Indigenous groups in Peru massively campaign to protect the rainforest, 2008-2009

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly versionPDF versionPDF version
Timing
Time Period:  
9 August
2008
to
19 June
2009
Location and Goals
Country: 
Peru
Location City/State/Province: 
Cities throughout Peru with major actions taking place in the Amazon rainforest
Location Description: 
Amazonian towns, rivers, and installations; Cities include Bagua, Lima, Trujillo, Chiclayo, Puno, Sicuani, Arequipa, Ayacucho, and Huancayo.
Goals: 
AIDESEP presented the following demands on 9 August 2008:

1) The cancellation of legislative decrees threatening indigenous territorial integrity and autonomy, particularly decrees 1015, 1073, 1064, and 1090.

2) The creation of a fund for the establishment of sustainable-development projects among indigenous peoples

3) The evaluation of the environmental impact of extractive industries in the Amazon

4) The creation of a program for protecting indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation

5) The creation of a congressional commission to oversee the implementation of the UN Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples

6) The reorganization, with the rank of ministry, of the National Institute for the Development of Andean, Amazon, and Afro-Peruvian Peoples

AIDESEP presented the following demands on 9 April 2009:

7) The repeal of legislative decrees threatening indigenous land and people, particularly decrees 1064 and 1090.

8) The establishment of a genuine Mesa de Diálogo for dialogue.

9) The creation of new branches of government charged with implementing “intercultural” solutions to indigenous health and education problems.

10) The recognition of indigenous collective property rights.

11) Guarantees for special territorial reserves of communities in voluntary isolation

12) The suspension of land concessions to oil, gas, mining, lumber, and tourism industries.

13) A new constitution that incorporates the United Nation's Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the International Labor Organization's Convention 169, both of which guarantee indigenous rights to territorial and cultural autonomy.

14) The suspension of the government's free trade agreements with the United States, the European Union, Chile, and China.

 

In April 2006, the United States and Peru signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which they planned to implement on 1 February 2009. The United States required that Peru make certain regulatory changes in law to allow access to the Amazon rainforest before implementing the FTA. In late 2006, President Alan García passed Law 840, known as the “Law of the Jungle,” which undermined the collective property rights of indigenous groups by giving land concessions to foreign investors. In 2007 and 2008, he passed a series of legal reforms, including 99 legislative decrees, which would provide foreign investors with access to indigenous territories in the Amazon for mining, logging, and oil drilling. Most notably, decrees 1015, 1073, 1064, and 1090 would have allowed foreign investors to purchase collectively-held indigenous land by taking away legal procedures by which these communities had been defending themselves, removing their land grants, and lowering or removing environmental and indigenous protections. These decrees also became known under the popular title, “Law of the Jungle.”

In 2008, the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Jungle (AIDESEP) established a coalition with the Peasant Confederation of Peru, the National Agrarian Confederation (CNA), and the Confederation of Peasant Communities Affected by Mining and declared a “state of emergency” for the indigenous people of Peru. AIDESEP represented 600,000 indigenous people from 1,350 Amazonian communities.

On 9 August 2008, indigenous groups closed down navigation on the Urubamba River in the Amazon rainforest. Nearby others occupied two pumping stations, heliports, and installations belonging to Pluspetrol, the corporation that operates the largest gas deposit in Peru. In the northern forest, indigenous groups occupied the hydroelectric plant of El Muyo and thousands protested in Bagua. Protesters also closed down navigation on the Ucayali River and shut down the pipeline transporting oil from Manseriche to the coast. AIDESEP released an 11-point platform, which called firstly for the repeal of the legislative decrees threatening indigenous autonomy and land.

After one week of protest, the government did not respond to AIDESEP’s demands or call for dialogue. AIDESEP extended the blockades to bridges and highways connecting the Amazon with the rest of the country. On 18 August, the government declared a state of emergency and increased police and military presence in the protest areas. The congressional Committee on Andean, Amazonian, and Afro-Peruvian Peoples repealed decrees 1015 and 1073 and took their draft law to Congress, where it was passed on 22 August. Though Congress promised to examine and vote to repeal other laws affecting indigenous communities and the forests, they did not.

As the government continued to auction off collectively held lands to foreign investors and ignore promises they had made in September to enter into dialogue with indigenous groups, the Amazonian people began a series of marches, blockades and hunger strikes in late March 2009.

On 9 April 2009, AIDESEP continued their campaign demanding the repeal of the decrees that would open up their land for foreign investment and exploitation. They set up over twenty-four blockades of roads and waterways along with numerous protests and rallies.

On 9 May 2009, the government declared a state of emergency in several Amazonian provinces. Between 11 May and 14 May, the president of AIDESEP Alberto Pizango met with Prime Minister Yehude Simon but came to no agreement. The government delivered a notification for the arrest of Pizango and other indigenous leaders to AIDESEP on 18 May on charges of inciting rebellion.

On 27 May, trade unions called for a national day of protest in support of AIDESEP’s struggle. In Lima, marchers arrived at the Congress building to demand the repeal of the legislative decrees. On 28 May, a Peruvian NGO (DAR) sent a letter to the US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and the Ways & Means Committee Chair Charles Rangel requesting that the FTA implementation protect indigenous rights. On 2 June, the UN commission on indigenous rights asked that the Peruvian government respect indigenous rights.

On 5 June, the government sent police to intervene in the Fernando Belaunde Terry Road blockade in Bagua province that had been set up two months prior. The police arrived and used violent repression, including live ammunition and tear gas, on the 5,000 protesters. Officials confirmed nine civilian deaths though protest leaders and area hospitals reported the deaths of at least thirty people. Another twenty-two police officers were killed.

