Monday, 27 July 2009

Indigenous Communities Angered by Peru Environment Minister

Indigenous communities from the Peruvian Amazon are angry over recent comments from Peru’s environment minister that Pluspetrol’s Lote 8 on the Corrientes river, is a “shining example” of how oil projects can benefit local communities.

The only thing “shining” in Lote 8, as evidenced in the photograph attached, is coming from the four major oil spills that have occurred in the region, just this year.

The spills were witnessed by FECONACO, the Federation of Native Communities of the Corrientes, who runs an environmental monitoring project in Corrientes.

As a result of the spills, FECONACO explains in a press release dated July 24, local communities and the environment are being forced to carry a toxic burden: water and food supplies are being diminished, “wildlife is being contaminated and dying, and biodiversity is being wiped out.”

FECONACO wants the minister, one of the few ministers to retain their position after the recent violence in Bagua, to travel to the region and bare witness to the pollution of lote 8, and “speak to the people here to find out the truth.”

Indigenous Communities Angered by Peruvian Environment Minister

Iquitos, 24 July 2009 – Indigenous communities in the Amazon jungle have been angered by recent statements by Peru’s environment minister, Antonio Brack Egg. In an interview with the newspaper El Comercio, Brack stated that petrol exploitation is having minimal environmental impact. He also referenced Pluspetrol’s Lote 8, on the Corrientes river, as an extraction site which was not causing contamination and was having a positive impact on the nearby communities.

In fact, the monitoring project run in Corrientes by FECONACO (the Federation of Native Communities of the Corrientes) has evidence of four major oil spills in Lote 8 in the first half of 2009.

Wilson Sandy Hualinga, indigenous coordinator of the monitoring project, said, “I see these things because I live there, in the community of San Cristóbal in Lote 8. The oil spills pollute the rivers and ecosystems. The fishermen in these areas are finding less fish and developing unknown diseases. Wildlife is being contaminated and dying, and biodiversity is being wiped out.”

“We know our territory, because we were born and raised there. We also know how petrol companies work, how they cheat and hide from the authorities. Antonio Brack should come and speak to the people here to find out the truth.”

Antonio Brack Egg was one of few ministers to retain their position in a major cabinet reshuffle designed to restore confidence in the Peruvian government. In recent months Peru has been shaken by a series of events, most notably the violent conflicts in Bagua between indigenous protesters and police which resulted in at least 34 deaths.

FECONACO represents indigenous communities on the Corrientes river, a major oil production region of Peru.

FECONACO’s monitoring programme has run since 2005, training indigenous people to record evidence of pollution in and around their communities, with the aim of improving the environmental practices of oil companies working in the area.

Republished from Intercontinental Cry

Peru's Fujimori sentenced to 7.5 years in prison for corruption

Alejandra del Palacio

LIMA, July 20 (Xinhua) -- Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori was sentenced on Monday to seven and a half years in jail on charges of embezzling 15 million U.S. dollars from state funds to pay his intelligence chief.

This is the third conviction Fujimori has received since he returned to Peru from exile in 2007.

Fujimori, who ruled the country from 1990 to 2000, has previously received a penalty of 25 years in prison for violation of human rights, and a six-year imprisonment for abuse of power.

So far, Fujimori, 70, will have to spend a maximum of 25 years behind bars, as prison sentences are served concurrently in Peru.

Fujimori exiled himself to Japan in 2000 after his government collapsed after corruption scandals. He was arrested in Chile and was extradited to Peru in 2007.


Fujimori acknowledged in court that he had paid 15 million dollars to his intelligence chief Vladimiro Montesinos, but refused to accept any legal responsibility, saying he made the payment because Montesinos was then planning a coup against him.

"I was obligated to do it because the stability of the country was at risk ... given the total control that ex-adviser Vladimiro Montesinos had over the military leadership," Fujimori said.

In 2007, Fujimori was accused of having ordered an illegal raid on the home of Montesino's wife. He was convicted of abusing power and sentenced to six years in jail.

In April this year, Fujimori was sentenced to 25 years in prison for authorizing death squads that killed 25 civilians in two bloodbaths in 1991 and 1992, as well as ordering the kidnapping of a businessman and a journalist in 1992.

Fujimori still faces another trial on charges of authorizing illegal phone tappings and congressional bribes, and using state funds to purchase a TV station to air political propaganda.


Fujimori had ruled Peru for 10 years before his dramatic resignation in 2000 after a corruption scandal involving his administration was exposed.

During his first term from 1990 to 1995, Fujimori ambitiously launched neoliberal reforms and privatization campaigns to revive the country's lagging economy. At the end of 1994, Peru's economy reported a world-leading growth rate of 13 percent.

Facing difficulties in combating the guerilla Sendero Luminoso, Fujimori carried out a coup of his own government in 1992, whereby he shut down the Congress and suspended the constitution.

Polls at that time showed the coup was largely welcomed by the public, although it was condemned by the Organization of American States (OAS) and other countries.

In 1995, Fujimori won a second term with almost two thirds of the votes.

According to the Peruvian Constitution in 1993, the presidency was limited to two terms. However, the Congress passed a law to allow Fujimori to run for a third term.

Fujimori won the 2000 elections with a bare majority. However, his standing was hurt by a corruption scandal in September that year when a cable TV channel broadcast a video showing Montesinos bribing an opposition congressman.

Fujimori's popularity collapsed and he escaped to Japan, from where he sent his resignation in Novermber 2000.

Fujimori has been credited by many Peruvians for ending the fight with guerilla Sendero Luminoso, although his controversial iron hand methods such as granting the military broad powers to arrest suspected rebels, were widely criticized.

