Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Peru: Violence Targets Anti-Mining Activists

By Jennifer Moore
December 7, 2009 - On Wednesday afternoon, Vicente Robledo Ramírez, aged 55 and father of eight children, and Castulo Correa Huayama, aged 36 and father of six, were shot dead in a confrontation with national police. Another six campesinos were wounded and two detained. The police report that they also sustained several wounded, but further details have not been released.

Over the weekend, a reported 2,000 campesinos turned out to mourn the death of the men in the remote rural province of Huancabamba where campesinos have been opposing a Chinese and UK owned mine for the last six years. The Rio Blanco project is principally owned by the Chinese Zijin Consortium together with the UK's Monterrico Metals.

Juan Amancio Romero, son of Vicente, asked authorities “to investigate what took place and to respect the decisions of the people who don't want the mine to continue in the area, nor a NGO [believed to be closely linked to the company] or police.”

The Front for the Sustainable Development of the Northern Border of Peru (FDSFNP by its initials in Spanish) also called for further investigation and reiterated “its will to dialogue” with the government.

The incident brings the death toll in the area to seven. On Nov. 1, two security guards and the mine site manager were killed in an armed attack by unidentified perpetrators at the Rio Blanco mining camp, now the subject of reserved investigations involving national police. Also, in 2004 and 2005, two campesinos were killed as result of repression against protests.

According to the People's Ombudsman (Defensoria del Pueblo), police report that the deaths last week took place after they detained a man in the area of the community of Cajas-Canchaque. The regional police chief Walter Rivera said that the detention was part of investigations into the November attack on the mine camp and that those implicated in this prior incident had been refusing to cooperate. President Servando Aponte of the campesino community challenged the police version saying that officers acted “arrogantly” and that when they entered the home of Lorenzo Rojas to detain him that his neighbours came out in his defence because there was no official warrant for his detention.

For the last six years, the Rio Blanco project, a proposed open-pit copper and molybdenum mine, has generated opposition from campesino communities on whose land it would be located given potential impacts on water supplies and agricultural activities taking place within the watershed. As a result, the company has never obtained the two-thirds approval from local assemblies that it is required to have by law in order to operate in the area. On Sept. 16, 2007, three rural districts in Huancabamba and Ayabaca participated a popular referendum and reaffirmed their opposition to the mine in which a majority voted against any mining activity in the area.

Earlier attempts at dialogue broke down because of government refusal to discuss the results of the 2007 referendum. Since then, around 300 local leaders have faced legal processes believed to be a means of political persecution for their role in the referendum. Most recently, tensions have risen following the Nov. 1 attack on the mining camp for which it is believed that those opposed to the mine are being principally targeted as part of investigations by national police.

Javier Jahncke of the Ecumenical Foundation for Development and Peace (Fedepaz), whose organization is part of a national network that promotes the sustainable use of natural resources and the rights of rural and indigenous communities, says they have concluded that police are leading investigations into the November incident “with a single hypothesis in which they assume that the campesinos were the authors of the crime.”

The day following the attack the FDSFNP, a coalition of local community leaders opposed to the mine, expressed its condolences for the deaths and urged that thorough investigations take place. According to the Peru Support Group, the UK company Monterrico Metals was also “quick to distance itself from any accusations blaming local community groups for this latest violence and indeed thanked local communities for the help they showed the mine camp's employees who escaped the attack.”

However, Jahncke is concerned that police have set aside other possible explanations for the attack to focus on the possible involvement of the mine's opponents. He suggests other theories, such that Rio Blanco's workers might have been killed as part of an attempted robbery or that there was a dispute among workers that led to reprisals, are being ignored. He notes that they have not been privy to evidence being considered as part of investigations since they have been reserved by police.

A congresswoman from the northwestern department of Piura has also received testimonies that police have detained and tortured people in local communities as part of efforts to gain confessions concerning the attack.

Jahncke further questions the timing of the recent violence given that a judge in the English High Court has only recently upheld an injunction to freeze the assets of Monterrico Metals saying that 29 men and women from Piura have a “good arguable case” against the company for allegations of abuses which took place at the Rio Blanco mine site in 2005.

“This lawsuit has seriously affected the image of the company Monterrico Metals,” says Jahncke, “and by extension, Zijin.” This raises questions in his mind about the recent violence and how it is being dealt with “because of who is being affected by this situation, and if it isn't the same campesinos that have been resorting to international channels to be able to be heard since such a process has not begun in their own country.”

Fears of Militarization

As a result, Jahncke sees last week's violence as part of a “clear effort at any cost” to make way for the mine. He fears that by creating the public perception of a rural population that is “unmanageable” and “violent” that the state will be able to “justify the militarization of this area.”

Only days after the November attack on the mining camp, Peruvian Prime Minister Velásquez Quesquén indicated that the government was evaluating the possibility of installing a military base in the area. The General Manager Jian Wu of the principal stakeholder in the Rio Blanco project, the Chinese Zijin Consortium, was present at the meeting.

However, says Jahncke, “These conflicts cannot be resolved with the military protecting the company operations. This will just put more fuel on the fire and generate more conflict... For this to go ahead would be the worst thing possible.”

Overall, he is concerned that the government continues to favour the company's presence “over the property rights of the communities.”

He concludes, “Until this situation is seen as the rights of some being preferred over the rights of others, in a situation that is not legal, and in which rights have been violated for a long time, the problem will not be solved and you will see decisions that will collide with community rights and the conflict will continue to grow, which is what we least want and what hopefully the state least wants to see happen as well.”

Republished from UpsideDownWorld

Friday, 27 November 2009

Peru’s Workers Confederation Rejects Fake Elections in Honduras

Prensa CGTP

In the face of the Peruvian government's decision to recognize the results of the Honduran elections taking place next Sunday 29 promoted by the coup makes, the General Confederation of Workers of Peru (CGTP) condemned the decision of President Garcia that affects the image of Peru and justifies the interruption of democratic life in a nation through the intervention of the armed forces, an ominous precedent for the entire region and the world.

Despite the struggle of the Honduran people and the fact that their legitimate President, Manuel Zelaya is in the country, granted sanctury in the Brazilian embassy to demand his restitution, neoliberal-leaning governments like ours (as well as Colombia and the U.S.) with their decision to recognize an election rigged by the coup, legitimize the ongoing violation of human rights and the usurpation of legitimate authority by a minority sector groups allied to economic powers.

The CGTP appeals to social organizations in the country to be alert to the actions that the APRA government might carry out in order to maintain the current economic system in our country, taking into account the implementation of the upcoming elections. President Garcia's conduct in relation to what happened in Honduras demonstrates his disregard for democracy and its authoritarian stance against the demands of change raised by the peoples of the region who reject the neoliberal model advocated by APRA.

The CGTP expresses its solidarity with the people of Honduras and urges them to maintain the resistance to achieve the restoration of democracy and respect for the rule of law.

Translated by Kiraz Janicke

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Peru: Hunt Oil Contract to Reignite Amazon Uprising?

Bill Weinberg

After the indigenous uprising in Peru's Amazon region in June, the country is in many ways fundamentally changed. For the first time, indigenous leaders from the rainforest are in direct dialogue with the highest levels of government. For the first time, a powerful alliance has emerged between rainforest peoples, highland campesinos, and urban workers, who joined in the protest campaign. The days when Lima's political elite could treat the rainforest as an internal colony seem definitively over.

Yet there has been a high price in human lives, and only the most controversial of President Alan García's legislative decrees, which triggered the uprising, have been overturned. These decrees-promulgated under special powers granted to García by Peru's congress in 2008 to ready the country for the new U.S. free trade agreement-would undo a generation of progress in protecting indigenous territorial rights in the rainforest, opening indigenous lands to oil drilling, logging, and other forms of resource extraction as never before.

The southern Amazon region of Madre de Dios was the scene of considerable unrest during the past two years' worth of protests. In early July 2008, regional government offices in Puerto Maldonado, the regional capital of Madre de Dios, were occupied for three days. The city was paralyzed as the Native Federation of the Río Madre de Dios (FENAMAD), an indigenous Amazonian organization, joined the regional campesino union in launching the general strike. Campesino demands for land titles were united with indigenous demands for territorial rights, while federations representing small miners, Brazil-nut harvesters, Puerto Maldonado moto-taxi drivers, and other sectors also joined the strike, uniting in an Alliance of Federations.

Then the regional government offices were burned down. It remains unclear who was responsible, but indigenous protesters were accused. More than a year later, the burned-out shell of the building still stands, its walls scrawled with graffiti. The words have been painted over in an attempt to obscure them, but they are still readable: "La tierra es del pueblo" (The land is the people's) and "No se vende, se defiende" (We don't sell out, we defend ourselves). Some 25 were arrested, and Jorge Payaba, a former president of FENAMAD, was beaten and hospitalized. His successor, Antonio Iviche, went into hiding for several days before the charges against him were dropped.

Now it appears that an indigenous pledge to physically resist the operations of Dallas-based Hunt Oil on communal rainforest lands could reignite the uprising. In what is shaping up as an important test case, Hunt Oil is opening trails in preparation for seismic exploration within an indigenous reserve in Madre de Dios.

Hunt signed a contract with Peru's government to explore within Lot 76 in 2006 and later brought in the Spanish firm Repsol as a half-partner in the project. The lot overlaps with much of the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve as well as 16 titled native communities-including those 10 that are adjacent to the reserve and jointly responsible for managing it with the national government. Hunt's exploration work calls for 18 seismic lines with 20,000 detonation points across the southern part of the reserve. This work is to be serviced by 166 mobile camps with heliports, as well a main base camp. FENAMAD said these activities are to take place in the most sensitive part of the reserve, near the headwaters of the rivers that flow into the Río Madre de Dios.

FENAMAD's Iviche, a traditional Harakmbut leader, said the oil project threatens the forests and waters of the reserve, which was established in 2002 for the use of local Harakmbut, Yine, and Matsigenka communities.

