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Peruvian Congress to Vote Today on Repealing Two Controversial Decrees
Government Urged to Drop Criminal Charges Against Indigenous Leaders and Investigate Violent Incidents in Bagua
LIMA, Peru - June 18 - The Peruvian Congress is expected to vote today on a motion to repeal two of the ten contested decrees in an attempt to end widespread indigenous protests that have been paralyzing transportation and commerce in the Peruvian Amazon for 70 days. In a complete shift of discourse, Peruvian Prime Minister Yehude Simon formally asked Congress to repeal decrees 1090 and 1064, which were passed in 2008 as part of a package of new laws to facilitate the implementation of the Free Trade Agreement with the United States. It remains to be seen if conservative hardliners in Congress will succeed in rallying opposition to block the revocation.
Primer Minister Simon, who has been a lead negotiator to the indigenous communities, said Tuesday that he would resign after bringing the current conflict closer to resolution. The Peruvian Government has been heavily criticized for the June 5 attack to quell nonviolent protests by Amazonian indigenous communities, which resulted in dozens of deaths of both protesters and police and left 150 of indigenous demonstrators injured.
Indigenous organizations whose members have been blockading roads, rivers, and oil platforms throughout the Amazon are awaiting the outcome of the congressional vote before deciding to end the blockades. AIDESEP, Peru's national indigenous organization said: "we recognize the sacrifice and unwavering will of our indigenous brothers and sisters to fight for protecting their territories, whose fruits would be the revocation of these decrees."
In the U.S., fifteen human rights and environmental organizations recently sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other top Administration officials urging the United States to take immediate steps towards addressing the political crisis in Peru. Representatives from this coalition met with US Trade Representative's office on Wednesday to again urge the US Government to publicly clarify if Peru would be penalized for revoking the package of "free trade laws."
In addition to decrees 1090 and 1064, indigenous organizations point to eight other decrees that continue to pose a threat to their constitutionally guaranteed rights. In addition to the repeal of all these controversial laws, indigenous people are demanding that the Peruvian Government lift the State of Emergency, in effect since May 9 in several regions throughout the Amazon. AIDESEP is also demanding that the Government drop criminal charges against indigenous leaders including those against Alberto Pizango. Pizango was given safe passage to leave the country and is now exiled in Nicaragua.
The dramatic shift in the Garcia Administration's discourse is likely due to the unprecedented international and domestic condemnation for attacks on peaceful demonstrations on June 5 in Bagua. Tens of thousands protested in cities throughout Peru on June 11 in support of Peru's indigenous peoples. Peruvian consulates and embassies worldwide have been the site of repeated vigils and protests. Tens of thousands have sent letters to Peruvian and US government officials. Celebrities including Q'orianka Kilcher and Benjamin Bratt, both part Peruvian as well as Nobel Prize Laureate Rigobrta Menchu, have been publicly condemning the violence in Peru, while calling for a peaceful solution. Leading international human rights bodies including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and the International Labor Organization have pressed on the Garcia Administration to end repression and uphold the rights of indigenous peoples. Yesterday, the UN Special Rapporteur of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people James Anaya arrived in Peru for a 3-day visit to gather information about the violent incident in Bagua.
The Peruvian Congress's revocation of the two decrees would only the first step in bringing indigenous rights in Peru back to where they were before the 10 questioned decrees were promulgated in 2008. However, the conflict has become a watershed moment for Peru's policies in the Amazon and has invigorated national debate about historic violations of indigenous peoples rights. Indigenous peoples will continue to be at risk by Garcia's developments policies. Since 2006, the government has authorized oil and gas concessions covering over 70 percent of the Peruvian Amazon, much of it on indigenous lands (see Perupetro map at http://mirror.perupetro.com.pe/exploracion01-e.asp).