Peru: Responsibility for the Casualties in Amazon Conflict

This post is part of our special coverage Forest Focus: Amazon.

The recent events in the Peruvian city of Bagua, located in the jungle region have caused quite a reaction from the Peruvian blogosphere. Many are criticizing President Alan García and his government for their failure to enforce treaties and agreements that require the consultation with local communities before any action take place on their lands. This led to the protests and roadblocks in this region, and as a result of the police's attempt to clear the blockade, it produced the conflict in which indigenous community members and police were killed.

There is also criticism of the way that the media is handling the situation, and opinions that many outlets are minimizing the deaths of the indigenous residents.

Silvio Rendón of Gran Combo Club [es] writes about the neglect from the government to enforce the regulations outlined by the Free Trade Agreement with the United States and the International Labor Organization, which stipulates that there must be consultation with indigenous communities in regards to the use of their lands. He continues:

El tema no es la inversión ni nacional ni extranjera, sino que se respeten los derechos de las comunidades nativas. Si el asunto arranca violando sus derechos, ¿por qué las comunidades tendrían que creer que la violación de sus derechos no va a seguir?

El gobierno accedió al diálogo en medio de la protesta nativa, con los bloqueos ya en marcha. Sin embargo, de repente el gobierno decide que no va a hacer nada si la medida de fuerza continúa. Un repentino cambio de reglas. Y además, ¿qué puso sobre la mesa todo este tiempo? ¿Consulta a los nativos? No. Modificaciones cosméticas de las leyes rechazadas por los nativos. Entretanto, varios decretos han sido declarados inconstitucionales por la Defensoría del Pueblo como por la Comisión de Constitución del Congreso. No es que los nativos no tengan razón. El gobierno viene forcejeando por leyes que han sido declaradas inconstitucionales.

The issue is not about national or foreign investment, but that the rights of native communities are respected. If this continues to violate their rights, why should the communities believe that the violation of their rights will not continue?

The government agreed to dialogue amid native protests with the roadblocks already underway. However, the government suddenly decides that it will not do anything if the measures continue. A sudden change of rules. And besides, what did it place on the table during this entire time? Do you consult the natives? No, only cosmetic modifications of the laws rejected by the natives. Meanwhile, several decrees have been declared unconstitutional by the Ombudsman and by Constitutional Committee of Congress. It is not that the natives are not right. The government continues to force laws that have been declared unconstitutional.

In his blog Conflictos Sociales en el Perú [es], Erick Garcia continues the criticism of the government for its role in this conflict and its lack of prevention in this matter. Despite governmental intelligence and even common knowledge from reports from the media, it was well known that there were outside populations joining the protests:

Ahora me pregunto si un par de Decretos Legislativos valen todo el odio y dolor que generarán estas muertes. Se podrá ahora hablar de una solución pacifica y concertada con tantas muertes a cuestas (sobre todo cuando ya la Ministra del Interior ha declarado que Pizango y compañía deben ser detenidos y puestos a disposición de las autoridades – RPP 16:30) Lamentablemente comenzará la casería por encontrar a los responsables “políticos” e “ideológicos” de esta masacre; qué actitud que tomará el parlamento respecto a los decretos aún es incierto (seguramente estarán pensando más en la censura ministerial que en otra cosa); lo único claro es que el tema de fondo que en algún momento pudo discutirse “el modelo de desarrollo amazónico” solo sabe Dios cuando volverá al debate público.

Now I wonder if a few legislative decrees are worth all the hatred and pain that have caused these deaths. We could now talk about a peaceful and agreed upon resolution at the cost of so many deaths (especially when the Minister of Interior has stated that (indigenous protest leader) Pizango and others should be arrested and brought to the authorities – 16:30 RPP) Unfortunately, the hunt will begin to find those “political” and “ideological” individuals responsible for the massacre; what position will the parliament take on the decrees is still unclear (surely they are thinking more about ministerial censure, than anything else), the only thing clear is that main issue that could have been discussed “the model for Amazon development” only God knows when it can return to public debate.

Peruvian ex-pat in Spain, Jomra unequivocally criticizes President García [es], who said [es] that the protesters were wrong and that they cannot tell 28 million of Peruvians that they are not welcome in that region and by doing so they are stepping into irrationality and “primitive retreat.” Jomra writes about García:

No solo es mentiroso, sino que es intolerante e ignorante de la propia Constitución y los tratados que Perú ha firmado. … Pero lo importante es el fondo: El presidente asume que puede aplastar lo que la Constitución y el Convenio OIT nº 169 Sobre Pueblos Indígenas y Tribales en Países Independientes (de 1989, entró en vigor en el 91 y Perú lo ratificó en el 94), en la primera se establece una entidad jurídica especial para las Comunidades nativas y campesinas que el ejecutivo debe respetar y en el segundo se obliga a que toda decisión que afecte a las comunidades sea previamente consultada. El DL 1090 no lo ha sido.

García cada vez que puede acusa a la dirigencia de las comunidades de manipular a los pobres ignorantes, a la vez que pone que todo esto está orquestado por otros países, no se atreve a acusar a Venezuela pero indica que a quien conviene es a Chile (supongo que en el vecino del sur se mueren de risa al oír los despropósitos de García).

Not only is he a liar, but he is intolerant and ignorant of the Constitution and treaties which Peru has signed. … But the most important thing is: The president assumes that he can discard what is outlined by the Constitution and ILO Agreement No. 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries (1989, entered into effect in 1991 and ratified by Peru in 1994). The first establishes a special legal entity for the indigenous and peasant communities and farmers, and that the executive branch must respect this entity. The second requires that any decision affecting the community must be in consultation. Decree 1090 was not in consultation.

Whenever García can accuse the community leaders of manipulating the poor and ignorant, he does. At the same time, he says that this is orchestrated by other countries, he does not dare to accuse Venezuela, but he said that this benefits Chile ( I suppose that in the southern neighbor is dying of laughter when they heard this nonsense from García).

Amazilia Fracaso of Perú Apartheid [es] writes about the failure of Peruvian society and one of those symptoms is that the deaths could have been avoided. She also criticizes the media for their role during this crisis:

También lo es que la indiferencia e incluso la justificación de muchos comentaristas y bloggers, que haya gente que es capaz de aceptar estas muertes como necesarias para mantener el orden y el desarrollo significa que aún estamos muy lejos de ser un país que pueda caminar hacia adelante.

Es vegonzoso como los medios de comunicación como Peru21, El Comercio, RPP, desinforman a la población y se dedican a poner a la opinión pública en contra de las protestas sociales, ya sea minimizando las muertes que los nativos han sufrido, escondiendo información o exagerando y dandole un spin tétrico a las noticias. Esto también pasa con alguna prensa internacional, Simón Romero del NYT hace una nota sobre la protesta, mezcla el conflicto con Sendero Luminoso, (y) presenta a los nativos como anti-desarrollo.

It is also the indifference and even the justification from many commentators and bloggers, who are people that are able to accept these deaths as necessary to maintain order and development, that means that we are still far from being a country that can move forward.

It is shameful that media such as Peru21, El Comercio, RPP, misinform the public and devote themselves to sway public opinion against the social protests, either by minimizing the deaths that the natives have suffered, hiding information or by exaggerating and giving a grim spin on the news. This also happens with some international press, Simon Romero of the New York Times writes an article about the protest, but mixes the conflict with the Shining Path, (and) presents the natives as anti-development.

There are videos of the events from news reports on YouTube as well as a very graphic Flickr set from the National Coordinator of Human Rights (caution: strong images) of some of the causalities.

This post is part of our special coverage Forest Focus: Amazon.


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