"Our communities have decided not to allow these activities in the communal reserve," Iviche said, charging that Hunt is operating without the consent of the area's native inhabitants, most of whom oppose the oil company's presence. "They have never consulted with the communities." Failing to adequately consult indigenous communities on land-use issues in their territories is a violation of both international standards and Peru's constitution.

The Amarakaeri reserve was created following years of petitioning by FENAMAD-and a march in April 2002 by some 1,000 indigenous people in Puerto Maldonado. Each of the 10 communities bordering the reserve has its own range within it for hunting and gathering, but indigenous residents cannot enter the zonas silvestres, or wild zones-yet this is where Hunt is now operating.

Additionally, Lot 76 borders (or nearly borders, separated by a strip barely two thirds of a mile wide) two national parks. On the north, it borders, and slightly overlaps with, a State Reserve for Peoples in Voluntary Isolation. This was created along with the Amarakaeri reserve to protect "uncontacted" Matsigenka bands believed to be living in this zone.

On September 9, FENAMAD sought an injunction against Hunt's exploration work before the Madre de Dios Superior Court of Justice, the equivalent of a local district court. Said FENAMAD secretary Jaime Corisepa: "We have to attack on every level, using the courts, but we are ready to defend our territory physically."

In 2007, Hunt began holding "information workshops" at FENAMAD's offices in Puerto Maldonado and at some of the communities bordering the reserve. Corisepa denies these were consultations, saying the company representatives were just "announcing what they were going to do."

One community, Shintuya, has signed an agreement with Hunt to accept $30,000 in compensation for allowing the company access to its titled lands. There is a dispute as to whether the community approved this decision by the two-thirds vote required under Peruvian law.

FENAMAD said Hunt is required at a minimum to compensate the two communities whose lands it seeks to enter-Shintuya and Puerto Luz, at the eastern and western ends of the seismic lines, respectively-and the Amarakaeri reserve's governing council, known as the Administrative Contract Executive (ECA). Hunt has no deal with Puerto Luz, and a tentative deal with the ECA is now in question.

"Laws are being systematically ignored by the company and the government," Corisepa charges. "The Peruvian state has a hydrocarbon policy that violates the rights of indigenous communities. This is what the Amazon uprising was about."


At a September 13 meeting at FENAMAD's Puerto Maldonado office, leaders from the 10 communities bordering the Amarakaeri reserve met privately to hash out their position, then invited three Hunt Oil representatives to receive their declaration. The atmosphere in the small thatched-roof conference room was tense.

Three communities, Shintuya, Puerto Luz, and Diamante, dissented from the decision to issue a declaration opposing the project. Nonetheless, the joint statement from FENAMAD and the ECA opposing the Hunt-Repsol presence in the reserve demanded that "this decision be respected by the state as well as the said companies."

Anoshka, a Harakmbut leader from the community of Masenawa who is also a popular singer on the local cumbia circuit, gave the most impassioned statement. "I plead with you from my heart to respect our desire," she said, directly addressing the Hunt representatives. "A majority of our communities have decided no. The conflicts you are sowing among us will not succeed, but you are already causing damage to our communities."

Speaking of the Amarakaeri reserve's management plan ostensibly drawn up with input from the 10 communities, she added: "The master plan said the communities favor the oil company. This is a lie and we will never accept this."

The master plan, drawn up by the government natural-resources agency, is strongly contested. Although the ECA signed off on it, many Harakmbut charge the communities were not informed of last-minute changes that afforded oil companies easier access to resource exploitation in the most sensitive area of the reserve. Also at issue is the plan's "recommendation" that the ECA accept any hydrocarbon contracts that the state permits in the reserve.

FENAMAD is especially concerned about the status of the high jungle in the south of the reserve, near the border with Cuzco region, which protects the watersheds of several tributaries of the Río Madre de Dios that run through the reserve. FENAMAD argues that under Peru's Water Law, this area should be a strict protection zone, which would bar resource exploitation there. Instead, it was reclassified as a zona silvestre, affording a lower level of protection.

Equally controversial is the environmental-impact study produced for the Hunt project by the Peruvian firm Demus. In April, Demus workers in the community of Barranco Chico were confronted by local residents armed with clubs, who chased them from their lands. FENAMAD challenged the impact study before the Mines and Energy Ministry as what Corisepa calls a "plagiarism"-basically a cut-and-paste job from earlier studies elsewhere in the Amazon. Nonetheless, the ministry accepted it in June.

Hunt workers may be the next to be physically confronted. At the end of the meeting, Iviche announced that if Hunt doesn't withdraw from the reserve, the communities are prepared to carry out a desalojo-eviction.


Silvana lay, a forestry engineer who serves as Hunt's director of environmental health and safety for the Lot 76 project, defended the company's position in comments outside the meeting at the FENAMAD office.

"We weren't going to come in until the master plan was approved," she said. "We waited two years, and during that period we met with the communities and gave information. We are working in the part where we are allowed to work under the rules that were put in the plan. The last thing we want is a dangerous situation for our workers or the communities."

While the ECA did not have to sign off on the impact statement, Lay points out that public hearings on the study were held in the village of Salvación. "We held workshops with the communities on whose lands we are going to work, with the ECA invited."

Lay insists that Hunt, in contrast to many resource companies in Peru, is committed to playing by the rules. "We have the [impact statement] approved. We have the master plan approved. We did workshops with the communities-all this before we started our work. We have the signatories of everybody saying the work can go ahead-within the rules, of course. And then we received a call saying the work cannot go ahead."

She points out that the $380,000 offered in compensation to the ECA is nearly 25% of the Amarakaeri reserve's five-year budget. It is now in question whether the ECA will accept this money. She said the $30,000 pledged to Shintuya is forthcoming, and that Hunt will stay off of Puerto Luz community's lands until a compensation deal is finalized. Hunt's overall budget for the exploration project is $17 million, she said.

Lay asserted that the Hunt contract is in the best interests of the communities. "They can use that money to police the reserve against illegal logging and mining. The illegal exploitation is the greatest threat to the reserve, while the media and government are checking up on us. We are a good opportunity for the reserve."

FENAMAD attorney Milton Mercado rejects Lay's portrayal. "The ECA has never signed any document allowing Hunt in the reserve," he said. While the master plan allows oil exploitation in a general sense-with approval by the National Service of Protected Areas-it makes no reference to the Hunt contract. And this provision was added above the protests of the communities, he added.

"The only consultation has been with Shintuya and Puerto Luz," Mercado said. Consultation is mandated by the International Labor Organization's Convention 169, to which Peru is a signatory. The principle is also enshrined in Article 6 of Peru's constitution.

Mercado sees a hopeful precedent in a February ruling by the Constitutional Tribunal, Peru's highest court, in a case concerning Lot 103-which includes the Cordillera Escalera Regional Conservation Area, a high jungle that protects the headwaters of important rivers in northern San Martín region. Citing potential damage to aquifers, the tribunal ruled against a consortium including Repsol, Petrobras, and Occidental Petroleum, ordering a halt to exploration in the reserve until a master plan is in place.

FENAMAD's case against Hunt likewise focuses on the issue of protecting aquifers. But Mercado points out that it is the first in the history of Peru to rest on lack of consultation with indigenous communities-and a favorable ruling would be precedent-setting.


Almost all of the Madre de Dios region is divided into hydrocarbon exploration lots. Sapet, a Peruvian venture of China National Petroleum, has a license for Lots 113 and 111-the former covering the Reserve for Peoples in Voluntary Isolation, and the latter actually covering the town of Puerto Maldonado. The company has pledged not to explore in the reserve, for the moment at least. Lot 157, on unprotected lands to the east of the large protected areas, is currently suspended following the "Petrogate" scandal, in which officials are accused of kickbacks in the granting of concessions to Norwegian company Discover Petroleum.

These medium-sized firms are clearly viewed as an advance guard for the industry majors, who mostly abandoned operations in the Peruvian Amazon because of instability in the 1990s-and who García openly hopes to woo back.

Shell Oil explorations in area in the mid-1980s took a grave toll in disease on the recently contacted Yaminahua people in the north of Madre de Dios, who now have a titled community in neighboring Ucuyali region.

A decade later, a consortium including ExxonMobil and Elf began exploration in Lot 78-covering nearly the same territory as the contemporary Lot 76. This lot was reorganized in subsequent years as the communities around the Amarakaeri reserve were being titled.

In addition to hydrocarbons, timber is being massively exploited in Madre de Dios, mostly by Peruvian firms for export to the United States and China. There are legal concessions on state land in the largely unprotected eastern half of Madre de Dios-as well as much illegal exploitation in the protected areas.

Gold is next in line in the local resource boom. Legal placer and dredge mining concessions operate on the region's rivers. But illegal and highly destructive hydraulic mining goes on in pirate operations.

A hydroelectric project is pending on the Río Inambari, with the Brazilian firm Odebrecht likely to get the contract. The Inter-Oceanic Highway linking Brazil's Atlantic coast with Peru's Pacific is also under construction through Madre de Dios.

This matrix of development interests could make the frontier zone of Madre de Dios a very different place in a few short years-and many young indigenous people fear what the future will bring. Wili Corisepa, a young Harakmbut from Shintuya who works with FENAMAD, said: "In the time of the missionaries, in the time of the rubber, of the timber, and now the oil, they all lied to us. It is the same person wearing a different mask."

Bill Weinberg is author of Homage to Chiapas: The New Indigenous Struggles in Mexico (Verso, 2000) and editor of the website World War 4 Report (ww4report.com). Research support for this article was provided by the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute.

