Peru: The Return of the Indigenous Leader Alberto Pizango

As announced [es] earlier, the exiled indigenous leader Alberto Pizango returned to Peru on May 26. The former head of the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (or AIDESEP for its initials in Spanish) spent more than 11 months in exile in Nicaragua after leaving the country following the events and conflicts in the region of Bagua. He had been facing an arrest order during this time, but he finally decided to return to the country, despite certain skepticism from his own organization.

Following news of his return, Peruvian President Alan García stated [es] that he would guarantee that Pizango would be treated fairly during his judicial process for the events in Bagua, which is also known as the “Baguazo.” However, the Minister of Women Affairs, Nidia Vílchez said [es] that Pizango's return appeared to be a provocation on his part.

Protest sign reads "Bagua, I don't forget and I don't forgive. Sanction the person guilty of genocide, Alan García." Image by Javier Fernandez, Flickr User javi270270, used with photographer's permission.

During the early morning hours of May 26, teams of journalists made their way to the airport to cover Pizango's arrival. Families of the police officers who were killed during the Bagua conflict went to demand an arrest and to place responsibility of the death of their loved ones on Pizango. Finally, Pizango arrived at approximately 3:45 pm accompanied by Daysi Zapata the current president of AIDESEP, and the actress Q'orianka Kilcher. As expected, he was first held [es] in the offices of immigration and later arrested and taken to the police station in the area of La Victoria.

Following his arrest, it was announced that Pizango would go on trial [es] for the events in Bagua and face charges of sedition and homicide, as well as charges for attacking the Armed Forces. At the same time, protests have been planned calling for his release.

The next day, on May 27, the judge announced that the arrest order will be changed to a restrictive order [es], meaning that he will have to fulfill the restrictions placed by the judge, including that he cannot leave the country, that he must report on all of his activities each month, and that he cannot change residences without informing the judge.

In the blog Prensa Alternativa [es], there is a brief summary of the reason why the arrest order was changed:

Con inocultable alegria fue recibida la noticia de la liberación del lider indigena amazonico el Apu Alberto Pizango Chota. La orden que hace casi un año fuera emitida por una jueza debido a presiones politicas, que lo acusaba de ser responsable de los sangrientos acaecidos en el llamado “Baguazo”, en donde perdieron la vida 34 ciudadanos peruanos debido a un enfrentamiento entre indigenas amazonicos y policias miembros de fuerzas especiales.

The news of the release of the Amazonian indigenous leader Apu Alberto Pizango Chota was met with unhidden joy. Last year's order was emitted by a judge due to political pressures, who accused him of being responsible for the bloody events called the “Baguazo,” and where 34 Peruvians lost their lives in a conflict between Amazonian indigenous and the special forces police.

The blog Transparencia Nacional Perú [es] doubts Pizango's declared intentions for his return and writes the following:

El retorno de aquel instigador que no informo debidamente a la gente de lo que ocurria, que se lavo las manos luego de los sucesos sangrientos, que lucho por intereses fuera de la realidad, no es un regreso para solo enfrentar a la justicia por los cargos de cuatro delitos por el Baguazo, sino como lo dijo Deysi Zapata lider de AIDESEP, que el regreso de Alberto Pizango es para ser Candidado Presidencial del Peru en el 2011, aun cuando luego lo negara sabemos que es asi.

The return of that instigator that didn't properly inform people what was happening, that washed his hands after the bloody events, that fought for interests beyond reality, is not a return to only face justice for the charges of four crimes in the “Baguazo,” but like Deysi Zapata, leader of AIDESEP, said, the [intention] of the return of Alberto Pinzango is to become a presidential candidate for Peru in 2011, even though he might deny it we know it is true.

Twitter users commented on Pizango's return, some showing support for the indigenous leader, and others denouncing him. David Grandez (@davidgrandez) says [es] that Pizango got what he wanted:

Te saliste con la tuya Pizango, 11 meses como prófugo de la justicia y te dan comparecencia  […]!

You got away with it Pizango, 11 months like a fugitive from justice and now you get the right to an appearance […]!

John Rivas (@johnidem) tweeted [es] his observation on the whole ordeal:

Muy raro lo de Pizango, justo a casi 1 año de lo que hizo, regresa y no pasó nada. Y los caviares en silencio.

The Pizango issue is very weird, almost 1 year from what he did, he returns and nothing happens. And the caviares [leftists with moderate economic views] are silent.

Twitter user Ansuanet tweeted [es] in support of Pizango:

El colmo hubiera sido #Pizango en la cárcel y Meche en el Spa, relax, libre de culpas por el #Baguazo… y Alan está pasando piola…

It would have been pathetic that #Pizango go to jail and Meche [Meche Cabanillas, the Minister of Interior during the Baguazo] in the Spa, relaxing, free of guilt for the #Baguazo…and Alan [Peruvian president Alan García] is going unnoticed….

Ollanta Humala Tasso (@OllantaHumalaT_), founder of the Peruvian Nationalist Party, also tweeted [es] about Pizango, saying that the Government needs to take responsibility for the “Baguazo”:

El Gobierno debe responder por la matanza en Bagua, no el Sr. Pizango.

The Government needs to respond for the killings in Bagua, not Mr. Pizango.

Following his release, Pizango held a press conference [es]. In the blog Mariátegui [es] they publish some of his statements:

“He vuelto no solamente para ponerme a derecho sino también para contribuir a la necesaria reconciliación entre peruanos y peruanas”. “A los deudos de los policías e indígenas, les envio mi sinceras condolencias y exijo una exhaustiva e imparcial investigación para llegar a la verdad”.

“I returned not only to defend myself, but to help contribute towards the necessary reconciliation between Peruvians. To the relatives of the [dead] police and indigenous, I send my sincere condolences and I call for an exhaustive and impartial investigation to find out the truth.”


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