On 8 June, Carmen Vildoso, minister for Women’s Issues and Social Development, resigned in protest of the government’s actions. Alberto Pizango, leader of AIDESEP, escaped and received asylum in the Nicaraguan embassy at this time as well. The Catholic clergy sent a letter in support of AIDESEP to the government calling on officials to enter into negotiation and stop the use of repressive violence to end the protests.

On 11 June, indigenous people, miners, Andean peasants, urban workers, teachers, construction workers, university students, and high school students joined in large protests across the country, denouncing the violence at Bagua and demanding the repeal of decrees 1090 and 1064. They also called for the resignation of President García and Prime Minister Yehude Simon. Many marched under the slogan, “La selva no se vende. La selva se defiende” (The jungle is not for sale. The jungle is defended.)

In Lima, over 20,000 people marched from Plaza dos de mayo to the government palace. People mobilized in protest in Trujillo, Chiclayo, Puno, Sicuani, Arequipa, Ayacucho, and Huancayo as well.

The government suspended the decrees indefinitely, but demonstrators rejected this and called for their repeal because they violated International Labor Organization (ILO) regulations, particularly convention 169 that required the government to consult indigenous groups before passing laws that would impact them. In the Amazon, people blockaded highways, stopped oil pipelines, and held marches and 24-hour strikes.

US representatives let Peru knew that if the government failed to open up the land to foreign investors, the US would repeal the FTA. García mobilized police and armed forces to take over the airports and river ports in the Peruvian Amazon.

Thousands of indigenous people protested in Pucalpa, blocked various rivers, and shut down schools and businesses for the day. Indigenous organizations from Mexico, Ecuador, and Bolivia announced their support for the campaign in Peru.

On 18 June 2009, Peru’s Congress repealed decrees 1090 and 1064. The president admitted that his government made a mistake by not consulting the indigenous people when drafting the laws though he is reported to have said earlier that he did not need to consult anyone. President García repeatedly made statements claiming that the decrees would not affect the indigenous communities, that the actions taken by AIDESEP were anti-democratic, and that protecting “idle” lands prevented the development of Peru. Prime Minister Yehude Simon resigned from his office following the decision to repeal the decrees.

Former president of AIDESEP Gil Inoach said that the repeal of the decrees was an important step and showed the government that they now had to consult with indigenous communities.

Frente por la Defensa de la Vida y la Soberania, a coalition of labor confederations, Andean indigenous groups, peasant groups and AIDESEP, demanded that those responsible for the killings in Bagua be punished. Many held marches, blockades, and regional strikes on 7 July, which lasted for two days. It is unknown whether any of the government officials or police officers was ever punished. The Free Trade Agreement, officially known as the US-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement, is still in effect along with many of the legislative decrees required for its implementation as of March 2013.

Research Notes
Sources: 
Arce, Luis. “Peru: Massive protests against García government over Amazon massacre.” World Socialist Web Site. International Committee of the Fourth International. 13 June 2009. Web. <http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2009/06/peru-j13.html>

Arce, Luis. “Peruvian government forced to repeal Amazon free trade decrees.” World Socialist Web Site. International Committee of the Fourth International. 23 June 2009. Web. <http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2009/06/peru-j23.html>

Associated Press. “Peru protest violence kills 22 police.” The Guardian. 7 June 2009. Web. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jun/07/peru-violence>

Chauvin, Lucien. “Peru’s Deadly Battle Over Oil in the Amazon.” Time. 10 June 2009. Web. < http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1903707,00.html>

Dudenhoefer, David. “Amazonian Indians End Protest After Peru’s Congress Repeals Decrees.” Environment News Service. 19 June 2009. Web. <http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/jun2009/2009-06-19-03.asp>

“Law of the Jungle in Peru: Indigenous Amazonian Uprising against Neoliberalism.” Journal on the Research Group on Socialism and Democracy 26 (3). 10 April 2011. Web. <http://sdonline.org/51/law-of-the-jungle-in-peru-indigenous-amazonian-uprising-against-neoliberalism/>

McArthure, Travis and Todd Tucker. “A Year after Implementation of Peru Free Trade Agreement, U.S. and Peru Left with Broken Promises and No New Trade Model.” Public Citizen. 1 February 2010. Web. <http://www.citizen.org/documents/PeruFTA-OneYear.pdf>

Monge, Elsie and Rodolfo Stavenhagen. Ed. Antoine Bernard. “Peru-Bagua: Bloodshed in the Context of Amazon Protest.” International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). October 2009. < http://www.fidh.org/IMG/pdf/rapperou529ang.pdf>

Rénique, Gerardo. “Against the Law of the Jungle: Peru’s Amazonian Uprising.” NACLA Report on the Americas 42 (1). Jan/Feb 2009. 5-8.

Rénique, Gerardo. “Blood at the Blockade: Peru’s Indigenous Uprising.” North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA). 8 June 2009. Web. <https://nacla.org/node/5879>

“Responsible Trade Program: U.S.-Peru Free Trade Agreement.” Sierra Club. <http://www.sierraclub.org/trade/globalization/us-peru-fta.aspx>

Romero, Simon. “Peru Overturns Decrees That Incited Protests.” The New York Times. 18 June 2009. Web. <http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/19/world/americas/19peru.html?_r=0>

Romero, Simon. “Protesters Gird for Long Fight Over Opening Peru’s Amazon.” The New York Times. 11 June 2009. Web. <http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/12/world/americas/12peru.html?_r=1&>

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJlwwJLNZbI

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJuOS1agQfk

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Nick Palazzolo, 18/03/2013