Republished from NACLA

Peru: Government Launches massive attack on indigenous organisations

Pronouncement by the Andean and Amazonian Peoples:

For our rights and in defence of organizational autonomy

Against the request by the Public Prosecutor of the Ministry of Justice to order the dissolution of the national organization of indigenous peoples that make up the Amazon Interethnic Development Association of the Peruvian Rainforest (AIDESEP), the community organizations and indigenous peoples of Peru, and various civil society organizations, express the following:

1 .- That continuing with its policy of silencing the organizations representing indigenous peoples, the government through the Public Prosecutor, Ministry of Justice has requested the dissolution of the Interethnic Association for Development of the Peruvian Jungle, (AIDESEP), as notified October 15, 2009, by the 37th Criminal Court of Lima. This act corresponds to the interests of ending the representative organizations of indigenous peoples and communities and at the same time aims to sharpen social discontent promoting new processes of mobilization and uprisings, in order to later blame others.

2 .- Once again the government implements its policy of double standards, because on one hand it announces the installation of spaces for dialogue with indigenous organizations and the other seeks to dismantle the organizations that have spoken out against the unconsultative application of a series of public policies and legal measures that undermine our legitimate rights to self determination, land, consultation and others. This shows it is putting economic interests, before our rights as indigenous peoples.

3 .- We denounce this practice that is not unique to the incumbent government, but habitual of the regimes in recent decades. It seeks to silence and destroy existing organizations or generate other parallel entitites using individuals or organizations that lack representation and legitimacy, this and other situations have led to a series of recommendations by international agencies that monitor compliance with treaties and Conventions as in the case of CERD, CEACR-ILO, High Commissioner of United Nations and others.

Given this situation we declare:

We recognize AIDESEP in its condition as a territorial organization representing the indigenous Amazon people, with input and suggestions in defense of our rights as peoples during its years of existence. We also support its regional and community based organizations in the face of this attempt at dissolution by the current government. We reaffirm that their existence as distinct peoples is not subject to the will of the state and as such their organizational autonomy and institutional force must be respected.

We reaffirm the just and legitimate defense of our rights as indigenous peoples and communities, as are recognized by the Constitution, international conventions and treaties.

We reject the discriminatory state policy, which aims to interrupt the process of dialogue between the State and the legitimately elected representatives of Amazon Indigenous Peoples, which emerged after the events of Bagua. This should express and give effect to the agreements reached in the communities of the central and northern jungle.

We demand the cessation of hostilities against the national indigenous organization AIDESEP and its leaders. There must be a waiver of claims against it and filing of complaints for acts that were not generated by the organization but were generated by unwise public policy and the denial of the existence of indigenous peoples by the current government.

We demand the establishment of a horizontal dialogue process in good faith and the suspending of operations that attack this process under construction and do not contribute to confidence building between the parties.

We demand that the situation of indigenous peoples are addressed in general, and that this includes the Amazon, the Andes and the coast, with the aim of determining national policies and that the State does not encourage fragmentation in its treatment [of indigenous peoples].

Lima, November 1, 2009.

National Confederation of Communities Affected by Mining Peru - CONACAMI

Andean Coordinator of Indigenous Organisations -IOTC

Campesino Confederation of Peru - CCP

National Agrarian Confederation - CNA

Advisory Council of Indigenous Peoples of the Andean Community CCPICAN

Indigenous Collective

Program for Democracy and Global Transformation - PDTG

Translated by Kiraz Janicke for Peru en movimiento.com

The original version in Spanish can be read here at Revista Mariategui

Monday, 2 November 2009

Amazonian natives say they will defend tribal lands from Hunt Oil with "their lives"

By Jeremy Hance

Indigenous natives in the Amazon are headed to the town of Salvacion in Peru with a plan to forcibly remove the Texas-based Hunt Oil company from their land as early as today. Peruvian police forces, numbering in the hundreds, are said to be waiting in the town.

The crisis has risen over an area known as Lot 76, or the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve. The 400,000 hectare reserve was created in 2002 to protect the flora and fauna of the area, as well as to safeguard watersheds of particular importance to indigenous groups in the region.

Despite its protected status, in 2006 the Peruvian government granted concessions within the reserve to two oil companies, Hunt Oil and the Spanish company Repsol.

According to FENAMAD (the Native Federation of the Madre de Dios) protections had been slowly and systematically stripped from the reserve without indigenous groups' input. In addition, FENADMAD contends that Hunt Oil has violated international standards and the Peruvian constitution by going ahead with their operations without approval from the indigenous groups.

Hunt's director of environmental health and safety for Lot 76, Silvana Lay, disagrees. He told the Indian Country Today that “we weren’t going to come in until the Master Plan was approved. We waited two years, and during that period we met with the communities and gave information. We have the signatories of everybody saying the work can go ahead – within the rules, of course. And then we received a call saying the work cannot go ahead.”

However, indigenous groups say that Hunt Oil only met with two communities: the Shintuya and the Puerto Luz, leaving others who use the reserve out in the cold.

A document written by FENAMAD further alleges that the Environmental and Social Impact Study conducted by Hunt Oil and approved by the federal government is "completely irresponsible and [does] not describe any reality for the area. It was approved illegally and unconstitutionally, in spite of the observations made by a group of professionals from civil society in Madre de Dios."

On September 13th of this year representatives of indigenous groups released a statement that said "the entry of Hunt Oil and Respol into the interior of the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve to execute seismic projects is not accepted, a decision that will be respected by the Peruvian State, Hunt Oil and Repsol, who have been present witnesses to this decision."

However, Hunt Oil has continued its seismic surveys inside the reserve. It is their unwillingness to halt activities that has prompted the indigenous groups to travel to Salvacion and, according to statements made by the indigenous groups, forcibly remove the US-corporation from their land.

"The most vulnerable ecological and cultural areas are now being invaded by seismic lines, whose impacts are irreparable. The area of intervention is one of very high biological value from a worldwide perspective and its surface and underground hydrological system have great cultural significance for the Harakmbut, which makes this a vital space for the subsistence of not only the indigenous communities, but the greater population of the Amazon Basin," the document by FENAMAD states. "For that reason, all of the beneficiary communities of the RCA have taken the position of impeding the entrance into the oil block and defending the protected area with their lives."

FENAMAD's statement may be a portent: in June a clash between native peoples and Peruvian police over exploitation of the Amazon turned bloody. Thousands of indigenous people blocked roads to protest new rule changes that made it easier for foreign companies to extract oil, gas, minerals, and timber from the Peruvian Amazon, including tribal lands. During the ensuing clash, twenty-three police were killed and at least ten protestors, according to official numbers. Indigenous groups, however, say that hundreds remain missing and have asked for a Truth Commission to investigate the tragic incident.

Republished from Mongabay.com

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Peru: ‘Free trade’, cocaine and terrorism

David T. Rowlands

Before the US-Peru Free Trade Agreement was ratified in 2007, many Peruvian and international human rights and environmental organisations said the deal would lead to increased social destabilisation and drug production.

Archbishop Pedro Barreto, president of the Episcopal Commission for Social Action of the Catholic Church in Peru, said: “We are certain that the trade agreement will increase the cultivation of coca, which brings with it a series of negative consequences including drug trafficking, terrorism and violence. ”

Tragically, these predictions are now starting to become a daily reality in Peru.

The available statistics point to a resurgence of “narco-terrorism” in regional centres associated with the cocaine trade.

From 2001 to 2006, armed groups mounted six major attacks on government installations and/or personnel. Since 2007, 20 separate attacks have been recorded.

In other words, the incidence of “terrorist” actions has risen from an average of one a year to roughly eight.

In a recent clash at Sinaycocha in the Junin region on September 2, a military helicopter taking off from a clearing was hit by bursts of heavy machine gun fire from surrounding jungle.

The helicopter crashed, resulting in 11 casualties (including three killed). Automatic fire continued to sweep the area for days.

This spike in civil violence is evoking traumatic memories of the 1980s era, when ultra-radical Shining Path guerrillas and US-backed government security forces committed a long and bloody series of atrocities against the population.

At least 69,000 people died.

However, what the corporate-owned news sources are not reporting is that the new conflict is a direct result of the US-Peru Free Trade Agreement (TLC).

In 2000, Peru’s governmental Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommended that lasting peace and stability could be established in devastated regions only by providing programs that would encourage “employment and income generation”.

Perversely, this objective has been completely undermined by the TLC, which has slashed the livelihoods of the rural poor.

The TLC required Peru to remove tariffs on many staple agricultural products, leading to a steadily-increasing flow of imports from heavily subsidised US agribusiness.

Nearly a third of the Peruvian population depend on agriculture for their income and at least 1.7 million families have already begun to suffer adverse effects from the free trade deal.

With the TLC driving down commodity prices, rural dislocation is on the rise. This is lead to a corresponding increase in coca production as desperate peasant farmers strive to make ends meet.

Increased coca production has boosted profits for the cartel bosses, who have helped to revitalise the Shining Path and other like-minded groups by hiring their members as mercenary enforcers. This symbiotic arrangement has been in place for decades, but the fallout from the TLC has lent it new life.

The drug barons are not the only beneficiaries of the devastation that has resulted from the TLC. With the US eager to restore its previously hegemonic grip on South America, the so-called “War on Drugs” has provided the Pentagon with an excuse to broaden its involvement in Andean nations such as Peru.

“Coca eradication” operations have been stepped up, leading to a wave of unreported military abuses against civilians in coca-producing areas.

Under the guise of combating terrorism, the Peruvian security forces are engaged in a struggle against all forms of dissent (peaceful or otherwise) on behalf of the ruling elites and foreign corporations who stand to gain from the TLC.

Pulling the strings by supplying funds, training and material is Washington. The Bush administration designed the free trade deal with oppressive intentions, and the Obama administration is continuing to implement that foreign policy goal.

With the US strategy of fomenting instability in the region, the threat of spill-over terrorist violence striking heavily-inhabited population centres in Peru is once again an ugly possibility.

The victims will be the ordinary people of Peru — caught, once again, in the crossfire.

Having “lost” several countries in South America to “hostile” left or centre-left regimes (such as in Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador), the US is determined to shore up its political and economic stake in South America.

Ruled by a US-funded client regime, Peru (along with Colombia) remains a key asset in US strategy for the Western Hemisphere.

