Thursday, 10 September 2009

Peruvian Cited for “Most Racist Article of the Year”

LONDON – A column in the Peruvian daily El Correo that appeared to suggest the use of napalm against Amazon Indians was cited Wednesday by indigenous-rights watchdog Survival International as the most racist article of 2009.

“I don’t know what keeps the president from providing the air force with all the napalm necessary,” Andres Bedoya Ugarteche concludes in a June 13 piece that followed a police crackdown on Indian protesters.

The writer referred to the Amazon Indians involved in the protests as the “same people who perfected the art of shrinking the heads of their enemies and wearing them on the belts holding up their loincloths.”

“If the ‘natives’ didn’t shrink the heads of the policemen they killed (in the protests) and eat their remains, it was only because there wasn’t time,” Bedoya wrote.

He complained that the “savages” and “Palaeolithics” maintain that “oil – which belongs to all Peruvians – shouldn’t be exploited if it lies under what they call ‘their’ land. What a cheek! They’re against logging for the same reason.”

Bedoya also ridiculed three indigenous congresswomen as “the three starlets of the parliamentary sewers.”

Survival cited Bedoya’s column as part of its Stamp it Out campaign, “which aims to challenge racist descriptions of indigenous peoples in the world’s media.”

The London-based group plans to send Bedoya a certificate inscribed with a quotation from Lakota Sioux author Luther Standing Bear: “All the years of calling the Indian a savage has never made him one.”

Peru’s Congress voted overwhelmingly in late June to repeal two laws that sparked two months of protests by Amazon Indians in which as many as 85 people may have lost their lives.

The laws gave Lima the power to grant mining, logging and drilling concessions on Indian lands without consulting residents.

Starting April 9, indigenous people opposed to the legislation disrupted transport links and seized control of oil-industry installations, effectively shutting down a pipeline that carries crude oil from the Amazon interior to Peru’s northern coast.

The dispute became violent on June 5, when police used force to evict the protesters from a key highway near Bagua.

President Alan Garcia’s government said 24 police and nine Indians died. Aidesep, the indigenous peoples’ association that organized the protests, put the death toll among the protesters at between 30 and 40, and a leading Peruvian human rights organization said that 61 people remained missing in the wake of the violence. EFE

Republished from the Latin American Herald Tribune

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