Monday, 25 January 2010

President of Peru closes a television station for showing images of his government's repression against indigenous peoples

Gonzalo Sánchez - Tercera Información, January 22, 2010

During the summer the government of Alan Garcia ordered the National Directorate of Special Operations (DINOES) to attack without regard the indigenous population in Bagua who were protesting against the Free Trade Agreement. The result was dozens of indigenous people killed, missing and hundreds injured, some policemen dead and two journalists killed.

The indigenous protestors were trying to prevent the privatization of the Amazon, as the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) establishes that the natural resources of the Peruvian Amazon will be privatized. Alan Garcia whilst calling for negotiation ordered the massacre of the Indians who were protesting.

Now, months later, a television channel not compliant with the rightist government of Garcia was eliminated from the air. The network, called Radio Oriente, is based in the north of the country, and has broadcast videos of the massacre, which Alan García didn’t like, and for which he revoked its license claiming the channel had not acquired the necessary equipment to transmit the year after getting it's license.

Radio Oriente responed that it received permission for the equipment 2006, which was confirmed in 2007.

The ombudsman has asked for explanations from various sectors and branded this as an attack on freedom of expression.

Alan García also suspended for 120 days several MPs and sanctioned others in different ways for supporting the struggles of indigenous peoples. Many of these members belong to the Peruvian Nationalist Party, of opposition leader Ollanta Humala.

Repbulished from Tercera Información, translated by Kiraz Janicke for Peru en Movimiento

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Peru: A historical conflict that requires political solutions

By Miguel Palacín Quispe

The Alan García government has focused on the police in relation to the Bagua Massacre in order to evade political responsibility. It is necessary to form a truly independent Investigation Commission with international observers.

The conflict between indigenous peoples and the Peruvian state has deep historical roots. The Bagua Massacre on June 5 last year was the most visible point of an increasing process of indigenous political protagonism and the criminalization of rights by the state. The dominant neo-liberal capitalist civilisation is becoming more and more violent against the indigenous world view, against life, against equilibrium and harmony with Mother Earth.

A conflict of this nature is political, economic, social and cultural. And it requires those kinds of solutions and not, as the APRA government tries to promote, a simple focus on the police in the debate, especially after the presentation of the Bagua Commission Report and the dissemination of questioned images (photos and videos) of a disappeared policeman.

On 5th June 2009, at Devil's Curve, Bagua, Utcubamba and Station 6, 34 people died. Research to identify and punish the material perpetrators of these killings, all equally condemnable is the responsibility of public prosecutors and the judiciary. But that does not resolve the conflict and therefore will not avoid new conflicts: for this it is essential to identify the real problem, its causes and those politically responsible.

The most profound cause is the policy of cultural and physical extermination of indigenous peoples, begun more than five hundred years ago, that did not stop with the birth of the Republic and its uni-national and mono-cultural state. More recently, in Peru at the beginning of the last decade of the last century, the imposition of neoliberalism swept away our rights, especially our land rights (and it is in relation to our lands where our identity resides and from which emerges all of our rights), and made us move from resistance to alternative proposals, a process which strengthened and articulated our organizations. We moved from invisibility to political prominence.

The issuance of the legislative package to implement the Free Trade Agreement with the United States, whose repeal is the focus of the Amazon and Andean indigenous platform, is part of the neoliberal imposition, with its trade agreements and indiscriminate concessions without any controls on the extractive industries, with its attendant environmental, economic and cultural impacts.

But now they try to co-opt the social pressure to repeal the decrees - which since the Bagua massacre, has become a national demand with broad international backing - with discussions under the jurisdiction of law enforcement and the judiciary. It is not only to lay smokescreens to ultimately evade political responsibility. It is also another attack against indigenous peoples, against those which the Bagua Comission Report, using a racist Western vision, presented as violent, ignorant, and manipulated by NGOs, churches, the media and parliamentarians, incapable of governing ourselves, as we have been doing for thousands of years before the existence of the Peruvian State. We governed ourselves and lived in harmony with Mother Earth, without exploiting her, polluting her, pillaging her, guarding her to continue raising new generations.

Trying to create parallel organizations to the Interethnic Development Association of the Peruvian Rainforest (AIDESEP),[1] continuing judicial harassment of its leaders, seeking "to dissolve," it and speaking of "paramilitary groups" in the Bagua massacre, does nothing to resolve a historical dispute. On the contrary, it exacerbates it and is the practical application of the “Barnyard dog” doctrine of Alan García and his government. [2]

Politically responsibilities, which are not even mentioned in the Bagua Commission Report, begin with President Alan García and his then ministers, principally Mercedes Cabanillas Interior Minister and Mercedes Araoz Production Minister, now the Economy Minister, Yehude Simon, then president of the cabinet, and Javier Velásquez Quesquén, then President of Congress who provocatively again postponed a discussion of the repeal of legislative decrees of the FTA with the U.S. and now chairs the Council of Ministers.