Under his rule, Peru's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by a total of 44.6 percent from 1992 to 2001, or an average of 3.76 percent per year.

The country also managed to reduce the national malnutrition index by about 29 percent from the period 1990-1992 to 1997-1999, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

Despite a raft of accusations against Fujimori, his daughter Keiko Fujimori, who will run for president in 2011, maintains roughly a 20 percent lead in opinion polls.

Keiko, an opposition legislator, said she wants to win the election to clear the accusations against her father.

Republished from Xinhua

Peru's Army continues recruiting minors

Isabel Guerra

Reportedly, Peru's Army keeps on recruit minors despite claiming this practice has ended, according to several media Peruvian media.

Both Coordinadora Nacional de Radio and La Republica report the case of a 16 year old soldier, who was one of the casualties registered last week due to the accidental explosion of a grenade.

One of the injured soldiers is also under age.

According to the newspapers, the Ombudsman has asked the Prosecutor's Office to investigate these events, that add up to several complaints of illegal and sometimes forced recruitment of minors.

Peru's Defense Minister, Antero Flores Araoz, acknowledged last May (after a similar incident) that it is possible that “minors who have no documents enroll the Army by giving false information about their age,” as a way to get “ousing, clothes and free food.”

Reùblished from LivinginPeru

Friday, 24 July 2009

The ‘Disappeared’ in Peru

Derek Wall of Another Green World reports on the victims of Peru’s war against the indigenous people of the Amazon region of Bagua.

I am just reading ‘Los Companeros’ or ‘Comrades.’ ’Los Companeros’ is about the war in Guatamala in the 1960s, ten of thousands of indigenous people ‘disappeared.’ Well it;s 2009 and indigenous people are still disappearing in Latin America, in fact in many parts of the world they are being killed.

Just had this. Let people know, Alan Garcia’s government will kill, if killing gets oil companies contracts.

The people who protect the world’s rainforest are killed….we must stop the killing

* * * * *

Here are the names of us missing and we believe killed after the massacre at Bagua ….. the fear is that the media will collude with the powerful and refuse to investiage these disappearances …. the indigenous in the Amazonas region of Peru have asked that the names are spread through the web.

Eber Quispe Vásquez, Lorenzo Castillo Abad, Arcadio Peña López, Jovino Urbi Carrillo, Benito Soro Orrega, Saúl Wachapa, Cenepo Auarpa, Tiberio Nansh, Elmer, Kuja, Luis Manuel Usha, Rubén Wauhapa, Marga Reátegui, Savaría Timias, Eloy Ismiño, Eeraldo Mashianda, Suamut Fterpekit, Armanado Fterpekit, Pablo Yagkup, César Chumpi, Evelin, Leonardo y Rolando Kaje Kuja, Luis Jintach Esamat, Fidel Vilchez Tsejem, Grimaldo Najantai Kuja, Enrique Asangkay, Dasec, Nena Yagkug Nugkum, Wiles Nugtum Wilchez, Abercio Yagkum Vilchez, Amalia Sejekam Nugkum, David Yagkum, Artemio Yagkum Tsejem, Sicto Orechuela, Teófilo Baitag, Lazardo Asagkay, Delia Atamain, Liceth Yagkum, Nugkum, Saúl Pape Niumpataim, Pablo Sejekam Asangkay, Marcmino Agkuach, Julián Uwarai, Isaac Sabio, Silvanio Carlos, Emilio Dawau, Segundo Sabio, Gilberto Sabio, Narciso Sabio, Virgilio Anag, Agustín Nankabai, Escequias Carlos, Santiago Yuub, Wasum Vuracusa, Ernesto Sejekam, Vícto Sejekam Kukush, Eugenio Segekam, Ernesto Esash

Where are they? They are not in the lists of injured or arrested.

The accounts of the burning corpses and helicopters throwing corpses into the jungle are now more credible.

We must not let the genocidal murder Alan Garcia continue, with the madness of bribery.

Some links


Thursday, 23 July 2009

Ollanda Humala: "Peru needs to change the relationship between the state and capital"

Interview by Gorka Castillo

The image projected by Ollanta Humala (born in Lima, 1963) is that of a reflective and qualified politician. At the leadership of the Nationalist Party, he is preparing to face the challenge of reaching the presidency in 2011. His aim is to transform the current economic system in Peru.

What caused the outbreak of violence in the June 5 in the Amazon?

The violent confrontation between two visions of the country, on the one hand the government and certain sectors of the economy believe that the ownership of the Amazon territories does not belong to the communities because they lack education and investment capacity. Moreover, they argue that we need to reinforce the export matrix to create value, that is to say, the sale of natural resources. Against this view are the original peoples who claim ownership of a territory in which they have lived for longer than the existence of the Republic itself.

What is your position on this crisis?

We believe that the correct way to create value in this area is through a process of industrialization of the country that serves development, not only to growth. In the Amazon, investment must respect the property of the communities living there, it must respect the environment and allow the participation of residents as partners.

But the indigenous worldview is complex. In Ecuador, President Correa also has problems.

We have been working here a long time to form an electoral alliance to govern. That is, we realize that we need the cooperation of social forces to carry out a process of nationalist transformation of the country.

Where would you begin?

We are talking about the re-foundation of the republic and a constituent assembly to re-define relations between the State and capital.

Do you think the dismissal of Prime Minister, Yehude Simon, and the appointment of Javier Velásquez will help defuse the tense situation?

It is a change of faces but not policy. A change in the cabinet resolves a crisis in government but not a crisis of the regime. The system of representation has collapsed in Peru because many people in the interior of the country do not trust their representatives because they are constantly swindled.

The protests are directed against the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the U.S. that Alan García promised not to sign as a candidate, but ended up signing.

