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My partner Cassie and I recently launched a blog, Cusco Running Club, to share our thoughts as we spend the summer traveling in Peru exploring the social and psychological aspects of global warming in the region.

Some of our posts may be of interest to Kossacks who follow the impact of climate change on people and ecosystems in the developing world. We thought we'd start with this post Cassie wrote earlier this evening on a Peruvian law empowering police to use deadly force to protect the interests of private corporations against environmental protesters.

Follow the detailed story below the orange alpaca turd.

(also posted at Cusco Running Club)

On June 5th, 2009, a peaceful protest along a highway in Northern Perú ended in massacre: over 20 people died and more than 170 were injured, primarily indigenous people from the Awajún and Wampís tribes. They were protesting several laws that had been passed as part of the 2007 US-Perú Free Trade Agreement, opening up Indigenous lands to corporate mining and deforestation. They had reached an agreement to clear their roadblock by noon that day. The shooting began at 7:00 a.m.
"The Peruvian Government is allowing mining exploration works in our territory with the intention of authorising exploitation activities, despite the area is ecologically vulnerable and contains several basin headwaters situated in the high mountainous areas, from which water resources descend and on which our Awajún and Wampís communities depend for their survival and physical and cultural reproduction. The situation is urgent and extremely serious, which threaten seriously, imminently and irreversibly our rights to life, to health, to ethnic identity and to free self-determination."

A wholly-not-shocking yet disturbing revelation from Wikileaks reveals that the Massacre of Bagua was directly influenced, and encouraged, by the US State Department and the US Embassy in Lima.

“Should Congress and [Peruvian] President Garcia give in to the pressure, there would be implications for the recently implemented Peru-US Free Trade Agreement,” said one cable, days before the killings. Laying blame for the protests on "radical actors" and "highly ideological... NGO's," the U.S. Embassy cable stated that the standoff was getting worse because "the government's reluctance to use force to clear roads and blockades is contributing to the impression that the communities have broader support than they actually do." A cable shortly after the massacre had begun dryly notes that "the increasingly confrontational protests was finally resolved in favor of action. The consequences, however, are worse than anyone anticipated."
As we pass the 5th anniversary of "The Amazon's Tiananmen," dozens of indigenous protesters are finally being brought to trial under what Amnesty International has labeled questionable and trumped up charges. What's worse, a recent law passed partially in response to the protests gives soldiers and police amnesty from prosecution if they injure or kill someone while on duty. As Front Line Defenders outlined in their June 2014 report, "Environmental Rights Defenders at Risk in Peru," Human Rights Defenders and environmental activists already face frivolous lawsuits, intimidation, harassment and violence; now mining companies can call in the police and army to act as private security, to “prevent, detect and neutralise threats." And when a peaceful protester is neutralized, they have no legal protections.

You can read more about what's happening through this terrific summary by The Guardian as well as this blog created by the tribes fighting for their freedom, rights, and land. And if you're interested in the history and impacts of Trade Agreements on the poorest populations in Perú, here's a great summary.

Happy 4th of July, everyone. Freedom from Tyranny.

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Comment Preferences

  •  9 of the 20 killed were cops, right? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sky Net

    The protestors don't sound so peaceful.

    •  Not after security forces opened fire... (0+ / 0-)

      ...on several thousand protestors, many women and children, hours before they'd agreed to clear the road. The actual numbers of dead and injured indigenous people haven't been clearly established. Many protestors (some say "hundreds"... but the proof isn't there) are still missing.

  •  Not seeing it (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    johnny wurster, jencke, VClib

    There isn't anything in this diary about what a trade agreement has to do with the Peruvian government's rules on where mining companies can operate.  It's also a pretty weak argument that an internal cable on the protests means Peru's reaction was "directly influenced and encouraged" by the US.  You haven't made your case.

    Cynicism is what passes for insight among the mediocre.

    by Sky Net on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 04:50:16 AM PDT

    •  You're right... (0+ / 0-)

      The specifics of how the trade agreement had an impact on these people aren't in Cassie's post. She may want to add those details. Here's a recent article from The Hill that paints a clearer picture of what was going on.

      Generally speaking, the stakes are high for both sides. Foreign extractive industries in Peru have been exacting heavy tolls on the health and environments of indigenous peoples. At the same time, those industries have been employing the poor and contributing to Peru's economic growth over the past decade. Again, the specifics of that dilemma are probably better suited for another blog post.

      Thanks for keeping us honest!

      •  Unfortunately (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        The article you link to just has the same unsubstantiated allegations, which makes me suspect even more there's really nothing behind it.  Someone needs to cite chapter and verse in the agreement where it requires mining in specific areas of Peru.  Same goes for the cable.  One would think that if the US were encouraging Peru to take a particular action that the report would have mentioned it.  Instead it just looks like straight reporting of the situation.

        Cynicism is what passes for insight among the mediocre.

        by Sky Net on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 08:34:46 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Nobody's claiming that the US-Peru FTA required... (0+ / 0-)

          ..mining in specific areas of Peru. The point is that Peruvian President Alan Garcia explicitly and publicly maintained that protected Amazonian lands should be opened up to foreign investment by foreign gas, oil, and mining interests, and that the economic opportunity was being wasted by obstructive indigenous peoples (who by Peruvian law have to be consulted before any developments on their land can be pursued).

          President Garcia pursued the FTA to build a political case for Amazonian development, and on Dec. 20, 2007 the Peruvian Congress published Law 29157, which delegated legislative powers to the Executive branch on various subjects related to the Peru-U.S. Trade Promotion Agreement and to support improvements in economic competitiveness. Indigenous groups saw this for what it attempt to circumvent their right to consultation and to express their concerns about those investments. That's what triggered the protests.

          The US State Department and Embassy didn't dictate the situation on the ground.... that certainly isn't our claim. The point is that they supported ("influenced") President Garcia taking a forceful response, with a clear interest to support the investments of US companies in the Amazon, despite the harms those investments would cause the people protesting. This isn't a particularly controversial claim to make.

          I can't explain in greater depth than that. More details (though likely not enough to satisfy you) are here.

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