The legislative decrees have not been repealed, the dialogue table with the government failed to resolve the platform of indigenous peoples. And the state continues to remain deaf to the observations and recommendations of United Nations agencies that have spoken on the subject. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), said officially:

"The Committee urges the State party to follow the recommendations of UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, Mr. James Anaya, following his visit to Peru and to proceed urgently to implement an Independent Commission with indigenous representation, for a thorough, objective and impartial investigation. It also recommends that the Commission's findings enrich the discussions that are occurring in Peru on the Law on Consultation and Participation of Indigenous Peoples in Environmental Matters and the regulations on the existent issue of mining and petroleum subsectors presented by the Ministry of Energy and Mines. The Committee waits to be informed of the negotiations, the constitution, the findings, conclusions and recommendations of said Commission (...) ".

We must remember that James Anaya, the Special Rapporteur recommended that this Independent Commission counts with [the participation of] international observers. And the [Bagua] Commission that late last year issued its questioned report was not independent because most of its members were former ministers of APRA or are linked to the government and it did not count with [the participation of] international observers.

The CERD has also recommended:

"To continue pushing urgently for the adoption of a framework law on indigenous peoples of Peru, encompassing all communities, trying to align and harmonize the terms to ensure adequate protection and promotion of the rights of all indigenous peoples.”

"That the State party implements a participatory and inclusive process in order to determine what is the vision of the nation that best represents the ethnic and cultural diversity of a country as rich as Peru, as a shared and inclusive vision can guide the course of the State party in its public policies and development projects.”

Other recommendations of the CERD that continue being ignored by the Alan García government are the enactment of a Law of Consultation and a Law of Preservation of Indigenous Languages.

In short, the conflict continues to fester because the historical causes remain, the demands of the Amazon mobilizations have not been met, the criminalization and stigmatization of indigenous peoples continues, the debate is focused on the police to avoid political responsibility and the Alan García government has not the slightest intention to undertake policy measures as recommended by CERD to solve it.

These are the pending tasks and indigenous organizations, all social movements and human rights organizations must continue to press for them to be carried out, without falling for distractive and cover-up manoeuvres [by the government].

Once again the Andean Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations, CAOI, stresses that political conflicts require political solutions. If the CERD has recommended a framework law of Indigenous Peoples, we note that the solution is to give character to the Organic Law on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples of the UN. If it has recommended to "determine what is the vision of the nation that best represents the ethnic and cultural diversity" of Peru, we reiterate our call to build a pluri-national State. And we insist on the creation of an Investigation Commission that is truly independent and with international observers.

The projects of the Law of Consultation and of Free and Informed Prior Consent and of the preservation of indigenous languages, still awaiting debate in Congress must happen now. All this [must be done], without forgetting the immediate repeal of the still current legislative decrees of the FTA and an end to the criminalization of indigenous peoples and the social movements.

Due to the considerations raised and due to the lack of independence of the report issued, [the issue] should go to the UN, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and other agencies to enforce the recommendations of the CERD and establish an International Commission to clarify the facts and demand the punishment of those responsible.

Lima, January 12 2010.

Miguel Palacín Quispe is the General Coordinator of CAOI

Translated by Kiraz Janicke for Peru en Movimiento

Translators Notes:

[1] According to official government reports 34 people died in clashes between indigenous protesters and the police, including 23 police officers, on June 5, 2009, in what has become known as the Bagua Massacre. However, witness testimonies and human rights organisations say the real number is much higher and that hundreds of indigenous people have been disappeared. Witnesses report bodies of indigenous people being dumped from helicopters and incinerated at a nearby army barracks.

[2] AIDESEP is the largest organisation of Peruvian indigenous peoples, representing over 3000 indigenous communities. It has lead the resistance to the legislative decrees implemented by the García government to bring Peruvian law into line with the FTA signed with the U.S., and which open up vast swathes of indigenous peoples lands to exploitation by trans-national companies. In October 2009, Peru’s Public Prosecutor of the Ministry of Justice solicited the dissolution of AIDESEP, but withdrew the request after a nationwide outcry.

[3] In October 2007, García “penned an opinion piece titled "El syndrome del perro del hortelano," or the syndrome of the barnyard dog, for the Lima-based daily El Comercio. The title compares those advocating the protection of the Amazon's resources to a barnyard dog growling over food that it does not eat but will not let others have. Besides insinuating a racist comparison between indigenous peoples and dogs, García blamed his opponents—singling out indigenous—for standing in the way of Peru's development via foreign capital.” - Peru's Cold War against Indigenous People, Kristina Aiello July 19, 2009 (

Republished from Agencia Latinoamericana de Información

Friday, 15 January 2010

Hugo Blanco: `Only extinction of capitalism will ensure the survival of our species’; Reunión sobre cambio climático Copenhague

By Hugo Blanco, translated by Richard Fidler for Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

The concentration of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere is already so high that the climate system has been brought out of balance. The CO2 concentration and global temperatures have increased more rapidly in the last 50 years than ever before on Earth, and will rise even faster in the coming decades. This adds to a multitude of other serious ecological imbalances, the impacts of which threaten the lives and livelihoods of the people of the world, most acutely, impoverished people and other vulnerable groups.

The imbalance of the climate system leads to greater and more frequent extremes of heat and rainfall patterns, tropical cyclones, hurricanes and typhoons, extreme flooding and droughts, loss of biodiversity, landslides, rising sea levels, shortage of drinking water, shorter growing seasons, lower yields, lost or deteriorated agricultural land, decreased agricultural production, losses of livestock, extinction of ecosystems, and diminished fish stocks, among others. These phenomena result in food crises, famine, illness, death, displacement, and the extinction of sustainable ways of life. -- People’s Declaration from Klimaforum09

January 2010 -- In response to this, the United Nations agreed to hold a Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP15), which met in Copenhagen December 7-18 to draft a treaty for the reduction of the greenhouse gas emissions causing global warming.