Garcia also promised to rescue the democratic Constitution of 1979 and we continue with the [Constitution of Alberto] Fujimori, but with the aggravating circumstance that Garcia has expanded it with 99 legislative decrees, where it is left clear that the State claims no ownership of natural resources. Peru today grants the right to land to companies that extract gas, oil, gold and silver, ie to multinational capital that has the technology to do so. With the sale of these lands the communities go.

But the image Peru presents is that of a successful social-democratic model.

The model of Alan García has nothing social democratic about it. Growth is artificial because the benefits belong to the transnationals. The province of Cajamarca has the highest GDP of the country because it's Yanacocha mine, which provides half of gold production in Peru. However, it is the department with the third highest level of poverty.

How can Spain contribute to improve this situation?

For me, the efforts of the Spanish Government to be present in all forums in Latin America are positive. What I believe is lacking to complement this is to look at what its multinational companies are doing, that the concept of corporate social responsibility be applied. In this area there is plenty to do - above all, because if this improves, the relationship between communities and companies will be very smooth.

Should the current Constitution, drawn up by Fujimori, be abolished immediately?

Of course! It is a criminal Constitution, it was written by Vladimiro Montesinos, General Hermosa Ríos and Fujimori himself, all of them now in prison. But it also broadens an ultra-liberal model that has entrenched the subsidising of capital by the State, which is exhausted.

However, the daughter of Fujimori, today a legislator, heads the polls in popularity.

That’s true, although it is decreasing. But I would not rely on surveys two years out from presidential elections and we do not know who is paying for them.

You were also accused of violating human rights.

It is curious that before entering politics, I was a respected citizen, but once the presidential campaign started, there were eleven criminal proceedings on my back. I did not flee the country like Fujimori, nor like Alan Garcia. I decided to confront them, and came out acquitted of all them.

Alan García maintains the Act of Subjection, a pact signed between Fujimori and the armed forces to consecrate impunity for the military. The Army has so much power?

In 2001 I rose up against Fujimori for this act and denounced the high military officials for supporting this document. Generals who signed this aberration are still active.

Do you think that with the way things are in Latin America with the coup in Honduras that they will permit you to reach the presidency?

I realize that if we had a pro-system discourse, we would not have much trouble. I reaffirm my brotherhood with the processes of transformation that are occurring in Latin America. But the case of Honduras is creating an unfortunate precedent that could enshrine that the simple proposal of a constituent assembly can be a valid reason for a coup d’etat.

In Honduras the days pass and everything stays the same.

Exactly, and as long as there are politicians who call for arbitrators they will be validating an irregular situation. My question is: Will the U.S. administration take action to be consistent with their words?

Translated by Kiraz Janicke, republished from Spanish daily, Público

Justice for Santiago Manuin- OPEN LETTER TO ALAN GARCÍA

APRODEH – Peruvian Association for Human Rights

Dr. Alan García Pérez
President of the Republic of Peru

Through this letter, the citizens of the world, and Peruvians, who subscribe below, write to you to say that due to the disproportionate and violent police raid to evict the Indigenous peoples who were protesting in the town of Bagua, Amazonas, Santiago Manuin Valera,52 year-old Awajun indigenous leader, who at the time of the shooting was disarmed and calling for peace, was seriously injured.

Santiago Manuin, chief of the Apus of the five Cuencas de Maria de Nieva, is one of the most important leaders of the Aguaruna-Huambisa communities. A pacifist, a founder of the Jesuit Social Center SAIPE, he was also President of the Aguaruna-Huambisa Council (CAH) and a member of the struggle committee for the respect for indigenous peoples of the Province of Condorcanqui - Amazonas. Has been recognized internationally for his commitment to the environment and human rights.

On June 5, Santiago Manuin received 8 bullets from an AKM rifle all over his body. As a result of the disproportionate use of force by DINOES troops, the Awajun leader was taken to the Las Mercedes de Chiclayo hospital.

Despite this, last June 13, Judge of the First Criminal Court of Utcubamba, Francisco Miranda Caramutti ordered the search, location, capture and drive [through court order] No. 0610-09-1 of Santiago Manuin, for his responsibility in the clash in "The Devil's Curve", which killed dozens of people, including police and indigenous people. Given the trajectory of Manuin, it is surprising and offensive that they try to assign to him responsibility for the unfortunate death of the police.

In recent weeks, some authorities have pressed for this pacifist indigenous leader to be discharged [from hospital] and sent to jail, even though his health is delicate and requires medical attention. Manuin has 8 bullet holes in his body and a severe infection. As a result of the bullets, his colon is separated from his body and requires a prolonged and intense treatment. He is also diabetic, which complicates the healing of his wounds and requires further surgery. At the moment the doctors in the hospital have indicated that Manuin should not be discharged until he is fully restored.

In addition to the case of Santiago Manuin, there are other cases of leaders who face criminal proceedings, ongoing investigations and are subject to judicial prosecution, in an attempt to hold them, materially and intellectually responsible for various acts of violence. These include Alberto Pizango Chota, Saul Puerta Peña, deer Puerta Peña, Antazú Teresita Lopez, Marcial Mudarra Taki, Daysi Fasabi Zapata, Walter Kategari Iratsimery, Milton Silva, among other leaders, even though there are no valid elements that sustain the charges hanging over them.

In this regard, in the recent report on the events of Bagua and Utcubamba, the UN Special Rapporteur on the issue of Peoples, James Anaya, “reiterates his recommendation to revise the criminal charges against individuals and indigenous leaders, and urges the State to carefully justify future claims, given the special circumstances that arise in the alleged crimes and the need to create adequate conditions for dialogue.”

