October 10, 2010
Raúl Zibechi, “Massacre in the Amazon: The US-Peru Free Trade Agreement
Sparks a Battle over Land and Resources,” trans - Laura Carlson, Americas
Program, Center for International Policy, June 16, 2009,
Milagros Salazar, “‘Police Are Throwing Bodies in the River,’ Say Native
Protesters,” Inter Press Service, June 9, 2009, http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=47142
On World Environment Day, June 5, 2009, Peruvian Amazon Indians were
massacred by the government of
Alan Garcia in the latest chapter of a long
war to take over common lands - a war unleashed by the signing of the Free
Trade Agreement (FTA) between Peru and the United States.
Three MI-17 helicopters took off from the national police base in El Milagro,
Peru, at 6 a.m. on Friday, June 5, and flew over part of the Peruvian
highway that joins the jungle to the northern coast, which had been occupied
for the past ten days by five thousand
Wampi indigenous peoples.
Amazonia for Sale
The Awajún people and their struggle to protect
their ancestral territory
February 26, 2010
The helicopters launched tear gas on the crowd (witnesses say they also shot
machine guns) while a group of agents simultaneously attacked the roadblock
by ground, firing AKM rifles.
An estimated five hundred police bore down on
the protesters, some of whom were still sleeping, and opened fire. A hundred
people were wounded by gunshot and between twenty to twenty-five were
The government claimed days after the clash that eleven indigenous were dead
as well as twenty-three police agents. The indigenous organizations reported
fifty dead among their ranks and up to four hundred disappeared.
to witnesses, the military burned bodies and threw them into the river to
hide the massacre, and also took prisoners from among the wounded in
While accounts differ, what is certain is that the government
sent the armed forces to evict a peaceful protest that had been going on for
fifty-seven days in five jungle regions:
The conflict began on April 9 (2010), when Amazon peoples mobilized to block the
highways and gas and oil pipelines to protest the implementation of a series
of decrees passed to carry out the FTA with the United States.
situation worsened on June 4, when Garcia's government stopped Congress from
debating repeal of the decrees being challenged by the indigenous peoples
and declared unconstitutional by a Constitution Commission.
The US-Peru FTA was signed on December 8, 2005, in Washington, DC, by then
George W. Bush and Alan Garcia.
In June 2006, it was ratified by
Peru, and in December 2007 by the US Congress.
On December 19, 2007, Peru’s
Congress gave full faculties to the government to legislate for six months
by decree issues related to the FTA. Mandated by these powers, the executive
drafted ninety-nine legislative decrees (LD) that are at the root of the
On February 1, 2009, the agreement went into effect.
In response to indigenous protests President
Garcia said there was,
conspiracy afoot to try to keep us from making use of our natural wealth.”
He was referring to the fierce opposition by the country’s native peoples to
ten of the ninety-nine LDs issued by his government that open up indigenous
land to private investment by oil, mining, and logging companies, as well as
to agribusiness, including biofuel plantations.
The most controversial of the LDs are numbers 1015 and 1073. These decrees,
which were declared unconstitutional, modify the number of votes required to
sell communal lands (just three votes could place community land up for
LD 1083 (Promotion of Efficient Use and Conservation of Hydraulic Resources)
favors the privatization of water to large consumers such as mining
companies. LDs 1081, 1079, and 1020 deregulate diverse aspects of
legislation in areas of mining, timber, and hydrocarbon exploitation.
It is LD 1090 (Forestry and Woodland Fauna Law), however, that is at the
crux of the debate.
This decree leaves 45 million hectares out of the
forestry framework, that is, 64 percent of the forests of Peru, including
their biodiversity in flora and fauna, making it possible to sell this vast
commonwealth to transnational corporations.
Based on his logic of converting everything into merchandise, Garcia
“The first resource is the Amazon.”
He proposed to divide 63
million hectares into 5,000-, 10,000-, and 20,000-hectare parcels - as land
“large lots will attract long-term investment and high technology.”
He notes that one should not,
“deliver small lots of land to poor families
that do not have a penny to invest.”
He makes no mention of the fact that
these lands are the collective property of native communities.
On April 9, over one thousand communities agreed to start demonstrating.
Prime Minister Yehude Simon called the April 18 indigenous demands
On May 5, the bishops of eight Catholic dioceses demanded that
President Garcia repeal the decrees, declaring them “a threat to the
On May 10, the government announced a state of emergency in five
regions of the country where roadblocks and blockages of ports and oil
pipelines were taking place.
Hugo Blanco, a well-known Peruvian activist and editor of the monthly
Indígena, stated in his column:
“After 500 years of silencing, the Amazon
peoples receive the support of the peoples of Peru and the world. The
greatest achievement of this campaign has been to make these nationalities
visible, weaving links between diverse sectors of the country, as divided as
those who dominate.
By defending the Amazon we are defending the life of all
of humanity; and by not ceding to the deceit of the government, they are
rewriting history, recuperating for all the sense of the word dignity.”