Having already announced its intention to establish a network of new military bases in Colombia, it may not be long before similar plans are implemented by stealth in Peru.

Republished from Green Left Weekly

Amazon natives move to evict U.S. Oil company

By Ahni

Some three hundred indigenous people from the Peruvian Amazon region of Madre de Dios are on their way to the town of Salvacion to evict the Texas-based company Hunt Oil from their ancestral territory.

According to reports on mongabay.com, hundreds of Peruvian police officers are waiting in the town for their arrival.

Last month, Indigenous leaders from the Madre de Dios issued a formal statement rejecting Hunt Oil’s presence in the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve—a legally protected biodiversity ‘hot spot’ which the government handed over to the company in 2006. The leaders warned Hunt Oil to voluntarily exit the territory within a week or they would be forced out.

This ultimatum was released just a few days after FENAMAD, the Native Federation of the Madre de Dios River and tributaries, took legal action to halt the company’s activities, which, according to the lawsuit, threatens the headwaters of the Madre de Dios river, Upper Alto Madre de Dios, the Blanco river, the Azul river, the Inambari river and the Colorado river.

Referred to by the company as “Lot 76″, the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve was created in 2002 to safeguard all six rivers, which are of critical importance to the indigenous Harakmbut, Yine and Machiguenga Peoples and to protect the region’s biodiversity. When the lawsuit was filed, FENAMAD’s leader stated his hope to “paralyze any activity inside the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve, as otherwise the very existence of Madre de Dios’ indigenous people would be put at risk.”

The lawsuit also points out that the government failed to consult with the communities in the reserve. “This omission violates the Agreement No.169 of the International Labour Organization, which Peru had signed, and which points out in its article 6 that governments should ‘consult with the interested peoples by using appropriate procedures and in particular through their representatives institutions, each time when legal or administrative measures are planned that might affect them directly’”, notes a statement by FENAMAD.

Despite this and other laws, not too mention the ultimatum, Hunt Oil is actively operating inside the reserve, content to hide behind the government’s unlawful “generosity.”

“The most vulnerable ecological and cultural areas are now being invaded by seismic lines, whose impacts are irreparable. The area of intervention is one of very high biological value from a worldwide perspective and its surface and underground hydrological system have great cultural significance for the Harakmbut, which makes this a vital space for the subsistence of not only the indigenous communities, but the greater population of the Amazon Basin,” states FENAMAD. “For that reason, all of the beneficiary communities of the RCA have taken the position of impeding the entrance into the oil block and defending the protected area with their lives.”

Republished from Intercontinental Cry

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Venezuela, Honduras, Peru, Ecuador “small” oversights and “big” lies

By Eric Toussaint[1]

It may be useful to assess the dangers of the systematically hostile
attitude of the overwhelming majority of major European and North
American media companies in relation to the current events taking
place in Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela. This hostility is only
matched by an embarrassed, complicit silence with regard to those
involved in the putsch in Honduras or the repression enacted by the
Peruvian army against the indigenous populations of the Amazon.

In order to demonstrate this statement, here are a few recent facts:

1) On 5 June 2009, the Peruvian army massacred over 50 Amazonian
Indians who were protesting against the land concessions made by Alan
Garcia’s government for foreign, mainly European transnational
companies. The repression aroused no disapproval among the major
global media groups.[2] These groups gave almost exclusive priority to
the protests occurring in Iran. Not only did the press fail to condemn
the repression in Peru; it did not even bother to cover the story. And
yet in Peru, so great was public discontent that the government had to
announce the repeal of the presidential decree which the Amazonian
Indians had fought against.

Once again, media coverage of the government’s backtracking was almost
non-existent. We must ask ourselves the following question: if a
Venezuelan or Ecuadorian army or police intervention had caused the
deaths of dozens of Amazonian Indians, what kind of media coverage
would such events have received?

2) When the constitutionally elected president Manuel Zelaya was
ousted by the military on 28 June, the overwhelming majority of media
groups declared, in total contradiction of the truth, that the
soldiers were reacting to Zelaya’s attempt to modify the constitution,
thus ensuring he could remain in power. Several other media groups
added that he was following the example of Hugo Chavez, who is
presented as an authoritarian populist leader. In fact, Manuel Zelaya
was proposing to the Honduran citizens that they vote in favour of the
organization of general elections for a Constituent Assembly, which
would have represented real democratic progress being made in this
country. This is well explained by Cécile Lamarque and Jérôme Duval on
their return from a CADTM mission in Honduras: “The coup d’Etat was
carried out on the same day Manuel Zelaya had organized a non-binding
“consultation” asking the Hondurans whether or not they wanted to
convene a National Constituent Assembly, after the elections which
were due to take place on the 29 November 2009. The question went like
this: “Do you agree that at the next general elections of 2009, a
fourth ballot box be installed so as to allow for the people to
express their point of view on the convocation of a national
Constituent Assembly? YES or NO?” If this consultation had resulted in
the majority voting “yes”, the president would have issued a decree of
approval before Congress so that, on 29 November, the Hondurans would
formally make known their decision on the convocation of a Constituent
Assembly through this “fourth ballot box” (the first three ballot
boxes would be for the election of a president, deputies and mayors,
respectively). In order to give an air of legality to the coup,
Congress and the Supreme Court, associated with the putsch, deemed the
ballot box to be illegal and asserted that president Zelaya had
“violated the Constitution” by trying to modify it “so as to set his
sights on serving a new mandate”, in the manner of an “apprentice
Chavist dictator”. And yet, Manuel Zelaya, through this consultation
with the people, was not seeking to renew his presidential mandate of
four years which cannot be renewed. Zelaya would therefore be unable
to be a candidate for his own succession.”[3]

Whilst the popular movements opposing those involved in the Putsch
increased, with protests and strikes in July, August and September,
the big media names only dedicated a couple of lines to these events.
On the rare occasions when the leading daily newspapers dedicated a
feature article to the situation in Honduras, they adopted a policy of
slander against the constitutionally elected president by presenting
the military’s actions as a democratic military coup. This is the case
with The Wall Street Journal, which in its editorial on 1 July 2009
wrote, “the military coup d’Etat which took place in Honduras on June
28th and which led to the exile of the president of this central
American country, Manuel Zelaya, is strangely democratic.” The
editorial adds, “the legislative and judicial authorities will remain
intact” following military action. On its part, perhaps in a more
subtle manner, the famous French newspaper Le Monde participated in a
smear campaign against Manuel Zelaya. Here is one example. On 12
September 2009, Jean-Michel Caroit, the paper’s special correspondent
in Honduras, quoted the words of a French expatriate living in the
country and then associated these words with the systematically
repeated lie regarding Zelaya’s supposedly sinister intentions, “ ‘For
the Hondurans, Zelaya’s return is unacceptable as that would mean
there would be twenty years of a Chavez-style dictatorship,’ states
Marianne Cadario in reference to the Venezuelan president who - as his
ally Manuel Zelaya tried to do (underlined by me) - modified the
Constitution in order for him to be allowed to be re-elected. Marianne
Cadario, a Frenchwoman who has lived in Honduras for over thirty years
states that she is “very shocked by the reaction of the international
community who condemned the putsch.”[4] The tone of newspapers like Le
Monde and Libération began to change at the end of September after
those involved in the putsch began to increase their repressive
measures. The tone became more critical of those involved in the
putsch. Having said this, the daily newspaper Libération deserves a
prize for its use of euphemisms. In fact on 28 September 2009 (3
months to the day after the coup) the title “The Scent of
Dictatorship” (underlined by me) of a paragraph explaining how the
government involved in the putsch had declared, “‘the banning of “any
public unauthorized meeting,” the arrest of “anyone putting their
lives or anyone else’s in danger” “evacuation” of areas where there
are protesters and those who interfere with “any broadcasting of
programmes by any media that endanger public order.”[5]

3) At the beginning of August 2009, the Venezuelan authorities’
intention to question the right of 34 radio and television channels
made the headlines in the international press: “It is further proof of
the almost total disappearance of the right to expression and
criticism in this authoritarian country.” The way in which the major
news publications treat the subject of the media in Venezuela is one
of unilateral hostility, despite the fact that 90% of the Venezuelan
media is privately owned, a large number of which actively support
disinformation campaigns. Globovisión, one of the main privately-owned
TV channels, actively participated in the military coup d’Etat against
Chavez on 11 April 2002. A documentary made by Globovisión made its
way around the world on 11 April 2002 and the days following the
military coup. It was actually a set-up, designed to distort the
truth. One can see people posing as Chavez supporters on a bridge,
firing their guns in an unidentifiable direction. The voice-over of
the Globovisión journalist states that the Chavez supporters are about
to kill opposition protesters who were protesting peacefully in the
streets below the bridge. The Venezuelan prosecution has been able to
reconstruct the exact chain of events, having analysed the reports and
photographs made by certain individuals on the day of 11 April. In
fact the pro-Chavez militants, who, according to Globovisión, were
shooting at protesters, were actually responding to gunfire coming
from an armoured vehicle of the metropolitan police, allied to the
putsch. The opposition protesters were no longer in the streets when
those guns were fired. Several sources can prove without a doubt that
the assassination of the anti-Chavez protesters was used as a set-up
so as to attribute these crimes to Chavez, thus justifying their coup.
On 11 April 2008, the Venezuelan viewers were able to see again the
images of the press conference given by the military involved in the
putsch at a time when no protester had been killed yet. And yet the
military announced at that time that they were taking power following
the murders carried out by the Chavez supporters. This clearly
supports the theory that these murders were planned deliberately so as
to be able to justify their seditious plan.