The Special Rapporteur also emphasized that “while recognizing the need to preserve public order and to investigate and punish those responsible for crimes and / or human rights violations, the resort to or use of the criminal proceedings should not be the ordinary way to deal with social unrest and protest, but should be applied as a last resort and should be limited strictly to the principle of urgent social necessity in a democratic society.”

We have no doubt that behind the arrest warrant against Santiago Manuin and other leaders, there are pressures that not only respond to a legal motivations, but also political motivations, which aim to criminalize social protest. Therefore, the citizens of the world, exercising our right and ethical duty to defend life and human rights against all types of abuse, ask through this open letter:

1.That investigations are initiated into the attempt on the life of Santiago Manuin Valera-ID 337600081, 52 years of age, and that the perpetrators and intellectual authors be punished.

2. That this Awajun leader be economically compensated, that an independent medical examination be carried out and that the State guarantees his safety and full recovery, assuming the costs of medical care for injuries suffered.

3. An end to the judicial harassment against Santiago Manuin, as well as other social leaders and effectively a change of the arrest order for a court appearance.

We reiterate our belief in the innocence of Santiago Manuin, to who we express all our solidarity.

To sign on to this statement email:
In the case of individuals, include the following information:
1) Name and Surname
2) Passport number
3) Country

In the case of organisations, please indicate:
1) Name of the organization
2) Country

You can also visit the following link:

And insert the following text:
El dirigente indígena Santiago Manuin recibió 8 impactos de bala, el 5 de junio, cuando intentaba frenar la violencia en Bagua. Hoy, el Poder Judicial ha ordenado su detención. Los derechos de nuestros hermanos de la amazonía deben ser respetados y sus demandas, escuchadas.
Ver Carta:

[The indigenous leader Santiago Manuin received 8 bullet wounds, on June 5, while trying to curb violence in Bagua. Today, the judiciary has ordered his arrest. The rights of our brothers in the Amazon must be respected and their demands heard.]
See open letter:

Please also send a copy to:

Monday, 20 July 2009

Peru's 'Cold War' Against Indigenous Peoples

Kristina Aiello

The recent conflict in the Peruvian Amazon is only the most violent symptom of an ongoing cold war being waged by President Alan García and his ruling Aprista party against indigenous groups. Besides a racist propaganda campaign and violent repression, the government has tried highly suspect legal mechanisms to disarticulate indigenous power.

Government propaganda is aimed at pushing a free market economic development model with a strong focus on trade and natural resource exploitation. García has issued a series of decrees required by the U.S.-Peru free trade agreement (FTA) to open up the Amazon to exploration and exploitation of its natural resources. A recent study shows García's initiative projects to concession off blocs covering up to 72 percent of Peru's Amazon to oil and gas companies.

In the process, the García administration has placed its free market ideology on a collision course with collective indigenous land and natural resource rights, which are protected under international law. But the plan backfired amid the government's response to opposition and its brutal repression of indigenous protestors. A recent poll found that 92 percent of Peruvians support the indigenous cause against the Amazon decrees.

The most despised of García's decrees were repealed. But the government has nonetheless continued a low-intensity conflict against Peru's indigenous groups. For García, a central tactic has involved trying to associate indigenous groups with Hugo Chávez and Evo Morales. In a recent statement, clearly alluding to his left-leaning rivals, García said, "Peru is living a cold war against foreign leaders."

But even before the violence broke out in the Amazon, the real cold war was the one being waged by García against Peru's indigenous peoples. The battle in the Amazon was the violent culmination of months of government harassment and low-intensity conflict. Despite stirring up intense opposition, García seems intent on pushing forward with his unpopular agenda.

The Propaganda War

Even prior to the formal implementation of the FTA with the United States last February, García was already laying down the foundation for his cold war. In October 2007, he penned an opinion piece titled "El syndrome del perro del hortelano," or the syndrome of the barnyard dog, for the Lima-based daily El Comercio. The title compares those advocating for the protection of the Amazon’s resources to a barnyard dog growling over food that it does not eat but will not let others have. Besides insinuating a racist comparison between indigenous peoples and dogs, García blamed his opponents – singling out indigenous – for standing in the way of Peru’s development via foreign capital.

Since Peru's congress ratified the FTA, García has twice faced off against Amazon indigenous groups over the natural resources in their territories. On both occasions – in August 2008 and the recent uprising in June – García's decrees sparked large public protests principally led by the Association for the Development of the Peruvian Amazon (Aidesep), Peru’s largest national organization of Amazonian indigenous communities. The President responded to both protests by suspending constitutional guarantees in the restive provinces and the mass deployment of security forces to the regions.

García also made statements intended to frighten Peruvians who have only recently begun to recover from twenty years of political violence. He evoked images of dangerous armed insurgents in an attempt to paint indigenous protests as part of a larger plot to destabilize the country. He resorted to the language of Peru's brutal civil war in which 75,000 people lost their lives by absurdly blaming the protests on "international communism."

A police general even blamed indigenous protestors for firing on a helicopter, an act that in reality occurred hundreds of miles of away in an incident with drug-funded Shining Path guerrillas, according to Ideele Magazine. The deliberate confusion of the two events was a clear attempt to draw correlations between the indigenous protests and the armed group that terrorized Peru for so many years.

'The Communist Threat'

The García administration made outlandish accusations that the main opposition party and the Bolivian and Venezuelan governments were behind the protests. And in an apparent attempt to weaken political opposition, one government-aligned leader of the Congressional Ethics Committee stated her intention to investigate whether sufficient evidence existed to take action against opposition legislators with ties to Alberto Pizango, Aidesep's President. The indigenous leader was recently forced to flee Peru after the government filed sedition and rebellion charges against him for the violence in Bagua, which was the epicenter of the most recent mobilizations.

