By Eric Dechamp
There have been numerous protests throughout the world denouncing the sad events in Bagua. 34 –Comunidad Nuevo San Juan de la Libertad– from the highway to Yurimaguas "We do not want to end up as slaves of the big companies that will give us a few dollars, but that will destroy our communities, our rivers and forests. We want to decide what is good for we".
This is at least what comes out of the statements of the Government of Peru after the serious events of June 5 near the city of Bagua that caused dozens of deaths (police and civilians), hundreds of wounded and missing.
How did we get to this extreme? Why such confrontations between police and indigenous people?
In June 2008, without consultation or participation of native organizations, President Alan García has signed several decrees that allow the privatization of natural resources in the Amazon (1), violating international legislation on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Convention 169 of the ILO and the Universal Declaration of Indigenous Rights that was ratified in September 2007). Despite the fact that these decrees were declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court, the Ombudsman, and the Peoples, Ecology and Environment Commission (2), the Government continued to uphold them, provoking the ire of indigenous peoples.
They then began to cut the highways from April to express their disagreement with these so-called "anti-Amazonian" decrees. The Government responded by declaring a State of Siege… (3)
In its May letter addressed to the President of Peru, the Conference of Bishops of the Amazon in turn denounced the intentions to privatize the region and destroy the forests and also calls for the repeal of these decrees in search of a development model alternative, comprehensive and supportive. (4) Despite all these pressures and protests that have not weakened in all these months, President Alan García refuses to change course. He considers, when speaking of the natives, that "These people are not first-class citizens. What 400,000 natives can say to 28 million Peruvians: You have no right to come here ... No way. Whoever thinks this way wants to take us to irrationality and primitive retrogression, in the past. (5)
At dawn on June 5, despite the United Nations' warning 3 days before (6), Alan García sent the police commandos to break up the pickets that the indigenous people had erected on the Bagua route. According to many testimonies (7) in the place called "Devil's curve", the police opened fire on crowds of protesters. Mad with rage, the natives of the neighboring pickets responded with force, leading to a terrible battle ...
Who are responsible for these events? These young cops for obeying orders? The indigenous people full of pain and anger when they saw their own die? Or those who gave the orders for such a tragedy to happen?
The following day, the Government attacked indigenous organizations and their allies with force, declaring them guilty of the drama. According to some media, it was a premeditated police genocide plan. They announce about twenty deceased policemen as well as 3 natives (the official figures finally say 24 policemen and 10 civilians).
The testimonies of protesters are very different. Some speak of a massacre with more than a hundred dead; but that the Police made the bodies disappear by dumping them in the Marañón River. Difficult to verify, but the stories are moving ...
In the following week numerous arrests were made. The indigenous representative Alberto Pizango, leader of the AIDESEP Organization, is persecuted and takes refuge in the Nicaraguan Embassy where he receives asylum. Justice expresses its intention to request the confiscation of their property as well as their extradition. An arrest warrant is issued against other indigenous leaders who are accused by the prosecutor Silvia Sack for having extolled, in her press conference on May 15, "activities outside the law and thus subliminally incited violent actions so that their claims are heard and accepted ”(8).
NGOs and individuals who have supported indigenous organizations in their claims are also persecuted or receive threats and summons to appear before the courts. Some talk about how they were beaten and how they broke their cell phones and cameras. Congressmen who have gone on a hunger strike in solidarity with indigenous peoples are suspended from their functions ...
Where is the rule of law? Where is the separation of powers? Can we still speak of Democracy when freedom of expression is accused of terrorism? (9) As the writer Eduardo Galeano (10) recently pointed out: Are the residents of Atenco, in Mexico, or the indigenous Mapuche of Chile, or the Kekchíes of Guatemala, or the landless peasants of Brazil, all accused of terrorism for defending their right to land? If the land is sacred, even if the law does not say so, are not those who defend it also sacred?
There have been numerous protests throughout the world denouncing the sad events in Bagua (11). On the other hand, important mobilizations of support are carried out in many cities of the country, bringing together not only indigenous and peasants, but also merchants, teachers, students, employees, in short, a mixed population that dreams of another future than the domination of large multinationals. We want to decide what is good for us. "
Tarapoto, Peru - June 2009
Latest news: On this morning of June 19, the first pages of all the country's newspapers announce: "The Government recognizes its mistakes", "The victory of the Amazonian natives", "The Congress repeals Decrees 1064 and 1090" .
It is a fact: Decree 1064 - Legal regime for the use of land for agricultural use - Decree 1090 - Forestry and wildlife law - were annulled.
But although the Government admits some errors, it speaks mainly of the manipulation of external agitators and that the most important thing should not be forgotten: saving Peru from the international financial crisis ...
1) Decrees 994, 1020, 1064, 1080, 1089 and 1090 that allow the sale of land, oil and mining exploitation, deforestation and large transgenic monocultures.
2) Unconstitutionality: http://www.tc.gob.pe/
Report on the facts and offensive aspects of legislative decrees 1090 and 1064
Commission of Andean, Amazonian, Afro-Peruvian Peoples, Environment and Ecology
3) Chronology of an announced massacre:
5) Alan García's words about indigenous people: These people are not first class citizens: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjzxl1lBswc
6) Statement by the President of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) - Victoria Tauli Corpuz - 06/02/2009
7) Testimonials: http://www.servindi.org/actualidad/12552
8) "La Republica" newspaper on Saturday 06/13/09
9) European countries can also experience these drifts as for example is the case DHKP-C in Belgium
(10) Eduardo Galeano: http://www.pagina12.com.ar/diario/contratapa/13-124547-2009-05-08.html
(11) Rejections in the world to what happened in Peru: