Peru Police Accused of Disposing of Dead Indigenous to Cover Up Death Toll

For Immediate Release

Amazon Watch
Contact: 

In the U.S.:  Nick Magel 1-419-283-2728 nick@amazonwatch.org
In Peru: Gregor MacLennan + 511 - 993 916-389

Peru Police Accused of Disposing of Dead Indigenous to Cover Up Death Toll

Indigenous Leaders and Allies Call for an End to Violence on All Sides

BAGUA, Peru - In
the aftermath of Friday’s bloody raid on a peaceful indigenous road
blockade near Bagua in the Peruvian Amazon, numerous eyewitnesses are
reporting that the Special Forces of the Peruvian Police have been
disposing of the bodies of indigenous protesters who were killed.

“Today I spoke to many eyewitnesses in Bagua reporting that they saw
police throw the bodies of the dead into the Marañon River from a
helicopter in an apparent attempt by the Government to underreport the
number of indigenous people killed by police,” said Gregor MacLennan,
spokesperson for Amazon Watch speaking.

“Hospital workers in Bagua Chica and Bagua Grande corroborated that the
police took bodies of the dead from their premises to an undisclosed
location.  I spoke to several people who reported that there are bodies
lying at the bottom of a deep crevasse up in the hills, about 2
kilometers from the incident site. When the Church and local leaders
went to investigate, the police stopped them from approaching the
area,” reported MacLennan.

Police and government officials have been consistently underreporting
the number of indigenous people killed by police gunfire. Indigenous
organizations place the number of protesters killed at least at 40,
while Government officials claiming that only a handful of indigenous
people were killed.  Also the Garcia Government claims that 22 police
officers were killed and several still missing.

“Witnesses say that it was the police who opened fire last Friday on
the protesters from helicopters,” MacLennan said. “Now the government
appears to be destroying the bodies of slain protesters and giving very
low estimates of the casualty. Given that the demonstrators were
unarmed or carrying only wooden spears and the police were firing
automatic weapons, the actual number of indigenous people killed is
likely to be much higher.”

“Another eyewitness reported seeing the bodies of five indigenous
people that had been burned beyond identification at the morgue.  I
have listened to testimony of people in tears talking about witnessing
the police burning bodies,” continued MacLennan.

At least 150 people from the demonstration on Friday are still being
detained.  Eye-witness reports also confirm that police forcibly
removed some of the wounded indigenous protesters from hospitals,
taking them to unknown destinations. Their families expressed concern
for their well being while in detention. There are many people still
reported missing and access to medical attention in the region is
horribly inadequate.

The Organizing Committee for the Indigenous Peoples of Alto Amazonas
Province issued this statement: “It is appalling that political powers
have acted in such a cruel and inhuman manner against Amazonian
Peoples, failing to recognize the fundamental rights and protections
guaranteed to us by the Constitution. We express deep grief over the
death of our indigenous brothers, of civilians and the officers of the
National Police.”

The government expanded the State of Emergency and established a curfew
on all traffic in the region from 3 pm to 6 am.  Indigenous and
international human rights organizations are worried about plans of
another National Police raid on a blockade in Yurimaguas close to the
town of Tarapoto where thousands are blocking a road.

President Alan Garcia is being widely criticized for fomenting a
climate of fear mongering against indigenous peoples by drawing
parallels to the brutal Shinning Path guerrilla movement of the 1980s
and early 1990s, and by vaguely referring to external and
anti-democratic threats to the country.

The Amazonian indigenous peoples’ mobilizations have been peaceful,
locally coordinated, and extremely well organized for nearly two
months. Yet Garcia insists on calling them terrorist acts and
anti-democratic. Garcia has even gone so far as to describe the
indigenous mobilizations as “savage and barbaric.”  Garcia has made his
discrimination explicit, saying directly that the Amazonian indigenous
people are not first-class citizens.

“These people don't have crowns," Garcia said about the protesters.
“These people aren't first-class citizens who can say -- 400,000
natives to 28 million Peruvians -- 'You don't have the right to be
here.' No way. That is a huge error.”
Ironically, Peru was the country that introduced the United Nations
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on the floor of the
General Assembly when it was adopted in September 2007.

A coalition of indigenous and human rights organizations will protest
in front of the Peruvian Embassy in Washington D.C. on Monday, June 8
at 12:30 pm. 

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.

Among the outpouring of statements condemning the violence in Peru were
those from Peru’s Ombudsman’s office, the chair of the United Nations
Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, a coalition of 45 international
human rights organizations, Indigenous organizations from throughout
the Americas, and the Conference of Bishops of Peru.  Also famous
personalities including Q’orianka Kilcher, Benjamin Bratt, Peter Bratt,
and Daryl Hannah and Bianca Jagger called on the Peruvian Government to
cease the violence and seek peaceful resolution to the conflict. 

AIDESEP, the national indigenous organization of Peru has called for a nationwide general strike starting June 11th.

Amazon Watch is continually updating photographs, audio testimony, and video footage from Bagua on www.amazonwatch.org.

Newly released b-roll at http://amazonwatch.org/peru-protests-highres-photos.php

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