García has portrayed the protests as part of a communist plot initiated by Venezuela and Bolivia, but he has publicly admitted to having no evidence for the accusation. Prime Minister Yehude Simon, who has been a key figure of the government's propaganda campaign, echoed the baseless charges. (Amid public pressure, Simon has since been replaced.) For Simon, it was all part of a vast conspiracy in which Bolivia and Venezuela were trying to weaken Peru's hydrocarbons industry in an effort to boost their own.

García has backed these accusations with actions. His administration recently launched an investigation into Aidesep by the Peruvian Agency for International Cooperation (APCI). The President modified APCI’s authority through a much-criticized 2006 statute that greatly enhanced governmental controls over the operations of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). This is the second time Aidesep is being investigated by the APCI.

The Legal Machinations

APCI’s mandate includes monitoring NGO projects and activities to ensure that they are in line with the government's own development goals – in the case of the García administration, free trade and the exploitation of natural resources. As part of this process, the agency requires NGOs receiving international funding and certain state benefits to register with the agency. The law also introduced new enforcement measures that allowed the agency to fine NGOs and even revoke their legal status, barring them from receiving outside funds for non-compliance with ACPI registration and government development directives. In a September 2007 opinion, a Peruvian high court declared parts of the law unconstitutional, but many of the stipulations introduced by García remain.

The timing of the investigations and statements made by APCI officials indicate strong political motivations. The first APCI investigation was launched in August 2008 during intense negotiations between indigenous protestors and the government. At that time, APCI executive director Carlos Pando advised NGOs to abstain from involving themselves in social conflicts because that went against the nature of their work. He expressed being concerned about the influence that certain NGOs had over indigenous communities by providing them with false information that often led them to protest government actions. He also warned them that these activities could lead to the cancellation of NGO's legal status. By the end of August, however, Congress repealed the controversial decrees and the APCI investigation concluded without result.

The second investigation was announced in May 2009 in the middle of the 60-day standoff in the Amazon. Its announcement sparked widespread condemnation by human rights groups angered by its apparent arbitrariness. Critics of the move noted that APCI was strictly barred from using its fiscal authority to threaten the daily workings of an NGO. They also asserted that the second APCI investigation appeared to violate governmental assurances of objectivity made during an October 2008 thematic hearing on the subject held at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington, D.C.

At the same time, the administration was trying to portray indigenous peoples as a threat to the country’s national security, García again labeled indigenous protesters as simple people who failed to understand the true purpose of the decrees opening up the jungle for resource extraction. He asserted that contrary to harming indigenous lands, the decrees were designed to actually protect the Amazon from coca producers, contamination from illegal mining and illegal logging. These assertions were repeated in proclamations published by Peruvian embassies abroad, likely in an attempt to quell the huge global recrimination of his government’s actions.

Local Media Complicity

The national Peruvian media, often accused of representing the interests of the politically and economically powerful, eagerly supported the racist stereotyping of indigenous peoples. Indigenous were routinely portrayed as uneducated or ill prepared and therefore not qualified to participate in any national debate over the future of their country.

A particularly egregious example was a front-page photo of indigenous congresswoman Hilaria Supa, a representative from Cuzco, that appeared in the April 17, 2009, edition of the Peruvian daily El Correo. The photo, published in the middle of the Spring protests, shows a close-up of her handwritten notes that were obviously presented to ridicule the native Quechua speaking congresswoman for her Spanish writing abilities.

The accompanying articles insinuated that congresswoman Supa’s limited Spanish skills were evidence of her lack of preparation for high office, something she only achieved, said the newspaper, because of racial politics. The articles attacking Supa’s credibility did not stop there. They also referenced her previous stands against the García administration’s aggressive free trade policies as examples of her “poor” work as a congresswoman. García echoed these same sentiments when he referred to indigenous protesters as "second-class citizens" who dared to block Peru’s progress.

García's Utter Failure

Despite all his efforts, García appears to have lost yet another battle in this long cold war against indigenous groups. Once again, the Peruvian Congress has decided to repeal the controversial Amazon decrees – an action García now states he supports in the name of national unity. But the cold war continues and could possibly intensify into open battle, as happened the last time the government provoked the indigenous to protest.

In late June, a congressional committee approved a bill that amends the APCI statute to again allow for broad governmental regulation of NGOs. The new bill allows for the agency to regulate funding from private foreign sources. The law also expressly prohibits NGOs from making any kind of statement that could incite violence – an incredibly broad standard that could be used to criminalize NGOs as well as impose limits on their right to the freedom of expression and association.

Rolando Souza, a congressional ally of disgraced and jailed former President Alberto Fujimori, used the Bagua violence as an example of why the government should monitor the foreign financing of local groups. Congressman Souza singled out Aidesep as the principle reason for the legislative action. Still, those making such arguments have not presented a shred of evidence to support the claim of any foreign involvement.

Meanwhile, a June poll found that García's approval rating has sunk to a meager 21 percent. Broad sections of Peruvian society continue to take to the streets in protest of the García administration’s policies. In Cuzco campesinos recently declared a general strike to protest the granting of mining concessions totaling 70 percent of their province. Protestors were also demanding the enactment of a new Water Resources Law that declares water a national resource with its usage regulated by the state. Again, the government sent in troops to remove the protestors, resulting in the death of a campesino.

The government also continues to face the repercussions of the events that occurred in Bagua. On July 10, the Peruvian Ombusdman's Office announced its investigation into the disappearance of Lewis Wassum, a member of an Amazon indigenous community. Wassum was last seen in a photograph published June 8 that showed him being led into a police station in handcuffs. The government and indigenous leaders have also agreed to initiate an investigation into the events in Bagua.

