Friday, June 19, 2009

PROGRESS TOWARD PEACE IN PERU

Peru Amazon Peace

Peru's Cabinet chief Yehude Simon poses with Amazon Indians after submitting a proposal to Congress that would revoke two decrees contested by Indian groups in Lima (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)

Chris Kraul for the LA Times reports: Peru's Congress voted Thursday to revoke two laws enacted last year to open the Amazon to mining, oil and timber development, measures that enraged many indigenous groups and led to a bloody confrontation this month.

Legislators acted at the behest of President Alan Garcia, who went on national television Wednesday to acknowledge that he had committed a "series of errors and exaggerations" in pushing economic policies that spawned a wave of protests by indigenous groups, including road blockades and takeovers of two airports.

According to AMAZON WATCH: Daysi Zapata, acting President of AIDESEP, Peru's national Amazonian indigenous organization welcomed the President's comments and declared: "Today is a historic day. We are grateful that the will of the indigenous peoples has been heard and we only hope that in the future governments listen and attend to indigenous peoples, and not legislate behind their backs."

Zapata said that AIDESEP it is calling on our base organizations and communities to end their blockades and protests while also calling on the government to enter into a good faith and transparent dialogue.

The dramatic shift in the Garcia Administration's discourse is likely due to the unprecedented international and domestic condemnation of the attacks on peaceful demonstrations on June 5 in Bagua. Tens of thousands protested in cities throughout Peru on June 11 in support of Peru's indigenous peoples. Peruvian consulates and embassies worldwide have been the site of repeated vigils and protests. Tens of thousands have sent letters to Peruvian and US government officials. Celebrities including Q'orianka Kilcher and Benjamin Bratt, both part Peruvian as well as Nobel Prize Laureate Rigoberta Menchu, have publicly condemned the violence in Peru while calling for a peaceful solution.

Leading international human rights bodies including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and the International Labor Organization have pressed the Garcia Administration to end repression and uphold the rights of indigenous peoples.

Amazon Watch's Executive Director, Atossa Soltani, reacted to the news with the following statement: "The Peruvian Congress's repeal of the two decrees is a welcome first step in bringing indigenous rights in Peru back to where they were before the decrees were promulgated in 2008. The conflict has become a watershed moment for Peru's policies in the Amazon and has invigorated national debate about deep-rooted violations of indigenous peoples rights. Today's good news notwithstanding, indigenous peoples are likely to continue to be at risk by Garcia's policies to open up the Amazon to extractive industries."

THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO TOOK ACTION


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