Eyewitness Reports Accuse Peruvian Police of Disposing the Bodies of Dead Indigenous Protesters

Garcia Government Makes Troubling Racial Slurs and Fear-mongering Indigenous Leaders and Allies Call for an End to Violence on All Sides High Resolution Images and B-ROll from June 5th Bagua, Peru Tragedy Available for Download

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Bagua, Peru (June 8, 2009) – In the aftermath of Friday's bloody raid on a peaceful indigenous road blockade near Bagua in the Peruvian Amazon, numerous eyewitnesses are reporting that the Special Forces of the Peruvian Police have been disposing of the bodies of indigenous protesters who were killed.

"Today I spoke to many eyewitnesses in Bagua reporting that they saw police throw the bodies of the dead into the Marañon River from a helicopter in an apparent attempt by the Government to underreport the number of indigenous people killed by police," said Gregor MacLennan, spokesperson for Amazon Watch.

"Hospital workers in Bagua Chica and Bagua Grande corroborated that the police took bodies of the dead from their premises to an undisclosed location. I spoke to several people who reported that there are bodies lying at the bottom of a deep crevasse up in the hills, about 2 kilometers from the incident site. When the Church and local leaders went to investigate, the police stopped them from approaching the area," reported MacLennan.
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Police and government officials have been consistently underreporting the number of indigenous people killed by police gunfire. Indigenous organizations place the number of protesters killed at least at 40, while Government officials claiming that only a handful of indigenous people were killed. Also the Garcia Government claims that 22 police officers were killed and several still missing.

"Witnesses say that it was the police who opened fire last Friday on the protesters from helicopters," MacLennan said. "Now the government appears to be destroying the bodies of slain protesters and giving very low estimates of the casualty. Given that the demonstrators were unarmed or carrying only wooden spears and the police were firing automatic weapons, the actual number of indigenous people killed is likely to be much higher."

"Another eyewitness reported seeing the bodies of five indigenous people that had been burned beyond identification at the morgue. I have listened to testimony of people in tears talking about witnessing the police burning bodies," continued MacLennan.

At least 150 people from the demonstration on Friday are still being detained. Eye-witness reports also confirm that police forcibly removed some of the wounded indigenous protesters from hospitals, taking them to unknown destinations. Their families expressed concern for their well being while in detention. There are many people still reported missing and access to medical attention in the region is horribly inadequate.

The Organizing Committee for the Indigenous Peoples of Alto Amazonas Province issued this statement: "It is appalling that political powers have acted in such a cruel and inhuman manner against Amazonian Peoples, failing to recognize the fundamental rights and protections guaranteed to us by the Constitution. We express deep grief over the death of our indigenous brothers, of civilians and the officers of the National Police."

The government expanded the State of Emergency and established a curfew on all traffic in the region from 3 pm to 6 am. Indigenous and international human rights organizations are worried about plans of another National Police raid on a blockade in Yurimaguas close to the town of Tarapoto where thousands are blocking a road.
President Alan Garcia is being widely criticized for fomenting a climate of fear mongering against indigenous peoples by drawing parallels to the brutal Shinning Path guerrilla movement of the 1980s and early 1990s, and by vaguely referring to external and anti-democratic threats to the country.

The Amazonian indigenous peoples' mobilizations have been peaceful, locally coordinated, and extremely well organized for nearly two months. Yet Garcia insists on calling them terrorist acts and anti-democratic. Garcia has even gone so far as to describe the indigenous mobilizations as "savage and barbaric." Garcia has made his discrimination explicit, saying directly that the Amazonian indigenous people are not first-class citizens.

"These people don't have crowns," Garcia said about the protesters. "These people aren't first-class citizens who can say – 400,000 natives to 28 million Peruvians – 'You don't have the right to be here.' No way. That is a huge error."

Ironically, Peru was the country that introduced the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on the floor of the General Assembly when it was adopted in September 2007.
A coalition of indigenous and human rights organizations will protest in front of the Peruvian Embassy in Washington D.C. on Monday, June 8 at 12:30 pm.

Indigenous peoples have vowed to continue protests until the Peruvian Congress revokes the "free trade" decrees issued by President Garcia under special powers granted by Congress in the context of the Free Trade Agreement with the United States.

Among the outpouring of statements condemning the violence in Peru were those from Peru's Ombudsman's office, the chair of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, a coalition of 45 international human rights organizations, Indigenous organizations from throughout the Americas, and the Conference of Bishops of Peru. Also famous personalities including Q'orianka Kilcher, Benjamin Bratt, Peter Bratt, and Daryl Hannah and Bianca Jagger called on the Peruvian Government to cease the violence and seek peaceful resolution to the conflict.

AIDESEP, the national indigenous organization of Peru has called for a nationwide general strike starting June 11th.

Amazon Watch is continually updating photographs, audio testimony, and video footage from Bagua on www.amazonwatch.org.
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