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Peru: Indigenous Communities Continue Protests

This post is part of our special coverage Forest Focus: Amazon.

For quite some time, the indigenous communities in the Peruvian Amazon have been mobilized due to attempts by the current government to infringe upon the rights to their ancestral lands. These lands are thought to be good for mining and oil exploration, and some say that is where the real intentions lie. Recently these protests have restarted throughout different parts of the Amazon region, Tarapoto, Yurimaguas, the Napo Rivers, and other regions.

Few Peruvians bloggers have reported on the news, although some external websites, such as Servindi [es] and Indigenous Press [es], which are dedicated to collecting news related to indigenous issues have published about the protests.

In the blog RIDEI [es] (International Network of Intercultural Studies), Marco Huaco writes about what these protests mean for the protestors themselves:

Desde el 09 de abril se ha declarado por segunda vez en el Perú una protesta de los pueblos indígenas amazónicos de significativa envergadura. Es muy probable que no percibamos el fuerte significado e intensidad de esta protesta -ni la firmeza de su resolución- porque no conocemos el enorme esfuerzo y sacrificio que reporta a los indígenas amazónicos el movilizarse en defensa de sus derechos: a diferencia de las protestas urbanas en los que sus participantes se movilizan y luego van a casa, la movilización amazónica puede suponer el traslado de amplios contingentes humanos que se transportan por ríos y que luego emprenden larguísimas caminatas de horas a fin de llegar a centros poblados desde los cuales hacer sentir su presencia y voz de protesta.

Eso les cuesta alejarse drásticamente de sus comunidades, dormir en calles y plazas, alimentarse con sus propios recursos o con apoyo solidario de la población citadina y gastar mucho dinero -que no les sobra- en este empeño, todo ello bajo una sólida organización y disciplina colectivas. Todo este sacrificio no se hace en vano. El experimentar esta realidad motiva sus divertidas risas, burlas y sarcasmos cuando escuchan que el Gobierno y sus periodistas sirvientes difunden que han sido organizados, financiados y manipulados por ONG…

Since April 09, for the second time a protest of significant magnitude was declared by the Amazonian indigenous communities. It is very likely that we do not perceive the strong meaning and intensity of the protest, nor the strength of their decision because we do not know the enormous effort and sacrifice that brings to the Amazonian indigenous to mobilize to defend their rights, unlike the urban protests in which participants mobilize and then go home, the Amazon mobilization may involve transfer of large human contingents that are transported by rivers and then take part in long hours of hiking to reach population centers from where they show their presence and voice of protest.

It is difficult for them to stay away drastically from their communities, sleep in the streets and plazas, feed themselves from their own resources or with support and solidarity from the townspeople and spend a lot of money – which they do not have – during this endeavor, all of this under a solid organization and collective discipline. All this sacrifice is not in vain. To experience this reality motivates their laughter, mockery and sarcasm when they hear that the Government and its servant journalists say that the protestors have been organized, financed and manipulated by NGOs …

From De La Selva Su Web On [es] writes about a piece of news that appeared on the website of Radio La Voz de la Selva 93.9 fm about a naval ship that attacked the Napo indigenous community:

espero que respeten los derechos humanos, después cuando se les va la mano dicen que ellos no lo hicieron y que la justicia es injusta . A la hora de meter la fuerza con los débiles ahí son buenos, pero haber a la hora de defender las fronteras, toda la vida pierden, encima están metidos en lios de corrupción robo y malas prácticas de todo. Por el otro lado, si los indígenas están protestando es porque están cansados de tanta indiferencia e injusticias que nosotros los supuestos civilizados les ocacionamos. Más bien que las autoridades reflexionen y que los iquiteños apoyemos la lucha indígena.

I hope that they respect human rights, then later when they get carried away they say that it wasn't them and that justice is unjust. When it comes time to show force with the weak, then they are good, but when it comes time to defend the border, they always lose, on top of it all, they are caught up in cases of corruption, theft, and bad actions of all kinds. On the other hand, if the indigenous are protesting it is because they are tired of so much indifference and injustice at the hands of the supposed civilized. Hopefully the authorities will reflect on the matter and that the Iquiteños and support the indigenous struggle.