In the days following the putsch, on 12 and 13 April 2002, when
hundreds of thousands of unarmed citizens surrounded the barracks of
the putschists to demand the return of Hugo Chavez, then in prison,
Globovisión failed to broadcast any coverage of these protests,
explaining that the country was back to normal and that Hugo Chavez
had tendered his resignation and was on his way to Cuba. During the
last hours of the putsch, this channel broadcast only cartoons and
variety shows[6]. Globovisión in fact connived with the putschists on
several critical occasions, a fact which led the parents of victims
and injured survivors’ associations to demand the channel’s
conviction. Up to now the Chavist government has refused this demand
in order to prevent further escalation of the international smear
campaign being waged against him. Several human rights associations
are dissatisfied with the passive attitude of the Venezuelan
authorities in this matter.

More recently, Globovisión has been sympathetic towards the authors of
the 28 June putsch in Honduras. Several programme presenters at
Globovisión have supported the putsch from the very beginning, at the
same time accusing the Chavez government of interference in condemning
it. For example, Guillermo Zuloaga, the president of Globovisión,
stated on 17 July that “the government of Micheletti complies with the
Constitution, and we would like, indeed we would be delighted, if here
in Venezuela, the Constitution was respected in the same way that it
is in Honduras”, thus making clear his support for the putschist

Globovisión has never been prohibited from broadcasting. What major
European or North-American media has even mentioned this fact? What
major European or North-American media has ever informed the public
that the overwhelming majority of Venezuelan media are controlled by
the private sector? Or that they account for over 90% of the viewing
audience? Or that they are extremely aggressive towards the
government, presenting it as a dictatorship, or that some of them
played an active part in ousting a constitutionally elected president,
and have continued to broadcast freely for seven years? Can one
imagine General de Gaulle failing to take repressive measures against
a newspaper, radio or TV station that was seen to actively support an
OAS coup during the Algerian war? Would it not be considered normal
for the Spanish government to take measures against the media that
actively supported – in real time – Colonel Tejero when he burst into
the Cortes[7] with a group of military putschists and held (up) at
gunpoint the MPs who were there? If Manuel Zelaya were restored to
office as constitutional president, would he and his government not be
in their right to demand accountability and take measures against the
Honduran media owners who deliberately supported the putschists by
systematically deforming the truth and covering up the many human
rights violations committed by the military?

4) Arms spending. When you read the European or North American papers,
you have the distinct impression that Venezuela is indulging in huge
arms expenditures (particularly by way of Russia), which poses a
serious threat in the region. Yet according to the CIA[8] the
situation is quite different: the Venezuelan military budget ranks 6th
in the region, after the budgets of Brazil, Argentina, Chile (far less
populated than Venezuela and regarded as a model), Colombia and
Mexico. In relative terms, taking the GDP of each country, the
Venezuelan military budget comes 9th in Latin America! Is any of this
published in the leading news publications?

On another front, in August 2009 we read in the papers that Sweden
took Venezuela to task after the Colombian government once again
denounced its neighbour for supplying arms to the FARC guerilla.
Sweden had in fact informed Colombia that SAAB missiles found in a
FARC camp had been supplied by Venezuela. But for those who read Hugo
Chavez’ detailed response it became clear that the missiles in
question had been stolen from a Venezuelan harbour in 1995, four years
before Chavez became president.

Conclusion: One needs to be aware of the one-sided manner in which the
leading media report the news, and adopt a highly critical approach
when appraising it. The discrediting of Hugo Chavez, Rafael Correa and
Evo Morales is so excessive that it poses the risk of numbing
international public opinion in the event of another coup d’Etat, or
of lulling the public into approving aggressive measures taken by a
government such as the US. Among the many insidious and unfounded
accusations, we can read in the Spanish papers (for example in El
Pais) that Rafael Correa’s election campaign was financed by the FARC.
We can also read that the Venezuelan authorities do nothing to fight
drug trafficking. In the case of the Honduran president Manuel Zelaya,
the discredit heaped on him is intended to prevent international
opinion mobilizing in favour of his return to power as head of State.

Translated by Francesca Denley and Judith Harris


[1] Eric Toussaint, president of CADTM Belgium (Committee for the
Abolition of Third World Debt, www.cadtm.org ), has a PhD in political
science from the University of Liège (Belgium) and the University of
Paris VIII (France). He is the author of Bank of the South. An
Alternative to the IMF-World Bank, VAK, Mumbai, India, 2007; The World
Bank, A Critical Primer, Pluto Press, Between The Lines, David Philip,
London-Toronto-Cape Town 2008; Your Money or Your Life, The Tyranny of
Global Finance, Haymarket, Chicago, 2005.

[2] See http://www.cadtm.org/Le-CADTM-est-pleinement-solidaire and

[3] Cécile Lamarque and Jérome Duval, « Honduras : Why the Coup d’Etat
», 17 September 2009, www.cadtm.org/Honduras-Pourquoi-le-coup-d-Etat

[4] Jean-Michel Caroit, « Au Honduras, la campagne électorale s’ouvre
dans un climat de haine », Le Monde, p. 8, Saturday 12 September 2009.

[5] http://www.liberation.fr/monde/0101593847-le-honduras-s-enfonce-dans-la-crise

[6] It is interesting at this point to note the initiative of Hugo
Chavez’ government on 11 April 2008, six years after the putsch. The
government used its right to broadcast on the private and public TV
stations to show a re-run of the entire reportage produced by the
anti-Chavist private channels (Globovisión, RCTV...) on the official
inauguration session of the president and the putschist government in
a reception room in the Miraflores presidential palace. The complete
programme, which the whole of Venezuela could watch on 11 April 2002,
was re-broadcast without any cuts or critical commentary by the Chavez
government. Hugo Chavez relied on the critical acumen of Venezuelan
viewers to form their own opinion on the active complicity of the
private media with those behind the putsch, amongst whom the viewer
could identify the leading Catholic church authorities, the putschist
military brass, the head of the anti-Chavist labour union CTV
(Confederation of Workers of Venezuela), the chief executives of
private corporations and the president of the Venezuelan Federation of
Chambers of Commerce (Fedecámaras), Pedro Carmona. It should be said
that this president, who held power for scarcely 36 hours, earned the
enduring nickname of “Pepe el breve” (Pepe the brief).

[7] On 23 February 1981, an attempted coup d’état organized by
Franquist sectors took place in the Spanish Congress, The leader,
Colonel Tejero, held up the members of parliament present at gunpoint
and took them hostage as the new president of the government was being
sworn in.

[8] See https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/index.html,
consulted in March 2009

Monday, 19 October 2009

Peru: Gov't Seeks Legal Shield for Security Forces

By Ángel Páez

The Peruvian government has moved to protect the armed forces and police against investigations for crimes committed in the line of duty, especially in areas convulsed by social protests or where remnants of the Maoist Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) guerrillas are still active.

The administration of Alan García sent Congress a package of bills that would limit action by prosecutors and grant extraordinary powers to the military authorities.

One of the draft laws would modify the Criminal Code, so that no legal action could be taken against soldiers and police who kill or injure civilians in the so-called "emergency zones," areas controlled by the security forces by order of the executive branch because of "terrorist" threats or violent social protests.

The presidential initiative also proposes that prosecutors must be in receipt of a "technical report" issued by the armed forces or police authorities, before opening investigations of soldiers and police for alleged human rights violations in the "emergency zones." The report must explain why the accused used the degree of force that caused death or injury.

The executive branch also sent a draft law to Congress on the purpose, scope and definition of the term "use of force" by the National Police, detailing situations in which a police officer is exempt from responsibility when his or her actions have a lethal outcome.

If the accused officer can justify the use of lethal force by the intensity and dangerousness of the aggression, the behaviour of the aggressor, or the hostile surroundings and situation, he or she will be exempt from criminal, civil and administrative responsibility, says the draft law.

The bills were introduced in Congress just as the Ombudsman's Office reported that as of Sept. 30, 2009, 288 social conflicts (such as protest demonstrations) had occurred in the country over the past year, nearly 62 percent more than the 177 conflicts recorded by September 2008.

A third draft law proposed by the government would give the military and police the prerogative to remove the bodies of members of the security forces without the presence of prosecutors, as the current laws require. This would mean that they could disturb a crime scene without judicial authorisation.

The package of bills follows an intense campaign by conservative and pro-military groups, which accuse non-governmental organisations (NGOs) of pressing for legal action against troops and police involved in putting down social protests and the guerrillas.

Defence Minister Rafael Rey argued that the armed forces were left without legal protection after being baselessly accused of a large number of crimes committed during the 1980-2000 internal conflict between the security forces and left-wing guerrillas.

The independent Truth and Reconciliation Commission report, published in August 2003, found that during that period 69,280 people were killed or disappeared by the insurgents or state agents, and that the majority of these crimes - between 54 and 60 percent - were attributable to the Maoist Shining Path guerrillas.

Rey referred to several notorious crimes by state agents against civilians as "excesses," of which he insisted there were very few.

Adding together all the "excesses" - in Barrios Altos (where 15 people, including an eight-year-old boy, were killed at a neighbourhood barbecue on Nov. 3, 1991), La Cantuta (where nine university students and a professor were seized and killed on Jul. 19, 1992), Accomarca (where 69 highland villagers were massacred on Aug. 14, 1985), and Putis (where at least 123 villagers were killed on Dec. 13, 1984) - the total number of victims was under 1,000, Rey said.

"I am not saying these figures are unimportant, as even one person abused or murdered is shocking, but it is unfair to blame the armed forces for 21,000 deaths," the minister said.

But human rights watchdog Amnesty International compiled evidence that torture, killings and disappearances by state agents were widespread and systematic during the internal conflict, constituting crimes against humanity. Military, intelligence and high-ranking government officials of the period have been convicted and jailed for their part in these acts, including former president Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000), and others await trial.

After judicial authorities exhumed some of the remains of the 123 civilians massacred by the army in 1984 in Putis, a rural hamlet in the mountains of the southern region of Ayacucho, Rey stated that the trials for human rights violations by army troops fighting Shining Path guerrillas in the valley of the Apurimac and Ene rivers, a jungle zone in the southeast of the country, were a more important issue.

The draft laws were called into question by the Attorney General, Gladys Echaíz.

