Oil Production Interrupted as Peru Sends in Army to Suppress Peaceful Indigenous Protests
Dozens Injured in Government Attacks on Protesters
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | May 19, 2009
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LIMA, Peru, May 19, 2009- Yesterday, on the 40th day of sustained protests by Peru's indigenous peoples, the state oil company Petroperu, announced it had shut down the country's main oil pipeline. On Saturday, the Garcia Government authorized the intervention of the armed forces to crack down on peaceful protests that have swept the Amazon region.
Since April 9, more than 30,000 people have blockaded roads and rivers throughout the country demanding the revocation of new legislative decrees related to the Free Trade Agreement with the US. The decrees which are aimed at facilitating entry of oil, mining, logging and agricultural companies, attempt to take away indigenous peoples' rights to their forest homelands, in some cases attempting to eliminate their right to prior consultation and consent.
Video and photo evidence available on www.amazonwatch.org show police beating peaceful protesters and firing rubber bullets in order to break up demonstrations blocking roads and bridges.
Some 4,000 people are still blocking the Yurimaguas - Tarapoto road. Peruvians across the country are demonstrating their solidarity with their Amazonian peoples. There was a large demonstration in the northern jungle town of Iquitos over the weekend, which was supported by local authorities and clergy. In addition to Petroperu, other oil companies whose Amazon operations have been affected include Pluspetrol, Petrobras, and Perenco.
On Friday Alberto Pizango, the president of the national indigenous rights organization AIDESEP, declared a state of civil disobedience in the face of continued government aggression and lack of dialogue. Later in meetings with the Peruvian Ombudsman's office, indigenous leaders agreed to temporarily stand down and continue seeking peaceful solutions to their demands and concerns. They also agreed to allow food and other essential supplies into areas where their blockade has led to shortages in towns and cities.
On May 10, armed forces attacked peaceful Awajun and Huambis demonstrators on the Corral Quemado Bridge close to the northern town of Bagua, resulting in a dozen people injured and one person missing, who is feared dead.
Alberto Pizango, who was criminally charged today for his role in the nationwide protests, stated: "The extraction of gas and oil, logging and the dredging of rivers in search of gold are destroying in a few years social structures, indigenous customs and coexistence strategies that date back thousands of years."
Peruvian and International human rights organizations are widely criticizing Peruvian government's attempts deny indigenous peoples' rights. In a recent statement President Alan Garcia said that every Peruvian should be entitled to benefit from the nation's natural resources, and not just a "small group of people who had the fortune to be born there."
Atossa Soltani, Executive Director of the human rights and environmental organization Amazon Watch, commented: "The Garcia Administration is clearly out of step with international conventions - ones ratified by Peru - that obligate governments to uphold indigenous peoples' rights. We urge the government of Peru to use restraint and avoid bloodshed, seeking meaningful dialogue to resolve the conflict instead. "