The meeting ended without any agreement since the countries primarily responsible for global warming — led by the United States, which, with only 4 per cent of the world’s population, produces 25 per cent of the pollution due to carbon dioxide emissions — were unwilling to commit themselves to even the least reduction in that pollution.

At the last minute, after the official meeting had broken up, US President Barack Obama met with some accomplices and got them to sign, without discussion, a paper expressing “every intention” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but without any binding commitments, and promising “to help” the major victims of warming, basically in Africa and other poor countries, but again without establishing any amounts or enforcement mechanisms. Simply expressions of good intentions without any commitment.

Despite the failure of the official meeting, Bolivia’s President Evo Morales stated: “They say it was a failure, but I would not say that the Copenhagen summit has failed, but rather that it is a triumph for the entire world... because the developed capitalist countries could not impose their statement.”

We fully agree with him. It was different from the Kyoto meeting which set ridiculous goals that the US and other major culprits did not sign and did not fulfill — which made environmental protection a commodity, but nevertheless gave hope to people that something was being done. In Copenhagen, fortunately, the failure of the official meeting was completely clear.

This awakened many who still had the illusion that within the capitalist system it is possible to stop global warming, that the world’s major predators can act in defence of the survival of the human species.

Copenhagen brought together not only official representatives. In the international demonstration on Saturday, December 12, there were 100,000 people concerned about climate change. The meeting was preceded by massive demonstrations in England and other countries.

An organisation was formed, “Change the system, not the climate”, and it issued the “People’s Declaration in Klimaforum09”.

In the meeting of the presidents, Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez repeated two slogans raised by the people in the streets: “Change the system, not the climate” and “If the climate were a bank they would have saved it by now.”

Evo Morales reported that when he went to speak they evacuated the room so that only the official leaders heard him. He posed five questions on climate change that the United Nations should put to the world’s peoples in a global referendum, asking that they answer yes or no, "That will leave the decision in the hands of the peoples of the world.” (The United Nations will hold no such referendum, of course.)

1. Do you agree with re-establishing harmony with nature while recognising the rights of Mother Earth?

2. Do you agree with changing this model of over-consumption and waste that the capitalist system represents?

3. Do you agree that developed countries should reduce and re-absorb their domestic greenhouse gas emissions so that the temperature does not rise more than 1 degree Celsius?

4. Do you agree with transferring everything spent on wars to protecting the planet and allocating a budget for climate change that is bigger than what is used for defence?

5. Do you agree with establishing a Climate Justice Tribunal to judge those who destroy Mother Earth?

Morales has also issued a call for the “Peoples’ Summit on Climate Change” in defence of humanity, life and the planet. Those invited will be not only the presidents of interested countries concerned about the issue, but experts, academics and representatives of the social organisations.

“The goal is to achieve a consensus position to be raised at the next Summit on Climate Change to be held in Mexico in December 2010.”

The People’s Summit will be held in Cochabamba, Bolivia April 20-22, coinciding with the first worldwide celebration of Mother Earth Day recently instituted by the United Nations.

It is naive to think that the world’s major polluters will do anything about climate protection.

Large multinational companies are the ones who govern the world through the “leaders” who are nothing more than their servants.

Their neoliberal religion commands them to make as much money as possible in the shortest time possible. They know very well that to do this they must destroy nature. They know very well that they will have no descendants, but they do not care. Through their media they spread the most possible disinformation about global warming and the appropriate steps to be taken.

Evo is right when he says:

They only deal with the effects and not the causes of climate change.

Climate change is a product of the capitalist system, which favours the pursuit of the maximum possible profit. That is the purpose of the capitalist system, with no consideration for the lives of others. In Copenhagen we should analyse which countries are doing the most damage to the environment and, with that in mind, focus on the need for those countries with the greatest responsibility to pay for this debt to the global climate. That is an obligation ...

The Copenhagen summit is much more global in nature, it is a debate about life, about humanity. Here we have profound differences with capitalist governments. I remain convinced that capitalism is the worst enemy of humanity.

We might still be able to ensure the survival of the species. We have cause for optimism in the meeting of 100,000 people in Copenhagen, the formation of the organisation “Change the system, not the climate”, the call for the meeting in Cochabamba, the violent impact on the rich countries of Europe of the freezing temperatures in recent days.

Apparently we Indigenous peoples, who for centuries have been struggling and dying in defence of Mother Earth and the defence of our collectivist solidarity, will no longer be alone.

Only the extinction of capitalism will ensure the survival of our species, and the sooner the world understands this the better.

[Hugo Blanco was a leader of the Quechua peasant uprising in the Cuzco region of Peru in the early 1960s. He was captured by the military and sentenced to 25 years in El Fronton Island prison for his activities, but an international defence campaign won his freedom. He continues to play an active role in Peru's Indigenous, campesino, and environmental movements, and writes on Peruvian, indigenous and Latin American issues. He edits the Lucha Indigena newspaper. An earlier English version of this article first appeared at Another Green World.]