"The proposal that the Attorney General's Office cannot open an investigation or bring charges without previously receiving a 'technical report' would place limits on the action of prosecutors," she said. "The constitution invests the Attorney General's Office with the power to undertake criminal prosecution, to conduct, direct and decide on investigations, without being subject to any conditions whatsoever."

"I don't think the military and police need a cloak of concealment," Echaíz said.

The deputy chair of the congressional committee on defence and internal order, Carlos Bruce, also expressed reservations about the constitutionality of the draft laws, especially the one that aims to prevent the Attorney General's Office from proceeding with a criminal prosecution until it receives a "technical report" from the security forces.

"I agree that members of the armed forces cannot be judged in the same way in emergency situations as in normal ones, but I do not agree with making the Attorney General's Office's actions conditional on a prior report from executive branch bodies. The prosecution service must be independent," Bruce told IPS.

Contrary to the aim of those who wish to protect the armed forces from legal action, these draft laws damage the image of the military institutions, the executive secretary of the National Human Rights Coordinating Committee, Ronald Gamarra, told IPS.

"Any legal initiative to secure impunity affects those members of the military who justifiably and with self-sacrifice fight against terrorism," Gamarra said. "No favours are done to the military by curtailing the powers of the Attorney General's Office or enabling interference in its functions. To hamper the constitutional powers of prosecutors is to seek not justice, but a cover-up."

The first vice president, retired vice admiral Luis Giampietri, proposed that the areas where the armed forces are fighting guerrillas be declared "war zones," so that they would be under purely military jurisdiction.

Giampietri said this would solve the problem of members of the armed forces being investigated, charged or taken to court for doing their duty.

The proposed bills to ensure the impunity of the armed forces and police "are perfectly aligned with the thinking of Vice President Giampietri, who has said that prosecutors and judges are a hindrance to the military," activist Roberto Lamilla, the coordinator in Ayacucho of the NGO Paz y Esperanza (Peace and Hope) which assists the families of the Putis victims, told IPS.

"Their goal is to guarantee impunity for members of the armed forces who commit excesses. Giampietri said it clearly: human rights are a hindrance to military action. If these bills are passed, it will be a serious setback in terms of human rights," Lamilla said.

Republished from IPS

The Neoliberal Crusade For Resources on Indigenous Lands in the Peruvian Amazon

By Jamie Way

Despite the repeal of Peruvian President Alan Garcia’s controversial executive decrees, it appears as though the Amazon is still very much for sale. Earlier this year, violent demonstrations erupted over Garcia’s decrees that attempted to open Peru to foreign (read: extractive) investment in accordance with its free trade agreement with the U.S. In Bagua, located in the Northern Peruvian Amazon, the official death toll is said to have reached 33, (10 civilians and 23 police officers). Other accounts, however, claim that up to 40 indigenous civilians were killed. Although the violence has resided, at least for the time being, the larger underlying issues are far from resolved. Moreover, the neoliberal tendency of taking advantage of indigenous resources is evolving into more complex and duplicitous forms.

Neoliberalism in the Amazon

Outside of Pucallpa, south of where the violent demonstrations erupted, Shipibo indigenous leaders are finding themselves pressed by the same issues as their Northern counterparts. PeruPetro, the country’s hydrocarbon licensing agency, is pursuing an aggressive policy in the region. While I was working in the Amazon with a U.S.-based NGO, Village Earth, I was told of multiple occasions in which PeruPetro contacted community leaders directly. It does not appear that the indigenous population has the legal grounds on which to contest the decisions of the state agency, but it is clear that PeruPetro is required to at least inform the indigenous population of their intent to explore, and later exploit, the oil-yielding potential of their land. Thus, to maintain the state agency’s thin guise of legitimacy, PeruPetro has made it common practice to solicit indigenous leadership’s approval.

Shipibo land, which is located within an oil block with rights belonging to PetroVietnam, is not only threatened by oil extraction. It could also become the focus of a number of other extractive industries. Although it has not yet become a pressing matter for the Shipibo, many of Garcia’s decrees were not only aimed at encouraging oil development in the Amazon, but also pertained to a diverse array of natural resource development, including forestry, water, irrigation and mining.

And it seems as though Garcia’s wish, and perhaps even more significantly the wish of many of his predecessors, is becoming a reality. Big oil is currently big business in the Amazon. Whereas in 2004 only 13% was slated for oil and gas development, in 2006 approximately 73% of the Peruvian Amazon was under contract for either exploration or production purposes. Today it is near 80%. Significantly, 58 of the 64 blocks that have been leased to oil companies are located on lands that are legally titled to indigenous peoples and 14 blocks overlap natural reserves that are inhabited by indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation. [1]

Proponents of neo-liberal “market” policies, which appear to be on a constant rampage to commodify every last inch of the planet, have happily encouraged the “opening” of the Amazon to foreign capital investment. Peruvian proponents of such policies, including President Garcia, have argued that such investment is the way to “modernize” the Amazon and make it productive. Anyone who impedes such noble “progress” is seen as selfish and a traitor. In fact, as if Garcia’s disdain and disrespect for the Native people of his country were not obvious enough through his classification of them as “second class citizens,” two years ago, Garcia wrote an opinion column in which he compared them to a gardener’s dog. Depicting the population as irrational and selfish, he claimed that, “like a gardener’s dog, they do not only eat from the garden, but they will also prevent others from eating.” [2] Thus, according to Garcia and his allies, indigenous people’s traditional use of their land is an impediment to “progress.”

Evolution of the Discourse

Beyond Garcia’s blatantly racist application of neoliberal policies, a much more clever and well-articulated argument in favor of the crusade for neoliberalism is becoming paramount in national discussions. While Garcia’s lack of sophistication has made his argument easy to pick apart, leading Peruvian economist, Hernando De Soto, has framed his push toward neoliberalism in a much more favorable light. Instead of blatantly embedding his argument in Garcia’s racist discourse, De Soto has cleverly co-opted the language of leftist intellectuals. Instead of focusing on the “backwards” culture of indigenous groups, like Garcia has, De Soto argues that in order to fully allow the native population to participate in the capitalist economy, laws must be applied uniformly to them. While on the surface this argument seems like a logical move toward equality, it is important to note that in the context of many Amazonian tribes, it is perhaps even more dangerous than Garcia’s decrees.

Under a worldview that operates in terms of a “developed-undeveloped” dichotomy, Hernando De Soto has made it his goal to discover why the capitalist system has worked so well in the Western world (an interesting assertion in and of itself), and so poorly in the rest of the world. His work concludes that capital is successfully generated through legally recognized individual land ownership and consequently one’s ability to leverage his or her resources for credit. While his recommendation of legally allotting individual land may be desirable in squatter villages without land titles, it could have dire consequences for native populations, many of which already hold titles to their land. Contrary to De Soto’s vision, however, most indigenous groups hold their land under common title and many even chose to hold and work the land in a communal format. For De Soto, this communal land is unproductive, because individuals are unable to use it to produce more capital without the permission of the entire community. What he so often fails to discuss, however, is that in risking your land for credit, you can potentially lose it. Thus, it becomes evident that with private interests salivating at the chance of getting their hands on a piece of the Amazon, it is likely that communities would be greatly disturbed by even one or two individuals being forced to default on their loans. By individualizing and privatizing indigenous land, extractive industry would be able to apply a new version of their divide-and-conquer tactics, as indigenous groups would have little legal ground to stand on when opposing the sale of the neighbor’s land to an oil company. If even very few individuals in desperate situations could be bought off, the entire community could be at risk of being destroyed through the impacts of the extractive industries.

Ironically, one of De Soto’s predominant arguments is that the norms of the wealthy and the poor must be melded and incorporated into law. However, his policy makes no exception or variation in the case of indigenous groups with long histories of engrained societal norms and very distinct cultures. Instead, his one-size-fits-all policy has become a cornerstone for moving the Amazon toward the wonders of the capitalist world. Cleverly framing his suggestions as a move toward affording the indigenous population the rights that the rest of the country already has, he acts as though he is supporting equality. In reality, while his work claims to incorporate indigenous culture, it only does so to the extent that they are able to be successful capitalists. It is vital, then, that the indigenous population moves away from its communal use of land, and instead adopts the rules of the West. This, he argues, will allow them to follow in the foot steps of first world progress. He fails to discuss the effect leveraging a house for credit has had on the U.S. market, and additionally takes no note of the negative historical implications of individualization and privatization of U.S. Native Americans had on their culture. By omitting the horrific historical implications that land privatization and individualization has had on Native Americans, De Soto creates a policy that is unable (or unwilling) to foresee a number of problematic outcomes of his work.

The Academic-Political Connection

All of De Soto’s arguments would be well and fine if they remained sequestered in the academic world. Unfortunately for indigenous groups in the Amazon, this is not the case. De Soto and his organization, the Institute for Liberty and Democracy, have the ear of many a world leader. Garcia is amongst those with which De Soto has developed a relationship. This is only logical. While Garcia and De Soto verbalize a differential amount of respect for indigenous culture, their policies are like opposite sides of the same coin. Garcia’s decrees work to open the Amazon to foreign investment and promote free trade. In Garcia’s mind, this would appear to eliminate the greedy native people of his country. De Soto, on the other hand, shows a bit more compassion (and may in fact be acting with good intentions, be they misdirected). He does not want to eliminate indigenous people; he merely wants to eliminate any aspect of their culture that does not allow them to be successful capitalists. Thus, De Soto’s suggested policies will allow indigenous land to become the tool for deciding the success of each individual indigenous person. If they are successful capitalists, they will be able to maintain their land. If not, they will lose it to the external interests that Garcia supports. It is evident then that their seemingly distinct policies blend nicely together to form (what, upon enacting a similar policy with Native Americans, Theodore Roosevelt called) “a great pulverizing engine to break up the tribal mass.”

