AIDESEP: Responding to El Comercio's Baseless Accusations about the Bagua Case

Indigenous people accused of crimes during protests declare themselves innocent.

Tomorrow morning, on October 2nd, the 15th hearing will be carried out in the judicial process around the "Devil's Curve" in Bagua, Amazonas state. Fifty-three Peruvians and Amazonian indigenous people are on trial, among them Alberto Pizango, for inciting violence, murder, rioting amongst eight total charges. Peru's Public Ministry has requested a sentence of life imprisonment for Pizango, AIDESEP's leader from the Shawi indigenous people.

Five years have passed since that Friday, June 5th, 2009, when dramatic events happened not so far from the capital city. Bagua was a scenario in which 33 Peruvians tragically lost their lives. The police and civilian deaths and wounded left a lot pain for those people and their families, but were also testimony of a society that continues to have excluded sectors.

The El Comercio editorial titled, "The other parties responsible for the Baguazo", published on June 11th, accuses AIDESEP as one of the groups indirectly responsible for the regrettable events. We categorically reject these unfounded accusations given that AIDESEP – as spokespeople for indigenous peoples – has the task of promoting and protecting indigenous peoples rights to their territory, as a guarantee for our survival.

It's inconceivable that the editorial attempts to claim that an organization like ours defends violence, given that Mr. Alberto Pizango, in his role as spokesperson for indigenous peoples, was one of the first to participate in mediation and reconciliation meetings with the government at the time. Other evidence of our peaceful work was that the strike lasted 57 days and never saw violence until that fateful day, in which the indigenous people had decided to return to their communities but the government responded with bullets.

We cite as the sole responsible parties for the violence unleashed on June 5th the government of ex-President Alan García and other representatives. They allowed for a massacre against the demonstrators. The police, following the orders of the Interior Minister, Mercedes Cabanillas, opened fire on and launched tear gas from helicopters against the only ones who were defending the Amazon.

It is unpardonable that the newspaper would make such serious and biased accusations against an organization that has always been peaceful and would attempt to deceive the general population covering up the true responsible parties. Bagua was the worst tragedy in the history of Peruvian socio-environmental conflicts.

It's important to mention that the current Peruvian government is carrying out actions similar to those that led to the Baguazo. As José de Echave, former Viceminister of the Environment, said, "The so called Paquetazo (recent weakening of environmental standards) smells like Garcia's 'legislative decrees', given that they have the same objective of directly affecting the rights of indigenous peoples."

Let's not allow our history to be stained by actions that don't reflect what Peruvians want for our wellbeing and for the care for the country's mega-biodiversity.

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