Peru Indians Hail 'Historic' Day

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Peru Indians Hail 'Historic' Day

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Natives armed with spears set a roadblock at the entrance of the Amazonian town of Yurimaguas, northern Peru, on June 10, 2009. Peru's Congress on Thursday revoked two controversial decrees on land ownership in the Amazon river basin which triggered protests by indigenous groups that left at least 34 people dead in early June. (AFP/File/Ernesto Benavides)

Indigenous groups in Peru have called off protests after two land laws which led to deadly fighting were revoked.

Hailing victory, Amazonian Indian groups said it was an "historic day".

At least 34 people died during weeks of strikes against the legislation, which allowed foreign companies to exploit resources in the Amazon forest.

The violence provoked tension with Peru's neighbour, Bolivia, where Preisdent Evo Morales backed the Peruvian Indians' tribal rights.

"This is a historic day for indigenous people because it shows that our demands and our battles were just," said Daysi Zapata, vice president of the Amazon Indian confederation that led the protests.

She urged fellow activists to end their action by lifting blockades of jungle rivers and roads set up since April across six provinces in the Peruvian Amazon.

The controversial laws, passed to implement a free trade agreement with the US, were revoked by Peru's Congress by a margin of 82-12 after a five-hour debate.

Diplomatic dispute

The worst of the clashes occurred on 5 June when police tried to clear roadblocks set up by the groups at Bagua, 1,000km (600 miles) north of Lima.

At least 30 civilians died, according to Indian groups, as well as 23 police.

Peru's Prime Minister Yehude Simon said the reversal of policy would not put at risk Peru's free trade agreement with the US, but he has said he will step down once the dispute is settled.

The dispute led to a diplomatic row between Peru and Latin American neighbours Venezuela and Bolivia.

Peru recalled its ambassador to Bolivia for consultation on Tuesday after Bolivian President Evo Morales described the deaths of the indigenous protesters as a genocide caused by free trade.

Peru's Foreign Minister Jose Antonia Garcia Belaunde called Mr Morales an "enemy of Peru".

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