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PERU
Blood in the river
Cecilia Remón
6/5/2009
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Police open fire on indigenous protesters demanding their rights, as government seeks to open up their lands to investment.

“They´ve killed my brother! They’ve killed my brother!” screamed Huambisa indigenous activist Nélida Calvo Nantip, after receiving a phone call with the news during a press conference with foreign journalists in Lima on June 5.

Calvo Nantip, along with Amazon indigenous leaders Alberto Pizango, Servando Puerta, Marcial Mudarra y Rubén Binari, told the reporters that police killed at least 22 indigenous people in the northern department of Amazonas that morning.

Indigenous groups throughout Peru´s Amazon basin have been protesting since April 9, demanding that Congress overturn a series of presidential decrees that promote investment in the country´s interior, which they say will open up their lands to the indiscriminate exploitation of oil, gas, timber and other resources.

The government said seven police officers were killed in the clashes when they tried to break up the blockades on the Fernando Belaunde Terry Highway.

President Alan García blamed the incident on Pizango, president of the Inter-Ethnic Development Association of the Peruvian Amazon, or AIDESEP, an umbrella organization of Amazon indigenous groups. For his part, Pizango said the government must respond to the killings of their fellow indigenous peers.

Puerta, president of the Regional Organization of Indigenous Peoples of Peru´s Northern Amazon, said that it is impossible that indigenous peoples fired on the security forces because they do not carry firearms, only bows and arrows.

“Three armed forces helicopters are flying, throwing tear gas bombs and firing bullets directly [against the indigenous people] as if we were criminals, as if there weren´t women and children protesting,” he said.

Pizango said among the dead is Santiago Manuin, head of a local indigenous committee in Bagua Chica, in northern Peru.

“I personally hold the government of Alan García Pérez responsible for ordering the genocide,” said Pizango. “They´re killing us for defending our lives, our sovereignty, human dignity... For thousands of years, we´ve run the Amazon forests," he said, adding that they have not damaged them.

Awajun people leader Marcial Mudarra said that the indigenous people are “peaceful” and have not provoked such violence, but instead, have been defending its rights.

“Even though we have been protesting peacefully, the government, for its interests, has started to criminalize the protests. We feel hurt ... threatened.”

Pizango and another five indigenous leaders were formally accused of disturbing the peace and public order for allegedly attacking public transportation, communication and other public infrastructure.
—Latinamerica Press.


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Alberto Pizango. (Photo: www.servindi.org)
Latinamerica Press / Noticias Aliadas
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