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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Les Indiens péruviens font plier Alan Garcia

by Cathy Ceibe

Peru’s President Alan Garcia Gives In to the Indians

Translated Friday 19 June 2009, by Isabelle Métral

Lima: Under pressure from social and indigenous protest movements the government repeals two decrees that were contested for allowing the dumping of the country’s natural resources.

The repeal of two of the nine contested decrees owing to pressure from the indigenous communities is no final guarrantee that the Amazon Basin’s natural resources will be protected against the dispositions of the free-trade treaty binding Peru to the US.

After a two-month head-on confrontation, dozens of people killed, a domestic political crisis and regional tensions, Alan Garcia was eventually forced to backtrack. Congress was expected last Monday to repeal two of the nine decrees contested by the indigenous communities, the trade-unions and the opposition.

For over two months, road and river blocks by Indians and demonstrations in the main towns had contested the substance of the dispositions that invited in foreign multinational companies (especially into the Amazon region) to exploit the country’s natural resources (its water, forest, fauna and flora) and grab most of its farmland.

Backtracking

On Monday, Prime Minister Yehude Simon officially announced that the government would backtrack. From Chanchamayo, in the central Andes, where he was meeting Indian chiefs, he offered his apologies for the victims of the violent clashes between Indians and the police in Bagua on June 5th, which killed at least 40 people (Peru’s Association for Human Rights says 61 are missing, 189 were wounded, and 133 arrested on the Indian side).

The prime minister (who said he was ready to offer his resignation), declared that the other decrees would also be examined by the National Joint Coordination for the Development of Amazonian Peoples, which the region’s communities will integrate, together with AIDESEP, an umbrella group of jungle-Indian peoples (the interethnic association for the development of the Peruvian forest), which until very recently the president had been throwing mud at, and whose emblematic leader Alberto Pizango, branded as a criminal, was forced to seek asylum at the Nicaraguan embassy.

The government’s about-turn, AIDESEP’s President Daysi Zapata pointed out, is the result of pressure from all Peruvians and the international community; UNO’s special reporter on human rights and on the fundamental rights of indigenous peoples was due in Lima on Tuesday.

Sharp tensions

This about-turn alone cannot dispel the unease. The lamentable management of the crisis has sparked sharp domestic tensions resulting in the resignation of Carmen Vildoso, minister for women’s affairs and social development over the government’s repressive decrees

At the regional level, Alan Garcia is now at odds with his Bolivian neighbour whom he accuses of fomenting the Indian rebellion. His ostensibly racist statements –“those 400 000 people (the Indians) are not first-class citizens who can talk in the name of 28 million Peruvians – and take us back to a primitive stage.”- offer few prospects of real negotiations over the conditions to be set for the exploitation of Peru’s natural resources in the interest and full respect of the communities and the environment.

Lastly, the repeal of decrees number 1090 and 1064, which were suspended after the Bagua massacre, does not defuse the logic that prevailed at their conception, namely the implementation of the free-trade treaty between Peru and the US. This treaty is quite disadvantageous to Peru, and like its twin brother, the US-Colombian treaty, delivers the Amazon Basin’s natural heritage over to the US on a silver platter.


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