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Twenty to thirty Peruvian indigenous people were shot dead from helicopters by Peruvian government forces.  The Peruvian government has started enforcing rules established by the Peru free trade agreement that went into effect in February. The agreement gives multinational oil companies access to Peruvian oil and other natural resources. Oil and mineral rights were taken from the native people without fair compensation by the state. The traditional land owners protested the stealing of their resources and the destruction of their land by blocking roads. Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

These protests came after years of destruction of the Amazon rain forest, toxic waste dumping and human rights abuses by oil companies.

Please take action to stop the massacres and save the Amazon.

The United States – Peru Trade Promotion Agreement is a bilateral free trade agreement between the United States and Peru, signed on April 12, 2006 that was implemented on February 1, 2009 (Wikipedia). The Peru free trade agreement, promoted by the Bush administration, is now bearing fruit, just like NAFTA did in Mexico .

By 2003, 1.3 million Mexican peasants had lost their livelihoods because of NAFTA. Many of the displaced farmers came north in search of work. Mexican migration to the U.S. increased an estimated 75 percent in the five years after the trade agreement took effect.

Elites in the Mexican and Peruvian governments have made agreements with multinational corporations that enrich the elites while impoverishing the native people and taking their natural resources. NAFTA  caused a war between the native people of Chiapas and the Mexican government. Now, the Peru free trade agreement is starting a war between the Peruvian elite and the indigenous people of the Peruvian Amazon.

I'm writing this right now from Peru after having taken part in a 5 day Indigenous Peoples Summit held in Puno, Peru in the high Andes. At that gathering we heard from representatives, including Alberto Pizango, elected representative of the Peruvian Amazonian peoples, about the ongoing protests they were waging, and the repression faced as a result, from their opposition to some of the plans the Peruvian government has for 'developing' the Amazon region and opening it for oil, mineral, logging, and agricultural exploitation, on the homelands of many Indigenous communities. In response, there have been over 50 days of continuous protest, shutting down parts of the Amazon and the Andes.

This morning, the situation took a turn for the worst. The government reacted by sending in police to violently remove the protesters, with different reports claiming as many as 20, 30, or more lives lost in the violent fight that erupted. The protesters had been sleeping at a roadblock maintained over the past few weeks when helicopters arrived and shot at people below, according to witnesses and local journalists. The government has also put out an arrest warrant for Pizango, who spoke today in Lima, for instigating the violence, as if to pretend the intense anger and frustration isn't coming out of the communities themselves. This is not how World Environment Day should be celebrated.

The government has recently signed a number of free trade agreements, including with the US and Canada, and has been seeking to change their domestic laws to encourage foreign investment in the Amazonian region, for the benefit of those companies and the central government in Lima. Many of those new laws have been ruled unconstitutional, and have been in violation of Indigenous Peoples' rights to Free, Prior and Informed Consent, as well as participation in decision making, rights affirmed by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. They threaten the fundamental rights of the Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon, and cannot be allowed to go through.

Please take action. Send a message to the president of Peru.

Tell the Peruvian Government:

  1. Immediately suspend violent repression of indigenous protests and the State of Emergency
  2. Repeal the Free Trade Laws that allow oil, logging, and agricultural corporations easy entry into indigenous territories
  3. Respect indigenous peoples' constitutionally guaranteed rights to self-determination, to their ancestral territories, and to prior consultation
  4. Enter into good faith process of dialogue with indigenous peoples to resolve this conflict

The International Federation of Human Rights has backed the protesters. The protests were non violent until the government attacked.

Protesters from a movement of 65 indigenous groups had declared an "insurgency" against the government for refusing to repeal the laws that threaten their ancestral land and resources. They later withdrew their decision.

The indigenous groups were backed by the International Federation of Human Rights, which groups 155 human rights organizations from around the world.

It called on Peru to rescind the decrees because of the government's failure to consult indigenous peoples.

Government officials acknowledge that the country's indigenous groups have historically been marginalized, but insist that Peru's constitution makes the state the owner of the country's mineral wealth.

Please help. The people of the Amazon and the rain forests need your help.

Update

The New York Times writes that 9 detainees (hostages) taken by the indigenous protesters died in the battle. How they died and who killed them is unclear. What is clear is that the protesters had reason to expect a brutal attack. Hostage (detainee) taking has traditionally been a means of trying to prevent attack by a more powerful opponent.

A maneuver here in Congress sparked the clashes between protesters and the police, after lawmakers blocked an effort Thursday to allow debate on one of Mr. García’s most polemical decrees, which would open as much as 60 percent of Peru’s jungles to oil exploration and other extractive investments.

Ollanta Humala, a nationalist political leader and a former lieutenant colonel in Peru’s army who was defeated by Mr. García in the most recent presidential elections, has sided with the protesters, lambasting the use of use of force against the Indians and raising his profile ahead of the next elections in 2011.

Meanwhile, the climbing body count in the rain forest, along with unconfirmed reports that the number of Indians killed could be higher, threatens to deplete the legitimacy of Mr. García’s government. Mr. García, 60, is still hounded by claims of human rights violations from his first term as president in the 1980s, when soldiers suppressed a prison rebellion in 1986, killing more than 100 inmates suspected of being Maoist guerrillas.

Expanded oil leases will devastate the people and the land of the Peruvian Amazon. Over 70% of Peru's Amazon is being opened to development.  That development would damage or destroy the land for conservation, traditional agriculture and subsistence hunting. Death in the Amazon

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An excellent paper published in August 2008 by Dr. Matt Finer and collaborators, Oil and gas Projects in the Western Amazon: Threats to Wilderness, biodiversity and Indigenous Peoples, predicted that "environmental and social impacts are likely to intensify without improved policies" regarding the way that Amazonian governments conduct resource extraction. Yesterday, we witnessed the authors’ predictions come true when a number of indigenous civilians and police died as a result of violent clashes over oil and human rights in northern Peru. Indigenous people in Peru have been protesting the Garcia government’s newly created laws that favor and facilitate rapid oil and natural gas extraction in Amazonian Peru. Many of the oil and gas concessions that the government has granted overlap with areas already protected for wildlife and indigenous groups (see Finer et al. 2008 for a detailed account). A number of international news agencies are reporting on this violent conflict, though the victims and perpetrators of the clash change depending on the source. Regardless of exactly who did what, we know that indigenous people of Peru and other Amazonian countries, in addition to the incredible biodiversity of western Amazonia, are facing huge threats on many fronts. The incident that transpired yesterday, on June 5, 2009, is foreshadowing the occurrence of increasingly violent and large-scaled confrontations that will plague all nations as they battle to preserve their own cultures and feed their own mouths, while extracting the Earth’s remaining resources to then sell to the rich.

Originally posted to FishOutofWater on Sat Jun 06, 2009 at 08:15 PM PDT.

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