Monday, August 11, 2008

Indigenous Protesters Shut Down Urubamba, Take Over Wells

August 9th was the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples as recognized by the United Nations. Despite last year’s adoption of the UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights, indigenous peoples continue to face discrimination and violation of their rights. In the Peruvian Amazon, indigenous peoples marked the day with the launch of a nation-wide protest against recent government policies that threaten their communal land rights.

One of the policies in question is Legislative Decree 1015, signed on May 20 by President Alan García which allows communally owned indigenous lands to be sold to private investors with the vote of a simple majority of the communal assembly. It also applies to granting permission of oil and mining activity on indigenous lands. This undermines the collective nature of indigenous territorial rights in Peru. The law is part of a series of legislative changes made in relation to implementing Peru’s Free Trade Agreement with the US.

On August 9th, Machiguenga along the Urubamba River shut off transportation in the upper and lower stretches and their organization, COMARU announced that they had shut off all road and river transport leading to the Camisea project and detained boats delivering fuel.

According to Diario el Sol in Cusco, 150 Machiguenga peacefully took over the Pagoreni A and B platforms in Block 56 this morning and shut down the heliports. Additionally, Leonidas Arroyo, President of the Lower Urubamba Management Committee (Comité de Gestión del Bajo Urubamba) and vice president of the community of Camisea warned that the communities would close down the pipeline and occupy the Malvinas processing plant.

Roads have been blocked in other parts of the Amazon as well. Indigenous Peruvians haven taken over the installations of state oil company, Petroperu in the northern Department of Loreto and thousands have taken over the Aramango hydroelectric plant near Muyo, Dept. of Amazonas, cutting off power to some of the surrounding area . The armed forces have apparently been sent in.

Through the national indigenous organization, AIDESEP, the protesters have demanding negotiations with the President, Prime Minister, and head of Congress.

Articles in Peruvian press (Spanish):
La Republica , El Comercio