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Peru: Four Years Since the Indigenous Protests in Bagua

June 5 marked the passage of 4 years since the “Baguazo“–the protest [es] of indigenous communities against certain legislative rulings that the government of the then president Alan García promulgated as part of the adaptation of Peruvian laws to the Peru-United States Trade Promotion Agreement.

While the beginning of the protests dates back to October 2007, it was in April 2009 when the protests became more intense, faced with the government's lack of intention to repeal the rulings that the indigenous peoples considered an attack on the property rights of their lands.

Finally, on June 5, 2009, the government sent the police to clear the area known as “devil's curve”, where the indigenous people were protesting. The operation ended with 23 police officers dead and an uncertain number of indigenous people dead, estimated to be between 9 and 40, along with about 155 civilians wounded.

These four years come in the midst of uncertainty regarding the legal status [es] of the 53 indigenous people accused of the deaths of 12 police officers, along with those of the family members of a police officer [es] that they still consider missing, in spite of the fact that a court declared [es] him deceased. They also come in the midst of the astonishment that still arises from knowing that not a single political authority has been made responsible [es] for what happened.

Bagua resiste

Image from Cyberjuan on Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Rolando Luque Mogrovejo, Deputy Ombudsman for the Prevention of Social Conflicts and Governability, Office of the Ombudsman, wonders [es] on the blog of the Ombudsman about the relationship between the state and the ethnic groups that were protesting in that moment. He also points out that no one asked these people about the rules that would impact their lives, in spite of the fact that the Ombudsman had given warnings, 14 months earlier, of the growing severity of the conflict.

Se puede entrever elementos de menosprecio que menoscabaron su condición de interlocutores; un afán desmedido por ubicar las inversiones en el lugar más alto de la escala de valores; y, ciertamente, el viejo problema de creer que las políticas y hasta el sentido de la historia del Perú se irradian desde Lima, ignorando la complejidad y el vigor con que discurren los procesos sociales y políticos locales.

Así como hay autoridades en la centralidad del poder también hay apus en las comunidades. El Estado democrático debe tener tiempo para hablarles de tú y vos.

You can make out elements of disdain that undermined their role as representatives; a disproportionate eagerness for placing the investments on the highest spot of the value scale; and, certainly, the old problem of believing that the policies and even the essence of Peru's history came from Lima, ignoring the complexity and the vigor with which the local social and political processes are carried out.

Just as there are authorities in the central area of power, there are also apus (leaders) in the communities. The democratic state should have time to talk to them personally.

Santiago García de la Rasilla Domínguez S.J., Bishop and Vicar Apostolic of S. Francisco Javier de Jaén, reflects [es] on the blog Yo soy Bagua (I am Bagua) on the hope for justice that the indigenous communities continue to have and the injustice that he sees in the process following the events in Bagua:

No puede ser que los únicos culpables se encuentren entre los indígenas y que las autoridades del gobierno y de la policía de entonces hayan quedado limpios de polvo y paja o a lo más con una sanción administrativa. No puede ser que los únicos todavía “encarcelados”, aunque se diga que dos de ellos están con arresto domiciliario, sean tres indígenas a quienes no les han probado los delitos de los que les acusan. No puede ser que se pida cadena perpetua o condenas gravísimas para quienes, según todos los testigos, su único delito fue reclamar unos derechos y luego tratar de impedir que se derramara sangre inocente en ambos bandos.

It cannot be that the only guilty ones are found among the indigenous peoples and that the authorities from the government and the police of that time have gotten off scot-free, or at the most with an administrative penalty. It cannot be that the only ones who are still “incarcerated”, even though it is said that two of them are under house arrest, are three indigenous people who haven't even had the crimes they are accused of proven. It cannot be that they are asking for a life sentence or serious sentences against those whose only crime, according to all the witnesses, was demanding a few rights and then trying to keep innocent blood from being spilled on both sides.