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Peru’s Supreme Court Upholds Fujimori's 25-Year Sentence for Murders and Kidnappings

By April Howard, UpsideDownWorld

On January 3, 2010, Peru's Supreme Court upheld Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori's April 2007 conviction and 25-year sentence for aggravated homicide, aggravated kidnapping, severe injuries and forced disappearance of persons.

Fujimori was president of Peru from 1990 until 2000 during a period of civil unrest, and waged a 'dirty war' against a Maoist guerrilla group called the Shining Path, and any and all Peruvians suspected of sympathizing with them.

The recent ruling addressed several crimes, including the killings of suspected Shining Path guerillas which took place in Barrios Altos (1991), where 15 people were shot to death and 4 others were seriously injured by a clandestine military death squad, and in La Cantuta, where nine students and a university professor were tortured and murdered, and their bodies destroyed and disappeared in sand dunes outside Lima (1992). Also in 1992, secret police kidnapped journalist Gustavo Gorriti and businessman Samuel Dyer and held both in the basement of the Army Intelligence unit during a so-called auto-coup. Though a paramilitary death squad called the Colina group carried out the killings and kidnappings, Fujimori was convicted for knowing of and authorizing the action through his spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos.

When Fujimori's administration collapsed under corruption charges in 2000, he escaped to Japan, the country of his parents. He was able to avoid extradition for most of the decade due to the Japanese government's recognition of his citizenship. It was not until he took a trip to Chile in 2005 that he was put under house arrest detained and extradited to Peru in 2006.

In April of 2007, after a trial lasting 15 months, the Special Penal Court, led by Supreme Judge César San Martín, convicted Fujimori of the charge, which he denied, of being the "mediate author of the crimes of qualified homicide and grave injuries," and sentenced him to 25 years in prison. His historic conviction marked the first time a democratically elected Latin American leader was found guilty of human rights abuses in his own country.

The 71 year-old Fujimori is already serving three other prison sentences at the same time: a six year sentence for abuse of power from 2007, seven and a half years for paying Montesinos $15m of state money, and for phone tapping and widespread bribery of members of the press, business sector and political opponents.

In November of 2009, Fujimori's lawyer, Cesar Nakazaki requested the revocation of the human rights abuse sentence and the annulment of the conviction for the La Cantuta kidnappings. Even though a law enacted in 2006 states that a presidential pardon or amnesty cannot be granted to those convicted of kidnapping (Law 28760). Nakazaki argued that there was insufficient evidence find Fujimori guilty of ordering the abductions.

The sentence was (R.N. Nº 19-01-2009-A.V ) ratified by the First Penal Transitory Hall of the Peruvian Supreme Court of Justice, led by Judge of the Supreme Tribunal Duberli Rodriguez, as well as by judges Julio Biaggi, Elvia Barros, Roberto Barandiaran and Jose Neyra. The court unanimously upheld the murder conviction and the 25-year sentence. The kidnapping charges were ratified by a majority vote, in which Justice Julio Enrique Biaggi upheld the fines and damage, but dissented on the charges of aggravated kidnapping rather than simple kidnapping. The sentence also ratified the qualification of the massacres as crimes against humanity.

Fujimori's prison term includes his time in Chile in custody and under house arrest from 2005 until 2006, making his sentence effectively until Feb.10, 2032. He is not permitted a pardon, but after serving 19 years (3/4 of his sentence), he would be allowed, at age 90, to shorten his sentence by one day for every 7 days of prison work he completes. He is currently being held in the north of Lima at the special operations unit of the National Police.

Judges also ordered Fujimori to pay 62,400 soles (22,285 U.S. dollars) each to Marcelino Marcos Pablo Meza and Carmen Juana Marinos Figueroa, and to 21 other relatives of the victims.

Congresswoman Keiko Fujimori, Fujimori's daughter, said a writ of habeus corpus would be presented to the Court. However, the court's most recent decision makes a future pardon on grounds of age or health unlikely.

Nakazaki said that they will continue to fight for the nullification of the sentence" and that "if Fujimori is to have justice, that justice must be found at another Judicial Power or at Constitutional Courtl level." However, on January 5, Constitutional Court president Juan Vergara, stated that a Supreme Court decision cannot be changed the Constitutional Court.

Republished from UpsideDownWorld

Avatar is real: Pandora is located in Central and South America and Africa.

January 12th 2010, by Carlos A. Quiroz -

Indigenous peoples are displaced by wars and corporations

If you haven’t seen Avatar then you are missing out a good movie. The film excels in creativity, imagination, excitement stories and technical work. The result is overwhelmingly pleasing to the senses and I suggest you watch its 3D version to enjoy it the best.

Most importantly this film has a message beyond the central romance story, and perhaps that is the reason why I suggest you should watch it. I won’t spoil your experience by telling you what happened at the end of the movie, however I would like you to understand the context of its main story, some say its fiction but it has a lot of reality.

Avatar is real: Pandora exists in our planet and it's located in South and Central America, and Africa. The Na'vi peoples, the Indigenous peoples in those regions are being displaced and killed right now, in order to extract the natural resources laying underground. The names of places and peoples may be different in the movie, but the facts of reality are almost the same.