So while Shipibo communities and their counterparts sit under a tenuous calm in the Amazon, it is important to note the lurking danger of not just Garcia, but his academic equivalent. Currently, De Soto is sending his researchers into indigenous communities to extract information about their titling system. He has released effective propaganda videos and is clearly positioning himself as central to the Peruvian Amazon debate. Therefore, while his work may appear more benevolent at first glance, it is essential that activist and the indigenous population be cognizant of the fact that his arguments are potentially even more dangerous than the words of Garcia. If unnecessary bloodshed is to be avoided and the fight to protect the Amazon is to be won, it appears that it must be fought on both the academic and political front.

[1] See Finer, Jenkins, Pimm, Keane, and Ross 2008.

[2] “Syndrome of the gardener's dog.” El Comercio. 10 Oct, 2007.

Jamie holds a M.A. in Political Science from Colorado State University. She is currently employed by Village Earth, as well as the Alliance for Global Justice.

Republished from UpsideDownWorld

Hugo Blanco: Indigenous ‘struggle for nature’

Federico Fuentes

“The world needs to understand the importance of the struggle in defence of nature”, Hugo Blanco, legendary Peruvian peasant leader active in the indigenous peoples’ struggle against corporate exploitation in the Amazon, told Green Left Weekly in late September.

“That is the struggle that the indigenous people are waging today. The Amazonian indigenous people are fighting not just for themselves or Peru; they are fighting to defend the lungs of the planet.

“Those fighting in Borneo to defend the rainforest are also fighting for the planet, as are native Indians fighting against the uranium mine in the Grand Canyon.”

Blanco said it was time “the people from the cities began to understand that they should follow the lead of these indigenous peoples in defense of nature, because today we can no longer just fight around social issues”.

“Now”, Blanco told GLW, “we are fighting so that humanity can continue to survive”.

One such struggle occurred this year when Peru’s Amazonian indigenous peoples rose up against neoliberal laws that opened up vast swathes of indigenous peoples’ lands — including the Amazon rainforest — to exploitation by transnational oil, mining and logging companies.

The laws were decreed by President Alan Garcia under special powers granted him by Congress to bring Peruvian law into line with the requirements of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) signed with the United States in 2007.

In August 2008, the government was forced to repeal two of the decrees following 11 days of mass demonstrations. Indigenous protesters blockaded roads and a river, shut down oil pipelines and took control of major gas fields in southern Peru.

Then in April, after months of stalled negotiations over the remaining decrees, indigenous people began an uprising. Roads and rivers in the Amazon region were blockaded.

The government responded with a brutal crackdown, culminating in a massacre in Bagua on June 5. Dozens were killed and many more disappeared.

Once again mass mobilisations forced the government to back down, with another two of the most worst decrees repealed.

Since the Bagua massacre, the situation in Peru “continues to remain tense”, Blanco said.

He said indigenous people continued to demand the remaining decrees be revoked.

They are also calling for an impartial international commission to investigate the Bagua massacre. During the uprising, the police opened fire on 5000 indigenous protesters in the Amazonian town.

Government officials claim only 34 people were killed; 23 police and nine indigenous protesters. However, the Interethnic Association for Development of the Peruvian Jungle (AIDESEP), which spearheaded the rebellion, said at least 40 indigenous people were killed.

Eyewitnesses said bodies were dumped in a nearby river and others incinerated at the local army barracks. More than 60 indigenous people are still.

“The United Nations and other international organisations have asked that an impartial investigation commission be established”, Blanco said. However, “this has not occurred”.

A senate commission, as well as a commission organised by the agriculture ministry, have been organised to deal with the issue, “ but they lack all credibility because they are comprised solely of government representatives. There are no representatives from AIDESEP, which organised the strike.”

In a positive development, Indian Country Today said on October 14 that a seven-person commission was agreed to by the government and AIDESEP. It will involve three representatives from AIDESEP, three from the executive branch, and one representative from Peru’s regional governments.

In Bagua, the situation is particularly tense, Blanco said. “The police stations are currently without police because the police are afraid to be seen there. Some of the police live in the area but they go around without their uniforms.”

Other struggles are also being waged against transnational mining companies operating in Peru. “In parts of the mountainous regions, conflicts continue against the mining companies.

“Some indigenous people have declared that they will not allow mining companies in.

“Because these communities have received a large amount of solidarity, the government does not dare attack them. But the rivers continue to be patrolled by the navy, threatening local communities.

“There are also peasants in a jail located in the area who the government is attempting to transfer to Lima, something which is illegal.”

The government is also persecuting indigenous leaders, with 41 AIDESEP leaders facing charges. Eight have already been detained.

AIDESEP leader Alberto Pizango, along with two other activists, is in exile, facing charges of sedition and rebellion against the state. Many others are in hiding.

The government has attempted to stage farcical negotiations with hand picked, unrepresentative indigenous leaders.

The Garcia government “has demonstrated itself to be a faithful servant of the multinational companies”, Blanco said.

These companies “plunder the jungle and mountain regions, poisoning the rivers, destroying the soil and using agrochemicals”.

“It is this commitment to defending imperialist companies that explains why the government has been waging this campaign of intimidation against the indigenous peoples.”

Indigenous peoples “have responded with indignation”.

Blanco said that while the recent upsurge became national in scope, struggles tend to be regionalised, with a local leadership.

“Some people belong to organisations, such as my group the Peasant Confederation of Peru, others to CONACAMI [National Coordinating Committee of Communities Affected by Mining], but in essence they are local leaders.”

Unlike Bolivia, where the indigenous movement has been able to create a powerful united national force, Blanco said in Peru, “the movements and struggles are not led by any of the national organisations”.

In this context, Lucha Indigena aims to be “one more voice for indigenous people”, Blanco said it tries to unte “the mobilisations, the struggles that the people are waging”.

With presidential elections scheduled for 2011, and with polls placing “anti-neoliberal” candidate Ollanta Humala among the top two preferred candidates, some on the left are arguing that an electoral victory for Humala could be an important breakthrough in Peruvian politics.

In the last presidential elections, Garcia narrowly won out against Humala, who heads the Peruvian Nationalist Party (PNP).

However, Blanco, who is also director of the monthly Lucha Indigena newspaper, doesn’t believe “a government like that of Morales [in Bolivia] or Correa [in Ecuador]” will emerge from these elections.

“We have to remember that in those countries, they overthrew various presidents before electing such governments. We are only now overcoming 20 years of internal war and great repression, where some 70,000 Peruvians died — particularly indigenous and popular leaders.”

Blanco said the reason Humala polled so well in the last elections was because he “appeared as the only serious opposition to neoliberalism. He talked about the issues that people felt strongly about. while the left was shifting to the centre.

“He maintained a radical discourse, but it was radical in words only.”

For example, the Socialist Party and other organisations collected signatures to call a referendum on the issue of the US-Peru FTA.

“They collected the signatures and presented them. Humala did not move a single finger during that campaign.

“But paradoxically, in the election campaign, he talked about the FTA but the left parties didn’t.

“That is why the people voted for him.”

Blanco also criticised Humala’s “top down” approach to naming leaders and candidates of the PNP.

“It’s interesting to note that despite the fact that he won a high vote in his campaign to become president, in the regional and municipal elections that occurred afterwards, the PNP vote was a failure because he imposed the candidates.

“They were not candidates that had support from the people or even the ranks of the party.”

As well as the PNP, a new political formation has emerged, Peru Plurinational, which aims to build a political instrument of the indigenous peoples and social movements.

“The idea that the indigenous population should have a single political expression, that they are not trailing behind others, is a positive proposal”, Blanco said.

“But this has been organised in a very apparatus-based manner and it also seems to not be moving forward.”

Blanco said that the only important force really promoting Peru Plurinational was CONACAMI.

It was announced on October 12 that Pizango would stand as the PP candidate for president.
Blanco told GLW on October 15 that this was a positive development: “Pizango is [a representative of] the energetic and prolonged Amazonian struggle and his candidacy strengthens the indigenous and popular movements.

“The simple launching of the candidacy is a triumph of those movements, even if we do not win.”

Blanco said victory would be difficult, “because we need a lot of money for the campaign and because Humala and [progressive priest and presidential candidate Father Marco] Arana will take votes away from him.”

However, Blanco said Pizango’s campaign will help “bring together all those who believe that it is through struggles like those of the Amazonian peoples that we can confront big multinational capital”.

Republished from Green Left Weekly

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Hugo Blanco: Indigenous people are the vanguard of the fight to save the earth

LeftViews: an interview with Hugo Blanco

“The amazonicos are teaching the Peruvians and all the world how to defend nature and defend the survival of the human species.”

Peruvian peasant leader Hugo Blanco, who now edits the newspaper La Lucha Indigena1, was interviewed on August 28 in Arequipa, in southern Peru. The previous day he gave a presentation at a conference entitled “40 Años de la Reforma Agraria” at the city’s Universidad Nacional de San Agustín.

You said last night that today the indigenous peoples of the Amazon are in the vanguard of the struggle in Peru. Can you say more about this?

The struggle is no longer just to free the land, but to defend the land against the poisoning taking place at the hands of the mining companies in the Sierra [mountains], and the oil and gas operations in the Selva [rainforest] – poisoning the rivers, killing the fish, killing the birds, and killing the people too. There are still many struggles in the Sierra-in Cajamarca, in Piura. Just yesterday there was a struggle in this department [Arequipa] at Islay, where several people were hurt. But these struggles are scattered, dispersed. In turn, the amazonicos, despite having 50 different nationalities and languages, have united-the amazonicos of the north, the center the south. The have united to coordinate a democratic and peaceful struggle. Last year, they had a struggle and won concessions from the government. Now they are waging another struggle, and the government has responded with arms. But again, the government was forced to retreat and overturn these two laws. They have gained another triumph.