On the site Enlace Nacional (National Link) they interviewed [es] Maricamen Gómez Calleja, also a missionary from the Vicariate of San Francisco Javier de Jaén, “who started the ‘Yo soy Bagua’ (‘I am Bagua') campaign that looks not only to remember what happened 4 years ago, so that it doesn't happen again, but also to find justice for the innocent accused people”:

A topic related to Bagua is that of the prior consultation [es], a legal mechanism that various sectors saw necessary after what happened. Nevertheless, just as Emma Gómez points out [es] on the blog of the magazine Bajo la Lupa (Under the Magnifying Glass), there are some worrying facts: news of exempting 14 mining projects from the consultation process, and backward steps for the publication of the database of indigenous peoples:

Esto devela que el actual Gobierno sigue sin entender el derecho a la consulta en su real dimensión y lo sigue viendo como un obstáculo para la inversión. Los logros a la fecha han sido más formales que reales y las demandas de los pueblos indígenas siguen sin ser atendidas, agudizando en muchos casos las situaciones de tensión en todo el territorio nacional. Además se han dado declaraciones de ex autoridades y del propio sector empresarial que han señalado que la ley de consulta atrasa las inversiones (1) o que han considerado que la ley es “una trampa en la que se ha metido el Estado”.

This reveals that the current government still does not understand the right to consultation in its real dimension, and it continues to see it as an obstacle to investment. The achievements so far have been more formal than real and the demands of the indigenous people continue to be ignored, worsening in many case the tense situations in the whole national territory. There have also been declarations from ex-authorities and from the business sector itself that have pointed out that the law of consultation delays investment (1) [es] or that have considered the law to be “a trap that the State has gotten itself into”.

On the other hand, Ricardo Marapi Salas wonders [es] on Spacio Libre: “Does the risk exist that the Bagua massacre could be repeated?”

Las condiciones sociales, políticas y económicas siguen siendo similares a la de hace cuatro años. Sin embargo hay que reconocer que Humala no es García. Éste último hizo todo lo posible para expresar su desprecio hacia el destino o la misma existencia de los pueblos indígenas. Las políticas interculturales prácticamente no existieron durante su gobierno. La indiferencia de García y sus ministros frente al gran malestar indígena que se venía gestando en Bagua, son una clara evidencia. Humala no es García pero a veces prefiere gobernar siguiendo la inercia de su predecesor y en estos últimos meses no ha mostrado medidas decisivas para revertir aquellas condiciones políticas y sociales que devinieron en la masacre de Bagua. Es la gran deuda que aún sigue cargando.

The social, political and economic conditions are still similar to what they were four years ago. Nevertheless, we must recognize that Humala is not García. García did everything possible to express his disdain for the fate or the existence itself of the indigenous peoples. The intercultural policies practically did not exist during his government. The indifference of García and his ministers towards the great indigenous unrest that had been developing in Bagua is clear evidence of this. Humala is not García but sometimes he prefers to govern following the inertia of his predecessor and in these last months he hasn't shown decisive measures for changing those political and social conditions that led to the Bagua massacre. It is a great debt that still burdens him.

In Bagua the people commemorated [es] the four years since the Baguazo, and in the native community of Wawas the Awajún natives enjoyed food from a shared pot. In Yurimaguas there was a large demonstration [es] led by indigenous leaders, which other organizations joined and in which they chanted phrases such as “No to the criminalization of social protest!”.

In Lima there was a vigil [es] held in front of the Palace of Justice on the night of June 4, organized by the group “Yo soy Bagua” (“I am Bagua”), and made up of civil society organizations along with members of the Awajún and Wampís peoples.

On Youtube the user Bagua zo uploaded this video of an intervention on the sidewalk in front of the Palace of Justice.

During the vigil that took place in Lima, the previously mentioned group Yo soy Bagua (I am Bagua) expressed [es] its commitment to fighting for the justice of the indigenous people. One of them says:

3. En el Perú, la Amazonía representa más del 60% del territorio nacional, colocando al país como uno de los ocho países mega diversos; en ella, existe milenariamente una gran diversidad cultural que requiere un desarrollo con rostro humano; nos comprometemos, junto con las poblaciones que la habitan, a cuidar este pulmón de la única casa común que tenemos.

3. In Peru, the Amazon makes up more than 60% of the national territory, making the country one of the eight megadiverse countries. In it, there has existed for thousands of years a great cultural diversity that requires development with a human face. We are committed, along with the people who inhabit it, to caring for this lung of the only shared house that we have.

Original post published on the blog Globalizado [es] by Juan Arellano.
Photo of the vigil on June 4, 2013, by Yo Soy Bagua on Facebook, used with permission.

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