Distant regions of green, tropical forests rich in beauty are in danger, due to their abundance in unknown treasures hidden behind human’s eyes. In order to get those resources needed by rich countries, multinational corporations are using governments, armed forces, paramilitary and guerrillas to massacre and displace Indigenous peoples.

Sadly, in most cases the U.S. military is involved one way or another.

In the next generation, Central and South America will be the next battle fields for rich countries fighting over natural resources which they need to continue growing and keeping up with their consumerists, excessive ways of life. Minerals, oil, drinkable water, natural gas, forest and bio-tech resources are widely available in areas kept in balance by Native peoples for thousands of years.

Thus, the last pristine virgin forests on Earth, could be taken over by powerful military armies, working on behalf of multinational corporations, especially those based in the U.S., Europe, and Canada; and perhaps soon India, China, and Russia.

This is not fiction. It's happening already in the tropical forests and mountains of Peru, Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Panama, Ecuador, where big mining, oil, lodging, tourism, real state, pharmaceutical corporations are invading the ancestral lands of Indigenous peoples and stealing their cultures and heritage in order to profit, all of which is done with the complicity of the local puppet governments.

In the film, the attacking thugs were a bunch of cold hearted and insensitive corporate and military folks who would invest money in science, researching and cultural programs in order to win the hearts and minds of Indigenous peoples living in sacred, untouched, pristine forests of a balanced but fragile environment. Those places are the final destinations for destructive mining machinery, ready to extract the insides of the mother land.

Sebastian Machineri is a leader of the Yaminawa indigenous people that live in the border area of Brazil, Peru and Bolivia, deep in the Amazon forest. He was recently in Washington, DC, participating at a working meeting of the Organization of American States for a continental declaration of Indigenous rights. Sebastian Machineri told me that Indigenous peoples in Brazil are being killed, attacked, displaced, and exterminated by the federal government and private ranch owners. “I have no hope that anything will change in the near future” he added, when I asked if international legislation in behalf of Indigenous peoples rights -like the UN declaration adopted in 2006- can help. He said that greedy powerful interests are pushing governments to destroy our planet.

This is the truth. In 2009 the Indigenous peoples around the Americas faced increasing violence, deadly military attacks, displacement, persecution and incarceration from governments, paramilitaries, guerrillas and military forces linked to corporate interests and extractive industries.

In order to do displace Indigenous peoples, governments in Latin America are forced by powerful interest groups to pass special legislation based on the “free-trade” policies model, which was designed by Wall Street. This economic trend known as "neoliberalism" has opened the doors of protected areas to private corporations with enough money and influences to do what they please, without considering the rights of the Indigenous peoples living there.

Last June 2009 in Peru, hundreds of Awajun and Wampis Indigenous farmers were massacred by US-trained militarized police forces of Peru, in the Bagua region. The Natives were protesting peacefully against government legislation that allowed corporations to take over their lands resources, without previous consultation. Also as a result, many policemen of Indigenous heritage were killed by a riot of Natives who heard of the Bagua massacre. Months later, the Awajun and Wampis peoples detained five employees of the Canadian mining company IAMGOLD, who didn't have authorization to enter their territory.

In several regions of Peru, mining corporations are causing pollution and the poisoning of entire Indigenous towns. This has led to social protests and a growing Indigenous movement, but the response of president Alan Garcia has been of racism, violence and repression, accusing the Natives as terrorists, criminals and second-class citizens. Many community leaders have been incarcerated when protesting against the government plans, which includes leasing 73% of the Amazon forest and extensive areas of the Andean mountains to multinationals.

In 2006 the Bush administration forced Peruvians to accept an abusive free trade agreement (FTA) which was entirely written in the United States. The massacre of Bagua was an indirect result of the policies included in that FTA. The authorities of Cusco were forced to pass legislation that bans bio-piracy or “the appropriation and monopolization of traditional population’s knowledge and biological resources”, in order to prevent the negative effects of the unpopular and controversial U.S.-Peru FTA. But that is not it.

Jeremy Hance denounces more atrocities faced by Indigenous peoples in Peru in this excellent article posted by Mongabay News:

Just weeks after the bloody incident [of Bagua], Texas-based Hunt Oil, with full support of the Peruvian government, moved into the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve with helicopters and large machinery for seismic testing. A scene not unlike Avatar, which shows a corporation entering indigenous territory with gun ships. The seismic testing alone involves 300 miles of testing trails, over 12,000 explosive charges, and 100 helicopter land pads in the middle of a largely-untouched and unknown region of the Amazonian rainforest. The reserve, which was created to protect native peoples' homes, may soon be turned into a land of oil scars. Indigenous groups say they were never properly consulted by Hunt Oil for use of their land. [...]

In the film the Na'vi are dismissed as "blue monkeys" and "savages" by the corporate administrator. Both the corporation and their hired soldiers view the Na'vi as less than human.

In Peru, President Alan Garcia has called indigenous people "confused savages", "barbaric", "second-class citizens", "criminals", and "ignorant". He has even compared tribal groups to the nation's infamous terrorists, the Shining Path.

There is no end in sight in the struggle between the indigenous people of Peru and government-sanctioned corporate power.