The question remains as to whether or not García will continue his cold war against the country's indigenous peoples. But one thing seems certain: His administration has refused to back down on its goal of extracting resources from the Amazon, whatever the consequences. Less than two weeks after the Bagua violence, which some rights groups have called the Amazon's Tiananmen, the government gave a green light to a French oil company to begin drilling for oil in an area of the Amazon inhabited by uncontacted indigenous groups.

Stephen Corry, the director of Survival International, which advocates for indigenous rights worldwide, said, "Anyone who hoped that the dreadful violence of the past few weeks might have made Peru’s government act with a bit more sensitivity towards the indigenous people of the Amazon will be really dismayed at this news."

Corry continued, "The timing couldn’t be worse – the government is trying to present a more friendly image in public, but as far as the oil companies are concerned, it looks like business as usual."

Kristina Aiello is a NACLA Research Associate and a human rights advocate.

Republished from NACLA.

Monday, 13 July 2009

The political tepidity of Alan García Pérez when faced with Honduras

Raul Weiner

In 1989, the United States conducted a violent occupation of the territory of Panama to arrest by military means the commander general of the Armed Forces of that country, Manuel Antonio Noriega accused of drug trafficking, after having had a long collaboration with the same character for years. In Lima, the young president Alan García Pérez planted a Panamanian flag in the courtyard of the Palace of Government and entoned the anthem of that country, in protest against the imperialist intervention. And on the initiative of the Peruvian government a coalition of Latin American governments was born, known as the Rio Group.

Twenty years later, anolder, fatter and more rightwing Garcia, has experienced once again from the Palace, an act equivalent to the brutal rape of democratic principles and political intervention of a sovereign country. This time it was the military coup in Honduras, carried out with special treachery by the oligarchy in combination with the Latin American right wing and state sectors and the policy of United States. But now the president does not say anything on this very serious event.

The Peruvian government has simply regretted the interruption of democracy in Honduras and expressed their hope for a speedy return to normalcy, and has carefully avoided directly demanding the restitution of President Zelaya in his position and an end to the coup government. This tepidity has contrasted with the positions taken by other governments expressed in the OAS and the UN, where condemnation of the coup has been unanimous and decisive. None of the Peruvian spokespeople in international forums have stood out for their speech.

Meanwhile, APRA leaders who have spoken verbally or in writing to the subject, have been less ambiguous by placing the emphasis on developments on the supposed Chavista responsibility in the political crisis in Honduras, which has dragged the President Zelaya to confront sectors which are defined as "democratic" but do not hesitate to organize and carry out a coup. Formally the government deplores that the constitution has been violated, politically the ruling party blames the victim and third countries, for what happened, and the most loquacious president on the planet has lost his tongue specifically on this topic.

Translated by Kiraz Janicke. Republished from Raul Weiner's Blog

Peruvian President changes almost half his cabinet


Lima, July 12. In the midst of growing social protests and confrontations with the indigenous peoples of the Amazon, Peruvian president Alan Garcia, announced today changes to part of his ministerial cabinet. He replaced figures allied with the centre-left and took refuge in more conservative sectors.

Alan García changed six of fifteen of his immediate collaborators, beginning with the cabinet chief, centre-leftist, Yehude Simon, who was replaced by Javier Velásquez, legislator from the governing APRA party, who has presided over congress until now.

Interior minister Mercedes Cabanillas also left the government as well as Antero Flores Araoz the defense minister, two officials severely questioned due to the repression launched against the various protests that cover almost the entire territory.

This is the second time that, forced by a political crisis, Alan Garcia has changed part of his cabinet. In October 2008, then cabinet chief Jorge del Castillo and his collaborators resigned in block, alter the press released recordings revealing corruption in the negotiation of contracts with the State.

Del Castillo was then replace by Simon, governor of the Lambayeque region and former left deputy, who in the 90s was imprisoned for his presumed links with the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement.

Social protests multiplied throughout the entire country

The growth of social protests related to the lack of employment, low salaries, the establishment of laws that threatened land rights and natural resources of the Andean and Amazonian indigenous communities, as well as environmental demands from peoples affected by mining, prompting the government to impose a firm hand before before giving attention to the demands.

A report by the Ombudsman said that in June there were 273 social conflicts throughout the country and in October 2008, when Simon took over the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, 189.

It was because of a social conflict that Garcia had to change the Simon’s cabinet. It was specifically, the violent eviction, on June 5, by a contingent of policemen, of the indigenous people and residents in the Amazonian town of Bagua, who were protesting against the so-called laws of the jungle.

The clash ended with the deaths of at least 33 people, but the announcement of the resignation of Simon’s cabinet has not pacified mobilizations. Over the days 7, 8 and 9 July, union and social groups and opposition parties staged a strike that was concentrated in the southern Andes and the Amazon jungle. This time the capital of the country was not the main stage.

Against this background, Alan García has used an active member of the governing party to recompose his cabinet.

Velásquez has been a legislator since 1995 and has held positions of importance in the leadership of APRA, of which he has been a member since 1980, five years before Garcia's first government (1985-1990).

His presidency of the Congress, which he has held since July 2008, has been questioned. In fact, he refused to repeal the laws that led to the revolt of the indigenous Amazonian and punished seven legislators from the opposition who went on hunger strike in support of the natives.

For Garcia, the social conflicts are incited, encouraged or manipulated by individuals supposedly financed by the political movement led by the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez.

Just before installing the new cabinet, Alan García referred to the increasingly active ideological conflict in South America, in allusion to Chavez's supposed interference.

