Peruvian Natives Agree to 48 Hour Protest Truce

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Agence France Presse

Peruvian Natives Agree to 48 Hour Protest Truce

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LIMA  - Thousands of indigenous people across
Peru late Wednesday agreed to a 48-hour truce in their 10 day protest
against what they call "the law of the jungle" that opens up their
Amazon tribal lands to development, officials said.

The
agreement followed a meeting in Lima between Congress President Javier
Velazquez and protest leader Alberto Pizango, who heads the
Inter-Ethnic Association of the Peruvian Forest (Aidesup).

Velazquez said he promised to revise the controversial law in Congress on Friday.

Just
before the agreement was struck, 11 people were injured in the
northeastern Amazon city of Bagua when scores of natives armed with
spears and stones attacked a local police station defended by some 500
police.

"There were 11 injured including natives and police
officers in the clashes," Bagua health director Alejandro Falcon told
the media.

On Sunday, clashes between 800 demonstrators and
police left at least four people injured, prompting the government the
following day to decree a state of emergency in the Amazon area.

Around
12,000 members of 65 tribes in Peru have been protesting since August 9
plans to open up development and land purchases in the region, which is
estimated to contain billions of dollars' worth of timber, minerals and
oil.

The tribes say the plans will force them to migrate from their traditional lands.

Congress
on Tuesday took steps to resolve the dispute when its Committee of
Andean, Amazon and African-Peruvian Peoples submitted a bill to revoke
the "law of the jungle."

Welcomed by the protesters, the measure
was quickly condemned by an angry President Alan Garcia, who on
Wednesday said it would be "a very serious, historic mistake" to revoke
the development law.

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"If that were to happen out of fear of
protesters, fear of unrest, Peru would someday remember it as the
moment when change came to a halt and hundreds of thousands of people
were condemned to poverty, exclusion and marginalization," he told
reporters.

The Garcia administration contends the development law
is aimed at improving the livelihood of indignous communities by
developing their farming, livestock and mining activities so they can
better integrate with the country's economy.

Indigenous leaders
complain that they were never consulted on the law and that it really
is intended to benefit the free trade agreement Peru has signed with
the United States, to the detriment of native communities.

Aidesup
said Peru's indigenous territories have been recognized not only by
Peruvian law, but also by international treaties Peru has signed with
the World Trade Organization that uphold the territories' ill-defined
borders.

 

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