Lets move on to Colombia, where the Amazonian Indigenous peoples are caught in the middle of the internal war between the government, the guerrillas and the government-supported paramilitary. Twenty members of the Awa Indigenous community were killed in 2009 by the guerrilla group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and by the end of the year 74 more Awas were killed by paramilitary groups linked to the illegal drugs cartels. Many Indigenous peoples are forced to leave their lands due to this type of violence, and the abandoned lands are taken by agro business corporations.

Also last year, more than 2,000 Indigenous Embera people in Colombia have abandoned 25 villages and their territory, in order to escape violence from paramilitaries. Meanwhile the Colombian House of Representatives approved a controversial program to convince local women to submit to sterilization. This same type of program has affected over 330,000 Indigenous women and men in Peru in the 1990s.

In the Pacific region of Colombia, the Afro Colombian population continues to endure violence, killings and displacement. Just last month the leaders Manuel Moya, Graciano Blandon and his son were assassinated by the paramilitary. Over 4 million Colombians have been displaced by this type of violence created by the guerrillas, the military and right-wing paramilitaries, who have strong ties to the Alvaro Uribe government.

The same tragedy is occurring all over the continent. According to information posted by John Schertow of the Indigenous news website "Intercontinental Cry", these are some of the most violent attacks faced by Native peoples in Central and South America in 2009:

In central Brazil, the Yanomami community of Paapiu began calling for the immediate expulsion of illegal gold miners occupying their land. Survival International reported, “[the Yanomami] say they are prepared to use bows and arrows to expel the invaders themselves if the authorities do not take immediate action.”

The Guarani Kaiowa community of Apyka´y in Brazil was attacked by ten gunmen, who fired shots in to their camp, wounding one person. The gunmen also beat up and injured others with knives and then set fire to their village. This was the second village torched in less than a week.

As many as 300 troops from Panama’s National Police demolished a Naso village in Bocas del Toro–for the second time. No injuries were reported, however, some 150 adults and 65 children were left with no shelter and limited access to food and water.

Following an overturned eviction, an Ava Guarani indigenous community in Paraguay’s Itakyry district was sprayed with toxic chemicals, most likely pesticide, resulting in nearly the entire village needing medical treatment.

In Guatemala, a group of Maya Mam villagers set fire to a pickup truck and an exploration drill rig, after the Canadian company Goldcorp repeatedly failed to remove the equipment off the community’s land.

In Chile, several Mapuche communities began to reclaim their lands in Araucania, a region located in the center of the country, which they say were stolen in the XVI century during the Hispanic invasion. At least five people have been killed by the Chilean government, which has passed strong anti-terrorism legislation to imprison and trial Mapuche indigenous leaders.

In Ecuador, Indigenous peoples are suing U.S. oil corporations for damages to their Amazonian forest land and water pollution. Meanwhile the leftist government of Rafael Correa has tried to betray its electoral promises, by selling extensive lands to oil and mining corporations. The response was a strong national strike and social protests.

The panorama is different in Bolivia, where Indigenous people are moving towards self-government under their own cultural traditions, after the December 6 presidential and legislative elections. In those elections 12 of the 327 municipalities of the country voted in favor of Indigenous collective self-government, giving them control over the natural resources and their land. The same model, but at a smaller scale is being applied in Venezuela by the government of president Hugo Chavez, which is giving its Indigenous populations the right to own their ancestral lands.

Unfortunately, justice for Indigenous peoples seem to be wrong for the Obama administration, already controlled by the same corporate interests of its predecessors. A biased U.S. media often attacks the governments of Bolivia and Venezuela, while it remains silent in the massacres of Indigenous peoples in Peru, Colombia, Brazil, and the violent repression in Chile and Ecuador, or the violence promoted by the coup regime of Honduras where death squads trained in the U.S. are killing the opposition including Garifuna, Miskito and other Indigenous groups.

The future of Central and South America -and Africa- depends directly of how much power is retained by rich countries and their multinational corporations, in those regions. In the last decades, Wall Street and London have told poor nations that small governments are the key for progress and development. The less control, the more democracy, more human rights and especially more foreign investment. This model has failed.

We see what is happening right now in Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, Sudan, Somalia, etc. where weak governments can't stop internal wars financed by rich countries and private corporations. Only in Congo this type of violence has caused over 6 million people killed and 500 thousands men and women being raped. This is a painful proof that governments need to be strong, that people must take control of their destinies, not corporations.

Growing up in South America, we were told that our Indigenous people were exterminated, disseminated, gone. Therefore they taught us in schools that nothing was left to reverse the colonization process, that our peoples could never dare to stop it. We were told we weren't Indigenous anymore.

In reality, there is so much all we people -of every race- can do in order to stop the imperialist oppression of Indigenous peoples, and the destruction of our planet. Everyone can do something, because in the end this is about the survival of the whole human race and our home, our mother land.

We need to stand against rich countries oppressing poorer nations with direct military invasions or with provoked internal conflicts. It's happening today in Congo, Uganda, Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, Mexico, Colombia, Yemen, Burma, Pakistan, Nigeria, Peru, etc.

Like in Avatar, this Pandora-like violence against Indigenous communities all over the world is promoted by a racist, selfish sector of United States government and corporate involvement in military invasions, coups, paramilitary groups, training of torturers and repressive forces, and financing of anti-Indigenous governments.

