday, June 11th.
For more updates, information, and background on the situation, please check out the articles below!
Peruvian Police Accused of Massacring Indigenous Protesters in Amazon Jungle, Democracy Now! June 8th
PERU: ‘Police Are Throwing Bodies in the River,’ Say Native Protesters, Inter Press Service, June 9th
Upside Down World, reporting on activism and politics in Latin America, has many updates including eyewitness accounts and photos
Up to date info and planned actions in Bagua
Peru: Battle Lines Drawn Over Amazon, an account and analysis
Blood at the Blockade: Peru’s Indigenous Uprising