Indigenous Peoples Across Peru Protest Bagua Hearings

Today, March 7th, 2013 indigenous peoples across Peru are protesting peacefully in solidarity with their 53 indigenous brothers facing hearings after the June 2009 confrontation in Bagua, a town in the Amazonas region of the Peruvian Amazon. Current AIDESEP (Peruvian Amazonian Indigenous Federation) president, Alberto Pizango Chota is one of those facing possible trial. The sentences are for 30 years to life imprisonment, and according to indigenous leaders, are a clear example of the Peruvian government´s criminalization of indigenous protests.

protest-1In 2008, Peruvian president, Alan Garcia, after calling indigenous peoples manger dogs (perros de hortelano), who guard the garden without allowing anyone to use its resources, passed the Law of the Jungle, opening up the Peruvian Amazon to transnational corporations. This sparked over one year of protests, opposition and civil disobedience, until in June of 2009, Garcia called for a state of emergency, and sent the Peruvian military to Bagua to stop protests. The military intervention resulted in two days of bloody confrontations, where at least 30 people were killed, 23 of which were police. According to Amazon Watch, over 600 police attacked unarmed indigenous peoples who were peacefully protesting. Police were also accused of burning bodies to hide actual death counts.

protest4Now, four years later, the government of Peru is intent on sending these indigenous leaders to a lifetime in prison. Indigenous allies are demanding that the true culprits of Bagua, former President Alan Garcia, former Interior Minister Mercedes Cabanillas, former Prime Minister Yehude Simon and former head of Foreign Trade, Mercedes Araoz be sentenced instead.

Results of whether or not a trial will take place are expected to be announced later today. Thousands of indigenous peoples in Bagua are awaiting results, dressed in their typical guerrero (warrior) dress. There are talks that if the court sentences these leaders, another Bagua could occur.

In Pucallpa, ORAU, the Ucayali branch of AIDESEP, and its 14 indigenous federations, held protests in the morning, blocking the streets of Pucallpa. Alianza Arkana supported the protest by providing transportation expenses for those involved.

Deborah Rivett, Thursday, 07 March 2013

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