For instance, during the Bush administration, the strategy to take over the natural resources of Latin America was domitated by free-trade agreements (FTA) and the funding of violent conflicts in Colombia, Haiti, and Mexico. Thousands of civilians have been killed, many of whom were Indigenous and Afro descendants.

In 2009 with Barack Obama in power, the U.S. government has slowed down on its FTA policies but the Pentagon has confirmed the opening of seven military bases in Colombia, while it has possibly increased its presence in Peru with three military stations. The Pentagon’s Southern Command has also increased military exercise programs conducted with Peru, Panama, Argentina, Brazil and Colombia, while Chile received approval from U.S. Congress to obtain high technology war missiles.

In Avatar, the main destructive leaders were the military chief and the corporate boss. The relation between U.S. military intervention and corporate interests is never more obvious than in Colombia. As the second biggest recipient of U.S. military aid in the world -after Israel- Colombia is an important source of oil, minerals, cocaine and agro business which are crucial for the U.S. economy. Its neighbor Venezuela is not taking these close ties too lightly, and recently the Chavez government has bought armament from Russia, China and possibly Iran.

In the James Cameron's film Avatar, the US military became a sophisticated army of private mercenaries, working in behalf of extractive industries and its huge profits. No matter what they needed to destroy or who they had to kill, they had to get the job done. The "Sky people" had already destroyed their home, "and no green was left".

Despite the white-supremacist tone of the end of the film with a white male saving the Indigenous population, the script had an interesting approach to race. While a mostly-white leadership were leading destructive enterprises, the saviors were a young and multi-racial group of thinkers and dreamers.

The movie presents Pandora's Indigenous peoples as blueish half animals, not humans. In reality that is the way how some people see our Indigenous peoples in the Americas, almost as sub humans, with no rights to live, to survive. Our peoples are the victims of the permanent greediness of the so called developed nations.

As a result of extraordinary experiments, some of the humans become laboratory-mixed Natives. The Avatars were like a new race, mixed, mestizo individuals who are physically similar to the Indigenous, but mentally more aware of certain things. They learn the spirituality and sciences of nature from the “savages” and with time, they learn that mining is not worth the price of such destruction. Then they become the protectors of Natives, who using a mixture of knowledge, both human and Na'vi, eventually kick the invaders out of their land by actually killing most of them.

Sorry I just told you the rest of movie, but at least I didn't reveal the romantic part. No worries, you will still enjoy this film.

Avatar represents a new step in the filming industry, not just because of its high technology animation [amazing!] and the way its mixed with real actors, but also because it's showing us the most likely future of this planet, if we allow it to happen.

In the film, the attacking thugs were a bunch of insensitive corporate and military individuals, working for hidden interests. They would invest money in science, researching and cultural programs in order to win the hearts and minds of Indigenous peoples living in sacred, untouched, pristine forests of a balanced but fragile environment. Those places are the final destinations for destructive mining machinery, ready to extract the insides of the mother land.

Sebastian Machineri told me that Indigenous peoples in the Amazon forests are angry at many non-profits that come to their communities, video record their ways of live, take photos and teach them "modern" skills. Later on, corporations and ranchers move in.

The possible military conflicts to take place in Central and especially in South America in the next years, are related to corporate greediness and special capitalist interests. This is the scary future that awaits to the future generations.

Unless of course, the United States, Europe and other rich countries end their colonialist, imperialistic policies which are designed and dominated by corporate and military machines, true mafias. Like in Avatar, the future of our Pandora is in the hands of "the People" in order to regain the control of our lands, to guarantee a true democracy, to respect our Indigenous peoples with equality, where our planet is preserved and life is sacred again.

Carlos A. Quiroz is a free lance writer and independent journalist , video blogger, activist and artist painter based in Washington, DC. An Indigenous man of Quechua and Muchik heritage from Peru, he writes three blogs: Carlos in DC, Peruanista and Double Spirited. His articles have been published by The Huffington Post, Ground Report and websites in the U.S. Peru and Venezuela. His Twitter is CarlosQC.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Report on Massacre of Native Protesters in Peru Biased, Says Head of Inquiry

Milagros Salazar interviews JESÚS MANACÉS, head of the Bagua massacre inquiry commission

LIMA, Dec 30 (IPS) - The coordinator of the commission convened by the Peruvian government to clarify a June massacre of 33 indigenous protesters and police near the Amazonian town of Bagua refused to sign the final report, which he says is biased.

Jesús Manacés, an Awajún leader who coordinated the special commission, told IPS that he did not sign the final report because it does not include the views of everyone involved and does not identify those who were responsible, in the political, police and military spheres.

He said the commission had neither adequate resources nor enough time to clarify what happened on Jun. 2 near the town of Bagua in the Amazon jungle in northern Peru, where a clash between security forces and native protesters left at least 33 people dead, one missing policeman and over 200 people injured.

The killings put an end to a two-month demonstration and roadblock in Bagua by Amerindians demanding the repeal of decrees passed by the government of Alan García that opened up indigenous land in the rainforest to oil, mining and logging companies, in the framework of the free trade agreement (FTA) signed with the United States.

(After the incident, in June, Congress revoked two of the most controversial decrees.)

According to different sources, the local police chiefs and the protesters had reached an agreement for a peaceful lifting of the roadblock at 10:30 AM. But just before 6:00 AM, heavily armed police units arrived and opened fire on the demonstrators, some of whom were still sleeping.