This was a peaceful struggle that was treasonously attacked by the government, but the indigenas captured arms from the police and defended themselves. So I think this is a lesson – and not just for Peru, but for the world. Throughout the world, many people are concerned about the environment-and with good reason, because as the United Nations has recognized, in another 100 years there could be no humanity. Due to global warming, provoked by the big corporations, whose only imperative is to make as much money as possible in as little time as possible. We can protest, publish articles, but the big corporations keep doing what they want, defended by the world’s governments. The way to resist this is the path taken by the amazonicos.

And this struggle is not over. Their leaders are meeting this month to evaluate the next step. Probably they will not return to the road blockades they have been carrying for the past months. But they will not allow the companies to enter their territories. So I say the amazonicos are teaching the Peruvians and all the world how to defend nature and defend the survival of the human species.

But your own heritage is as a leader of the campesino struggle…

Yes, we had to struggle. The Spanish came here looking for spices, but they didn’t find spices, they found gold and silver. But in agrarian question, they applied the feudal system of Europe-where the feudal lords had the best lands, and they were worked by the serfs in exchange for a little piece of land to work for themselves. And this survived the revolution for independence; nothing changed for the indios. It was done away with in Mexico with the uprising of Zapata. It was done away with in [the altiplano of] Bolivia in 1952, with the Bolivian uprising that year. But here it persisted. In 1962, we began a struggle to recuperate the land for those who work it. And when the government violently attacked us we were obliged to take up arms. But finally the government was forced to pass an agrarian reform law recognizing that the land belongs to the campesinos.

I was in prison for eight years. The wanted to give me the death penalty, but thanks to the international solidarity I won, they were not able to kill me. And it was thanks to that international solidarity that after eight years I was liberated. So now I feel that my obligation is to struggle for those who are imprisoned in the struggle for the Amazon-to fight for them as others fought for me.

Until now, the Amazonian peoples have been very isolated, and have not been involved in the class struggle in Peru. Do you think now, with the process of globalization, they are becoming a part of the broader social struggle in the nation?

Their struggle is not about class. Their struggle is to defend the natural environment where they have lived for millennia. But now this nature – which they regard as their mother – is under attack. The timber companies cutting the trees, the oil companies poisoning the rivers-this is what their uprising is against. They do not understand it as a class struggle. But nonetheless, it is a struggle against the multinational corporations which are defended by the government. So we understand that it is related to the class struggle.

In your 1968 book Tierra o Muerte, there is a lot of the ideology of Trotsky. Are you still a Trotskyist?

This book is a polemical work that I wrote, because we were in debate against Stalinism, which then took the line of only working within the law, struggling through the judicial process and so on. Whereas we took the position that a guerilla movement was necessary for revolution. So it was a debate between these two positions-the reformist position and the guerillerista position, which holds that the people must organize themselves, and when the people decide that there is no other option but to take up arms, they should take up arms. But it is the people who must decide, not any group or party.

So I defended Trotsky because the struggle was against Stalinism. Am I still a Trotskyist? I’m not sure. In certain senses I am, and in others I am not. Trotsky believed in defending the revolutionary ideas of Marx and Lenin against bureaucratic tendencies. He defended world revolution against the ideas of “socialism in one country” and a “progressive bourgeoisie” and “revolution by stages” and the other Stalinist ideas promoted in the name of Marxism-Leninism. So I was right to be a Trotskyist in this epoch.

One thing Trotsky said which has been vindicated is that if the working class doesn’t take power from the bureaucracy, the bureaucracy will be displaced by capitalism. This is what has happened. Today the principal directors of the Soviet Communist Party are the big neoliberals in Russia. Trotsky said that either the working class will triumph, or the bourgeoisie will, that the bureaucracy is not a social class and has no historical future. Unfortunately, its power was not broken by the working class, so it was broken by the bourgeoisie.

But now that there is no Stalinism, why do I have to be a Trotskyist? I don’t feel the same imperative. Of course, there are things I have learned from Marx, things I have learned from Lenin, things I have learned from Trotsky – and from other revolutionaries, from Rosa Luxemburg, from Gramsci, from Che Guevara. But now I do not feel it is logical to form a Trotskyist party.

The youth who organized the conference yesterday – they want answers to the questions of today. We don’t have to resuscitate old debates from the last century. It is enough to still believe that another world is possible. I am old, and if I can teach something about Marx, Lenin and Trotsky and so on, this is something I can contribute. I still believe in standing up and struggling and not pleading with the government, so in this sense I am still a Trotskyist. But I don’t feel the need to say, “Listen everybody, this Trotskyism is the answer!”

And when I speak of the indigenas of the Amazon as a the vanguard, I do not mean it in the Marxist-Leninist sense, that others should copy their methods. And when I speak to indigenous peoples, I speak of “collectivism,” not “communism.”

You are perhaps best remembered in Peru as a guerilla fighter, although this was just one brief period of your life. What is your view of armed struggle in the current situation?

I think the amazonicos are teaching us that struggles need to be massive and peaceful-but if we are attacked, we have the right to defend ourselves. At the blockades, the amazonicos are armed with their spears and bows and arrows and blowguns. But they only use them to defend themselves and their territory from those who invade their territory. If you are attacked with arms, you have the right to defend youself with arms.

For instance, I do not agree with Sendero Luminoso – and neither with those who believe in taking power by elections. Whether by arms or by elections, both are struggling to take power. In this sense, I am a Zapatista. I do not believe in struggling to take power, but to build it…. The villages in the Sierra that are standing up to the mining companies arebuilding power. The indigenas in the Selva who are now controlling their own territory are building power.

But when the people feel they have to defend themselves with arms, they have the right to take this decision. The rightists in Santa Cruz, in Bolivia, do not want to let the people govern, and meet their peaceful struggle with bullets; so the people have the right to meet this force with bullets, to defend democracy with bullets.

You say that there is a new “industrial latifundio” emerging today.

That’s right. Big companies of industrial scale on the coast, tremendously exploiting the agricultural proletariat, the majority of which is not unionized. They get no vacation, they have no social security. And these industries use agro-chemicals that kill the soil. And it is all for export to the United States, it is not for internal consumption.

So this new new “industrial latifundio” is of both agriculture and mining?

Of course – agriculture, mining, oil, timber. All of this is preying on the natural environment. A new agrarian reform is needed to do away with these predatory corporations.

Now nearly every government in South America except Peru and Colombia has gone over to the left to one degree or another. What is your perspective on this phenomenon?

Well, the struggle must continue, no? Like the struggle against the coup in Honduras, the struggle against the mining companies in the Sierra, the oil companies in the Amazon. Probably in the next elections here in Peru, another servant of neoliberalism will win. But what interests me are the social struggles, which must continue under any government.

What do you think of the governments of Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador? You said last night that you consider these to be “governments of transition.”

Yes, of course. Chávez and Correa and Morales are very good sometimes, with their discourse against the empire. But we still cannot say that these are governments of the people of below [gente de abajo]. For example, Chávez wants the entire workers’ movement to be an instrument of his government. But the movement must remain independent and take its own positions. So in this I am not in agreement with him. And for this reason, I have not been invited to Venezuela! [Laughs]

I do not like the compromises that were made in the referendum following the constituent assembly in Bolivia, where they decided that 5,000 hectares constitutes a latifundio. To speak of this in Peru would be considered scandalous. This was a compromise with the reactionary governments of the Media Luna.

And when Santa Cruz held its referendum on independence, Morales said, All the the people of Bolivia should mobilize to Santa Cruz and block this illegality. The Bolivian people were advancing, but then Morales said, Oh no, better not to go. The campesinos were ready to block the roads; Morales said, No, please don’t block the roads.

These breaks on the social movements remind me of the breaks applied by Allende in Chile that facilitated thepinochetazo. These breaks indicate counter-revolutionary attitudes. I oppose this. But these attitudes do not mean the government of Bolivia is counter-revolutionary-no! The indigenous councils that are being organized and so on-these are advances. But it is still not a full manifestation.

So when you say “governments of transition,” you mean transition towards what?

A government of all the people. Towards “Good Government Juntas” [councils] in Bolivia and Ecuador and Venezuela!

This is a reference to the governing bodies of the Zapatista rebels in Chiapas. So you see the Zapatista movement as a model?

I completely support the Zapatista movement; that appears to me the correct path. They represent an example of the kind of society that we want to build in the future. They represent an example of government that is accountable to the people. If one of the indigenous leaders in the Good Government Juntas is not functioning well, he can be recalled at any time. And the Zapatista National Liberation Army doesn’t govern in their territory. It assures that the Mexican national army doesn’t molest the people. The Good Government Juntas govern, providing education and so on, without one centavo from the government.

And the wanted this system constitutionally recognized through the San Andres Accords, and when this was rejected by the Mexican congress in favor of the government’s proposal, they declared all the political parties of Mexico to be traitors, and they participate in no elections. Instead, during the presidential race [in 2006], they held the Other Campaign, and traveled throughout the country asking people what problems they had, and how can we confront them. Not putting forth a line, but coordinating with the people.

And they are also doing this at the international level. For example, the people from New York who are trying to save their homes, also participated in the Other Campaign. This year, at the Festival of Dignified Rage that was held in Zapatista territory, they showed a video from this group.

Yes, the Movement for Justice in El Barrio. You went to Mexico for this meeting?

Yes. This appears to me the correct way of building power.

Well, there have been criticisms on the Mexican left that the Zapatistas’ ethic of refusing to participate in elections has allowed the right to win.

Yes, but all the parties are trying to trick the people. Elections are not the way to build power. The communities in the Sierra that are confronting the mining companies, and the peoples in the Amazon who are standing up to the oil companies-they are building power, like the Zapatistas.

You said last night that in the ’60s you were struggling for a more just society, but today it is a more grave issue-the survival of the human race.

That’s right. The amazonicos are struggling against global warming. If you ask them, they will say they are struggling to defend their territories. But in effect, they are struggling against global warming too. Indigenous peoples have been fighting for eco-socialism for 500 years.

LeftViews is Socialist Voice’s forum for articles related to rebuilding the left in Canada and around the world, reflecting a wide variety of socialist opinion.

Republished from Socialist Voice