Translated by Kiraz Janicke. Republished from La Jornada

Peru: Social movement confidence grows

Karl Cosser, Lima

Street protests and blockades occurred throughout Peru on July 8, in the middle of a three day strike against the neoliberal policies of President Alan Garcia.

The protests follow on from the intense struggle for the Amazon — between indigenous communities and multinational corporations supported by the government. Although this struggle has been very hard on the indigenous communities, including an unknown death toll at the hands of security forces, it is a great example of what can be achieved with great effort and solidarity.

Through relentless struggle, the Garcia government’s decrees, which allowed oil and gas giants to exploit the resources in the Amazon on indigenous land, were repealed.

I witnessed an example of this struggle at a June 11 demonstration of about 15,000 in Lima in solidarity with the Amazon indigenous people. The protest included various unions, student groups and even a left-wing Christian group which considers Jesus Christ the first revolutionary.

There was a lot of energy and passion as we marched through the streets of Lima chanting “la selva no se vende” (the jungle is not for sale). Banners and graffiti on the way called Garcia an assassin for the massacre that occurred in Bagua, a town in the Amazon region.

The demonstration reached a fever pitch as it approached the police blockade several blocks from Congress and the presidential palace. The percussion from the Amazonian indigenous contingent grew more intense.

The police then violently repressed the demonstration, firing rubber bullets and tear gas at the crowd. They assaulted demonstrators with batons.

The attack was indiscriminate. Protesters as old as 70 were badly affected by tear gas, having difficulty breathing.

In self-defence, some demonstrators responded with sticks and stones, which the police threw back at the crowd. One molotov cocktail was thrown.

Most people ran from the repression — possibly remembering with fear the massacre in the Amazon.

However, once the tear gas cleared, many returned to the police barricades to continue the protest in solidarity with many other demonstrations and blockades occurring across Peru that day against the decrees.

Two days later, there was a “pro-democracy rally” in support of Garcia. The right-wing demonstration was escorted by police past Congress — facing no repression whatsoever.

The hypocrisy of “promoting democracy” by supporting such a brutally repressive government is ridiculously obvious.

The private media in Peru are supporting the government. It repeats police reports that the nine civilians and 11 police were killed at Bagua.

However, it has been independently reported that many more people are still missing and more than 150 civilians were injured — mostly by bullets.

One survivor of the Bagua massacre was treated for eight bullet wounds. He and many others were shot at while running away from police.

In the face of such repression, through relentless struggle involving many strikes, blockades and demonstrations, the movement forced the government to repeal the pro-corporate decrees.

This is an example to the rest of the world what can be achieved through people power — including for the struggles of Indigenous people in Australia.

The confidence gained by this victory is increasingly obvious as protests and blockades against other neoliberal polices continue across the country. The July 8 national day of protests and strikes is just the latest.

The demands of the July 8 demonstrations included: ending the criminalisation of social protests; the reinstatement of seven Congresspeople from left-nationalist Ollanta Humala’s Peruvian Nationalist Party suspended for staging a protest in Congress against the decrees; respect for the right of self-determination of indigenous communities; sacking Prime Minister Yehude Simon and the rest of the cabinet; and granting the demands of the transport workers’ union to repeal an increase in traffic fines.

In Lima, various contingents held their own protests, occupying several streets, before converging on the Dos de Mayo Plaza.

The various contingents included members of the General Confederation of Peruvian Workers (CGTP), transport workers unions, the teachers union, an indigenous contingent, students and various social and political organisations.

The protest, about 8000-strong, was downplayed by the mainstream newspaper Peru 21. The paper featured an aerial photograph of the plaza on its front page taken after several contingents had already marched off.

The shot was almost certainly taken from the police helicopter that circled above the crowd, demonstrating the use of police resources for political propaganda.

Days before, masked police union members announced that they would go on strike, partially over the police deaths at Bagua. They refused to give a date for their strike for “security reasons”.

Unfortunately, the police turned up for work on July 8, along with the armed forces.

Protesters carried banners featuring caricatures of Garcia as a vampire with the victims of the Bagua massacre in his arms. There were many indigenous Tahuantinsuyu flags with the mosaic of colours representing the solidarity between the many indigenous groups of the Amazon.

After several speeches, including by Humala demanding the sacking of Garcia’s cabinet, protesters began marching towards central Lima.

Demonstrators were divided several times within just a few blocks by the extraordinary numbers of riot police armed with batons, shields, grappling hooks, tear gas bombs and guns. Police carried automatic weapons with live rounds and rubber bullets.

There were also water cannon trucks and mounted police — although the inability of the police to control the horses proved more entertaining than anything else for the demonstrators.

Protesters defended themselves against police attempts to break the demonstration up, managing to break through police lines a few times before the sheer numbers of police broke up the protest into several groups.

Towards the end of the protest, a small number of young people engaged in passive resistance. Police chased them through the streets of Lima, with the protesters outnumbered by 10-1.

Then, for no reason, police fired tear gas at the demonstrators. This affected everyone nearby, including shopkeepers with nothing to do with the protest.

By resorting to putting the military on the streets to repress protests, the Garcia government reveals itself to be on the ropes.

As it continues to deny people’s right to social protest, the protest movement continues to grow in strength — building on solidarity between unions, indigenous peoples, campesinos (peasants), students and many other sectors.

Republished from Green Left Weekly

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Peru: "Scandalous" rates of maternal mortality says Amnesty-new report

Amnesty International

Hundreds of poor, rural and Indigenous pregnant women in Peru are dying because they are effectively being denied the same health services other women in the country receive, Amnesty International concluded in a new report today (9 July).

The report 'Fatal Flaws: Barriers to Maternal Health in Peru' explored the high levels of maternal mortality amongst poor and Indigenous women in rural Peru and evaluates the impact of recent government policies designed to tackle the problem.