Manacés and religious worker Carmen Gómez, another member of the commission, went public on Dec. 26 with their discrepancies with the report, in a letter addressed to Agriculture Minister Adolfo de Córdova, who heads the Grupo Nacional de Coordinación para el Desarrollo de los Pueblos Indígenas (national coordinating group for the development of indigenous peoples).

In the document, Manacés and Gómez say they will draw up an alternative report to shed more light on what happened that tragic day. IPS correspondent Milagros Salazar sat down with Manacés to discuss the situation. Excerpts of the interview follow:

Q: You note that the commission was unable to question several key figures to clear up what happened in Bagua. Who are you referring to?

A: Several cabinet ministers and others in high-level positions. In some cases, we were unable to arrange the interviews, as in the case of former Prime Minister Yehude Simon. I pointed out the need to talk to him, we wrote a letter, but the request never reached him.

We also asked for a meeting with then Foreign Trade Minister Mercedes Aráoz, who defended the decrees that prompted the protest by our indigenous brothers and sisters. She said that if those decrees were repealed, the FTA with the United States would collapse, and as we know now, that wasn't true.

She made an appointment with us, but we didn't go because the work of the commission was moving along so quickly and we didn't have the resources or assistants to deliver the letters or carry out the interviews.

Q: You met with Mercedes Cabanillas, the then minister of the interior. What explanation did she give you about the violent police crackdown to break up the roadblock by the native protesters who were camping out at the Curva del Diablo (a spot on the highway near Bagua)?

A: She described the events for about half an hour, and then responded to only a few questions.

Q: Didn't you ask her who ordered the operation to break up the roadblock?

A: She said she didn't give the order, that it was the police chief who gave it. She didn't respond as expected. But it's obvious that she was ultimately responsible.

Q: Cabanillas insists that everything was in the hands of the police and that she only received a report after the fact.

A: That response is like saying that as minister, the person who is ultimately responsible, she gave the police free rein to do whatever they wanted. And if that's true, isn't she responsible for what happened?

Q: You said you also weren't given access to important documents like the Interior Ministry's "Report on Internal Security". Who refused you access to that document?

A: I made that request in front of Minister Octavio Salazar (who replaced Cabanillas) in a meeting with him and Gen. Javier Uribe (who was in charge of the negotiations with the indigenous protesters prior to the police operation) in the Special Operations Division headquarters.

The general said he couldn't hand over the document because the case was being appealed, but I insisted that it would be a big help for us to do our job. The minister then agreed to give it to us, but that didn't happen.

Q: Isn't it contradictory that the final report signed by the other members of the commission acknowledges that agreements had been reached by the police and indigenous people to peacefully call off the roadblock, but that no one was found to be responsible for what happened?

A: Yes, but…it was Gen. Uribe who negotiated the peaceful lifting of the traffic blockade, and after that there was a change of command. Who ordered it? Why did they do it? Everyone here knows which authorities were in charge.

That's why I believed responsibilities should have been determined at different levels of the executive branch, the legislature, etc. Now it turns out that so much talking has been done, but nothing has been clarified.

Q: What progress has the commission made in determining who was responsible, in the police and army chain of command?

A: It's clear that the army provided the police with no support, that the situation on the ground was not properly assessed, and that those who took part in the operation after the agreement for a peaceful lifting of the roadblock did so without understanding the magnitude of the protest, that there were between 3,000 and 4,000 demonstrators there.

It was a disproportionate operation conducted without coordination. I'm sure that if it had not been carried out, the people would have left on Jun. 5 at 10:30, as planned. Maybe it was launched to justify the police presence in the area.

Q: You observe that in nearly every paragraph of the report, the version of only one side is presented, rather than conflicting or different versions.

A: That is one of the main reasons that I have not signed the document. It's why I asked for an extension, to complete the information.

With the time pressure, on Sunday Dec. 20 we worked into the wee hours of the morning of the next day, and a few hours later they wanted me to take a final look at the whole thing, in order to sign it.

I refused because I was only given a very short time, but the other members handed the report over to the executive branch. I'm not sure that what was delivered is what I saw on Sunday night.

Q: It has come out that the final report states that legislators of the (opposition) Nationalist Party incited the indigenous groups to protest the decrees. How much of that is true?

A: That isn't true, it's just some seasoning added by the politicians. The idea behind saying that is that we had no idea why we were going to the protests, as if someone had given us some formula to repeat.

Q: You say the report wrongly insists that the origin of the conflict was the lack of communication and failure to explain the positive aspects of the decrees.

A: That's right; they say that because they don't know us. For us it was sufficient that the decrees were approved without consulting indigenous people, as required by International Labour Organisation Convention 169, which means they had no legal standing. It didn't matter if one part was good and another bad.

Q: You reached the Curva del Diablo only minutes after the break-up of the roadblock, like a number of your Awajún companions. Did the fact that you were on the scene on Jun. 5 help you in the search for the truth of what happened there?

A: I was not in the previous meetings that the demonstrators held with the police, because I arrived later. But what I can confirm is that there was a disproportionate use of fire power by the police, because of the 200 people injured, 82 had bullet wounds, and it is the authorities themselves who say that. (END/2009)

Republished from IPS