It is with a heavy heart that I write this post to request that you PLEASE TAKE ACTION to support our Indigenous brothers and sisters in Peru who are literally fighting for their lives and the future of the Peruvian Amazon at this very moment.
In protest of the Peruvian government’s attempts to change laws and the constitution to open up Peru’s Amazon to exploitation by the oil, gas, mining and agribusiness industries (to meet its obligations under the Peru-US Free Trade Agreement), Indigenous Amazonians have been protesting non-violently for over 60 days. Just when their protest was gaining national and international attention and support, police attacked protestors in Bagua on Friday morning, killing at least 25 civilians and injuring at least 150. It is rumored that police are on their way to “break up” a protest by the Achuar in the northern Peruvian Amazon.
PLEASE TAKE ACTION & SPREAD THE WORD to stop the violence and injustices taking place against our Indigenous brothers and sisters and the Peruvian Amazon!
In peace and solidarity,
P.S. See below to see the action alert and latest press release from our friends at Amazon Watch.
Yesterday’s violent attacks on peaceful indigenous blockades in the Peruvian Amazon has left 25 civilians and 9 police dead and hundreds injured. The Garcia government has issued arrest orders for Alberto Pizango, the president of of AIDESEP (Peru’s national indigenous organization) charging him with sedition. Other leaders are similarly charged. We are encouraging people to take action in the following ways:
1) Activate your networks and ask them to send letters to the Peruvian Government demanding an immediate cease to the violent repression and a suspension of the state of emergency. With your help, we can generate thousands of letters to key decision makers. You can use a sample letter on our site: http://amazonwatch.org/peru-action-alert.php
2) Consider making a personal or organizational donation to this effort.
Amazon Watch is setting up an emergency fund to support: a) medical relief for the wounded, b) media campaigns led by indigenous organizations, and c)legal defense for those being charged. You can donate online at or send a check to Amazon Watch, 221 Pine Street, 4th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94104. Please specify for “The Peru Emergency Fund”. All the funds raised will be directed to organizations in Peru.
Please share your ideas of how you can help. Below is the latest news release with more details.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 6, 2009
In Bagua, Peru: Gregor MacLennan + 511 – 993 916-389
In the U.S.: Atossa Soltani 202-256-9795 firstname.lastname@example.org, Nick Magel 419-283-2728 email@example.com
Police Open Fire on Indigenous Blockade in the Peruvian Amazon – 25 Civilians and 9 Police Dead, 150 Injured
Garcia Government Criticized for Orchestrating Violent Attack on Peaceful Blockade While Censoring Congressional Debate on “Free Trade Laws”
Peru Ministers Under Report Number Indigenous Peoples Dead and Injured
Interviews with Eyewitnesses and High-resolution Photos Available Upon Request
Photos of June 5 Police Attack on Peaceful Blockade in Bagua
Bagua, Peru (June 6, 2009) – In the early morning hours on Friday, Peruvian Special Forces staged a violent raid on a group of indigenous people at a peaceful blockade on a road outside of Bagua in a remote area of the northern Peruvian Amazon resulting in 25 civilians confirmed dead and more than 150 injured. Over 600 police attacked several thousand unarmed Awajun and Wambis indigenous peoples including many women and children and forcibly dispersed them using tear gas and live ammunition.
Dramatic photos (available on www.amazonwatch.org) of the attack show clearly the police brutally beating and shooting demonstrators at close range. At 2am police began to approach the demonstrators as they were sleeping along the Fernando Belaúnde Terry road. Demonstrators refused to move from the roadblock as police in helicopters fired teargas grenades and live ammunition. Eyewitnesses report that police also attacked from both sides firing live rounds into the crowd as people fled into surrounding steep hillsides, many becoming trapped. As the unarmed demonstrators were being killed and injured some wrestled with police, fighting back in self-defense, which resulted in the reported deaths of nine police officers.
In local radio reports the chief of police claimed that the indigenous demonstrators were armed and fired first. This claim has been strongly rejected by dozens of local eyewitnesses including local journalists who confirmed that Amazonian demonstrators have been entirely peaceful and only bear traditional spears and in no way provoked any violence. A point highlighted by the fact that the blockades have been going on for 56 days without a single incident.
Gregor MacLennan of Amazon Watch who is currently in Bagua gathering first hand testimonies from blockade participants, local journalists and residents stated: “All eyewitness testimonies say that Special Forces opened fire on peaceful and unarmed demonstrators including from helicopters, killing and wounding dozens in an orchestrated attempt to open the roads. It seems that the police had come with orders to shoot. This was not a clash, but a coordinated police raid with police firing on protesters from both sides of their blockade.”
“There have been many accounts of atrocities committed by the Special Forces. Some have reported seeing the police throwing liquid on the cadavers and burning them. Also local residents have given accounts of having seen police throwing bodies of dead civilians into the river in an apparent attempt to underreport the number of dead. We’ve also received accounts that some of those injured were being detained by security forces and denied medical attention leading to additional deaths. There are many people still reported missing and access to medical attention in the region is horribly inadequate.”
Peru’s Ombudsman’s office issued a strong statement yesterday demanding an end to the violence. Letters condemning the government’s actions are pouring in from thousands of Peruvians and international human rights activists and organizations. Today, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the chair of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues of the United Nations issued a letter expressing “shock and deep distress at reports received of atrocities committed” and calling on the government to “Immediately cease all violence against indigenous communities and organizations.”
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.
In the past two weeks, the Constitutional Committee of Congress has ruled that legislative decrees 994 and 1090 were unconstitutional. The Peruvian Congress was scheduled to debate the revocation of decree 1090 again on Thursday, however, Garcia’s political party, for the third time, prevented the debate preferring instead to attack the peaceful blockades. The government Ombudsman office has filed a legal action with the constitutional tribunal regarding the unconstitutionality of decree 1064, which affects the land rights laws in Peru.
“Garcia has rejected several congressional debates on the decrees, opting for violent attacks and brute force that will only worsen this conflict. It is outrageous that the ministers are now attempting to blame the victims for this incident and cover up the number of indigenous people
dead,” said Gregor MacLennan.
The protests have provoked national debate about government policies in the Amazon that ignore indigenous peoples and encourage large-scale extractive industries in Amazonian lands. Indigenous peoples assert that new laws undermine their rights and open up their ancestral lands to private companies for mining, logging, plantations, and oil drilling without their consultation or consent.
AIDESEP, the national indigenous organization of Peru presented a legal petition yesterday for “precautionary measures” to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights requesting intervention to prevent more bloodshed. Orders for the arrest of leaders of AIDESEP, including Alberto Pizango who is being charged with sedition, were put in effect on Friday.
A coalition of human rights and environmental organizations are urging the Garcia Government to stand down and cease violent confrontations by the military and calling for solidarity demonstrations at Peruvian Embassies around the world. There were demonstrations on Friday at the Peruvian Government missions in San Francisco and Washington, DC. More are planned next week.
AIDESEP, the national indigenous organization of Peru has called for a nationwide general strike starting June 11th.
For Background information see additional links and www.aidesep.org.pe