Peru has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the Americas. According to official figures, 185 women die for every 100,000 live births in Peru. The United Nations puts the number even higher at 240. Most of these are rural, poor and Indigenous women.

Amnesty International's Peru Researcher Nuria Garcia said:

'The rates of maternal mortality in Peru are scandalous. The fact that so many women are dying from preventable causes is a human rights violation. The Peruvian state is simply ignoring its obligation to provide adequate maternal healthcare to all women, regardless of who they are and where they live.'

Amnesty International's report highlights that pregnant women in Peru die because they face a number of barriers, including: lack of access to emergency obstetric care, unavailability of information on maternal health and lack of health staff who can speak Indigenous languages.

According to the 2007 National Census of Indigenous Peoples, nearly 60 per cent of the communities covered by the census did not have access to a health facility.

Nuria Garcia continued:

'Health services for pregnant women in Peru are like a lottery: if you are poor and Indigenous, the chances are you will always lose.'

Amnesty International met one man who spoke about how his mother died in childbirth nine years ago. From Ccarhuacc, one of the poorest areas in Peru, the mother of José Meneses Salazar avoided going to check-ups out of fear that the staff would treat her badly. When she went into labour, the midwife at the nearest health post was on leave, so relatives delivered the baby themselves. After the baby was born, the placenta did not come out and they did not know what to do. Two hours later the mother died. The baby girl survived.

Amnesty International's report also assessed the impact of a number of government policies aimed at reducing the rates of maternal mortality, including the increase of maternal waiting houses - rooms where women who live a long way from health centres can stay before the birth - greater promotion of the vertical birth method common among Indigenous women in Peru and implementation of Quechua language teaching for health professionals.

While welcoming the new initiatives, women and health professionals consulted by Amnesty International in Peru complained they are not being effectively implemented and questioned their real impact.

Amnesty International found that even though the number of waiting houses has risen more than threefold in the last eight years, only half of them are in rural areas, where women most need of emergency obstetric care.

Women and local civil society organisations have told Amnesty International that training for health professionals on the vertical birth methods is not sufficiently widespread. According to Peru's Human Rights Ombudsperson, more than 45 per cent of health staff last year said they had not received appropriate training.

Although there have been government initiatives to provide Quechua training to health professionals, its use is not widespread and many women from Indigenous communities whose first language is not Spanish cannot communicate with them.

Nuria Garcia said:

'Official initiatives to reduce maternal mortality are good news. However, lack of clear responsibilities for implementing them and the absence of effective resourcing and monitoring puts any initiative in great jeopardy.'

Amnesty International urged the Peruvian authorities to allocate resources to maternal mortality and reproductive health care in a way that prioritises regions with the highest mortality ratios in order to ensure that all women have equal access to access emergency obstetric care in case of complications during birth. It also recommended an increase in training for health professionals and the provision of Indigenous language support in all health centres.

Read Amnesty’s report: ‘Fatal Flaws’

Protests, blockades and strikes against the policies of Alan García

AFP, DPA, Reuters

Lima, July 8 – Thousands of workers marched today in Peru to demand changes in the economic policy of the government after stopping work and joining a day of protest that includes regional strikes and blockades of highways – one day after president Alan Garcia announced he would name a new ministerial cabinet under pressure from social conflicts.

Garcia faced the biggest protests in June with the mobilization of indigenous peoples from the Amazon in rejection of his policies of exploiting the land of the traditional owners, that resulted in the death of 24 police and 10 Indians [independent reports put the deaths of indigenous protestors at closer to 40 and scores disappeared] and forced the government to retreat on this policy and repeal the laws that favored the transnationals.

Meanwhile, it has been reported that the government of Nicaragua has granted political asylum to Servando and Saúl Puerta Peña, indigenous leaders who sought refuge in the Nicaraguan embassy in Lima on Monday.

Currently throughout the country 226 active social conflicts exist, according to the Ombudsman. Transport workers and teachers stopped work this Wednesday and joined the march of the General Confederation of Peruvian Workers (CGPT) – the biggest union federation in the country – during which it was reported some parts of Lima were blockaded and then cleared by the police.

In total 156 people were arrested for blocking arterial roads in Lima and other cities, where they also burned tyres, police general Miguel Hidalgo said.

Interior minister Mercedes Cabanillas said that some 32 thousand police and 6 thousand soldiers had been deployed to oversee order in the country. Police and soldiers guarded plazas, public companies, strategic routes, bridges, bus stations and some airports throughout the country.

However, the authorities said the strike was weaker in Lima and recognized that in the interior of the country there would be some problems.

A sector of transport workers began a 48-hour strike on a national scale that partially affected activities in the capital, but was felt much more strongly in the provinces according to police reports.

What is necessary is a change in the economic policy of the country to reduce poverty and generate employment, not just a change in personnel declared Mario Huamán, president of the CGTP, which convoked the marches.

School activities also remained paralyzed by a national 24-hour strike decreed by the United Union of Education Workers (SUTEP), and respected by some 300 thousand state teachers according to the union.

In addition a second day of a 72-hour strike in various regions of the country was carried out.

In the south Andean city of Cusco, where there were some violent clashes, the Peru Rail company, suspended trains to Machu Picchu, the principle tourist attraction to the country, as a measure of protection for foreign tourists.

Protesters also blocked roads in Cusco, as in Puno, Arequipa, Ayacucho, Huancavelica and Apurímac, as well as in the northern cities of Tumbes and Chiclayo, in the north Andean city of Hauraz and in Pucallpam (northeast), where there were attempts at looting stores.

Translated by Kiraz Janicke, Republished from La Jornada