One can find news about recent events in the protests in the Amazon Web Radio Voice of the Jungle [es]. Another blogger from the jungle region, Carlos Ramirez Sanchez writes in his post David against Goliath [es]:

La gota que rebalsó el pate de masato fue la promulgación del DL 1090, que modifica aspectos importantes de la Ley Forestal. Así, excluidos de toda decisión, con un gobierno central que hace oídos sordos a sus reclamos, privilegiando las inversiones privadas a los derechos de quienes son los posesionarios milenarios, las cosas han llegado a un límite peligroso.

The drop that made the glass overflow was the enactment of the law 1090, which modifies important aspects of the Forestry Law. Thus, they are excluded from any decision, with a central government that turned a deaf ear to their demands, giving priority to private investment of the rights of those who have millennial possessions, things have reached a dangerous threshold.

But the blog Gran Combo Club [es] writes extensively about the subject:

El gobierno peruano a comienzos de abril firmó varios contratos con diversas empresas 1, entre ellas Talisman, aquí, sin consenso alguno con los ciudadanos que viven en los territorios afectados por esos contratos, que están amparados por diversas leyes, sin ningún esquema de consulta o compensación. Esta actitud del gobierno motiva la gran protesta que se vive actualmente en buena parte del territorio nacional. Se estima que el 70% de la Amazonía peruana ya está concesionada por un Perú caracterizado por el crecimiento contaminador al estilo de China

In early April, the Peruvian government signed several contracts with several companies, including Talisman without any consensus with citizens living in territories affected by these contracts backed by different laws, without any consultation or compensation. This motivates the large protest currently taking place in a large part of the country. An estimated 70% of the Peruvian Amazon is already concessioned by a Peru polluter characterized by growth in contamination like that of China

And the Gran Combo Club [es] also discusses the new leadership from popular leaders who may have been inspired by US President Barack Obama:

En los últimos años en el país ha habido movilizaciones importantes a todo nivel. Serían movilizaciones que no crean líderes, espontáneas, de “pobladores”, de “nativos”, etc. sin cabezas visibles que expresen un discurso claro sobre qué se quiere para el país. ¿Es esto así? No lo creo. Más parece haber una desatención de parte de los medios a lo que viene fermentando el país. Sólo le prestan atención cuando quienes tienen algún tipo de poder ajustan cuentas entre sí. Veamos nomás la protesta amazónica y la indiferencia gubernamental, mediática e intelectual que se le ha prestado. El moqueguazo, en cambio, no fue desaprovechado por los detractores mediáticos de Del Castillo. Las protestas no reciben cobertura en sí mismas, sino cuando hay algún interés de por medio en la cumbre. El lío social acaba siendo un “lío de blancos”. Cómo se organizó, se formó el consenso y quiénes lo hicieron quedan fuera del enfoque mediático. Lo que se ve es la protesta terminada, presentada en general como algo violento y amenazador, es decir, en su versión más sensacionalista. En todo el Perú, no obstante, puede haber surgido una nueva generación de dirigentes, muy activos en hacer sus reclamos, que queda invisibilizada y a la que no se le sigue el proceso. Una gran omisión.

In recent years there have been major demonstrations at all levels. Mobilizations that would not create spontaneous leaders of “settlers” and “natives”, etc.. without visible heads that express a clear speech on what is wanted for the country. Is this so? I think not. Most seem to be neglected by the media to what is brewing within the country. They only pay attention when those who have some power settle the score amongst themselves. Let's watch the Amazonian protest and the governmental, media, and intellectual indifference. The moqueguazo (conflict between police and protesters in Southern Peru), however, was not missed by the media critics of Del Castillo. The protests by themselves are not covered by the media, but when there is an interest during the summit. The social mess ends up being a mess of whites. How it was organized and how it formed a consensus and their approach was not included in the media focus. What you see is the end of the protest generally presented as violent and threatening, that is, at its most sensational. Throughout Peru, however, may have developed a new generation of leaders, very active in making their claims, which remains hidden for not following the process. A major omission.

Another post on indigenous rebellions can be read at Amazilia [es].

This post is part of our special coverage Forest Focus: Amazon.

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