For Immediate Release
4 Dead 18 Injured as Police Violently Attack Peaceful Indigenous Blockade in Peru
Four Confirmed Dead and 18 Injured in a Pre-Dawn Attack on Peaceful Demonstrators
Bagua, Peru - At approximately 5 am this morning, the Peruvian military police 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 northern Peruvian
Amazon. Several thousand Awajun and Wambis indigenous peoples were
forcibly dispersed by tear gas and real bullets, among them are
confirmed reports of at least 18 injured and four people confirmed
dead, although the number of dead is likely to be several times higher.
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 helicopters dropped teargas bombs from
overhead. Eyewitnesses report that police attacked from both sides
firing real bullets into the crowd as people fled into the hills. As
the unarmed demonstrators were killed and injured some wrestled the
Police and took away their guns and fought back in self-defense
resulting in deaths of several Police officers.
In local radio reports, the chief of Police claimed that the
indigenous demonstrators were armed with guns necessitating the use of
bullets for dispersal. This claim is refuted by dozens of local
eyewitnesses including local journalists. Marijke Deleu, a Belgium
environmentalist from the local conservation organization reported from
the scene that the Amazonian demonstrators have been entirely peaceful
and only bear traditional spears and in no way provoked any violence.
The Garcia Government yesterday accused the indigenous movement of
turning violent and issued an order for the police to begin forcibly
removing indigenous demonstrations that have paralyzed the Amazon
region of Peru for nearly two months.
Gregor MacLennan of Amazon Watch who is currently in Peru stated:
"It is outrageous and absolutely untrue that indigenous peoples
provoked violence. Rather, they are engaged in peaceful and non-violent
civil disobedience in the tradition of Martin Luther King and Mahatma
Gandhi. It has been the Peruvian Government forces who have provoked
violence against peaceful people who are trying to protect their
forests, their sacred lands from shortsighted pollution and industrial
development. They are sacrificing a lot to safeguard the Amazon for
future generations and for all Peruvians."
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 decree 994 and 1090 were unconstitutional. The
Peruvian Congress was scheduled to debate the revocation of decree 1090
again yesterday, however, Garcia's political party once again prevented
the debate. The government Ombudsman office has filed a demand with the
constitutional tribunal on the unconstitutionality of decree 1064,
which affects the land rights laws in Peru.
The protests have provoked national debate about government
policies in the Amazon that ignore indigenous peoples and encourage
large-scale extractive industries and the privatization of Amazonian
lands. Indigenous peoples claim that new laws undermine their rights
and open up their ancestral lands to private companies for mining,
logging, plantations and oil drilling.
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.