SF Gray Panther Earl Gilman will describe his recent trip to Peru and Chile, including a visit with jailed American political activist Lori Berenson. He will discuss Lori Berenson's case, and her work with MRTA (the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement).
Earl will also discuss Indian uprisings in the area. Recently, Amazon region Indians in Peru have joined those in Bolivia, Equador, and Columbia in leading uprisings which demand indigenous peoples' rights and resist exploitation of natural resources, especially oil and gas. Ultimately, these rebellions force us to question whether Neoliberalism and Free Trade Agreements work. A Duke University study shows 72% of Peru's Amazon region is leased to multi-national oil companies.
June 12, 2009:
The Minister for Woman Affairs has resigned from the government of Alan Garcia in protest against the repression in the Amazon. She apparently had a personal encounter with the Minister of the Interior, Mercedes Cabanilla, who had called the indigenous people "savages."
The radio station of the indigenous people "La Voz de Utcubamba" has had its boradcasting license revoked because of its support of the indigenous struggle.
On Thursday there were General Strikes in support of the indigenous people in Moquengua, Puno and Huancayo. (The indigenous people in these area represent different cultures from the Amazonian tribes.) In several cities there were attacks against the HQ of the APRA Party, which is Alan Gracia's party.
The Peruvian government has a delegation in Washington D.C. which has announced that Democratic Party congressmen will give them more time to work out the legislation to conform with the Free Trade Agreement which the indigenous people are protesting. It appears that the Peruvian government wants the U.S. government to mediate.
June 8, 2009:
President Alan Garcia defending the massacre of indigenous people in the Amazon on June 5th declared that the indigenous people "are not first class citizens." ("no son cuidadanos de primera clase") He also suggested that the governments of Venezuela and Bolivia were supporting the Peruvian indigenous movement to hold up the progress of Peru.
The government claims 24 policemen were killed and 9 indigenous people were killed with 155 wounded and 72 arrested. However, indigenous sources refer to 26 indigenous people and supporters being killed, with bodies disappearing.
In Bagua demonstrators burnt down the offices of the National Police and the local offices of the APRA, the ruling party.
A National Day of Protest has been called for Thursday June 11th.
The Natonal Police Union (Sindicato Unico de Policia Peruana SUPP) has sent a communique lamanting the deaths of their fellow police officers and "our native brothers, all those who fell in Bagua." The union holds the Peruvian government responsable for the deaths, especially President Garcia and Prime Minister Yehude Simon, The statemeent calls for "a democratic police, where uniformed workers are dignified, respected, without corruption at the service of citizens and people in general, and that we should not have to be used by the government which is in power at the time as a repressive force.
June 5 2009:
Between 20-30 indians were killed today (this morning) in the Amazon by the Peruvian police
* Around 2am, the police began amassing near protesters, who were blocking the road in a locale called Curva de Diablo. Protesters did not move.
* Around 5:30 – 6:00 helicopters dropped teargas from above. On the ground, police started to attack, firing gun shots from outset.
* As protesters were fleeing, the police were shooting at and killing indigenous people.
* Reportedly in self defense, some indigenous people took control of police firearms and shot back, killing several police officers (The police are claiming that the protesters were armed with guns from the beginning and initiated the exchange of gunfire, a claim denied by eye-witnesses)
* When an international NGO worker was trying to film and photograph the situation, a policeman fired a teargas bomb in her face. She said that the police also were prohibiting other press from filming.
* As injured and dead were being transported toward the town of Bagua Chica, they have been detained at a police control post at Milagros. Only injured police have been allowed to pass. Injured indigenous have been detained at the police station, an undetermined number dying there for lack of medical attention.
* An ambulance driver was also attacked and injured.
* Protesters have retreated to the Cruce de Bagua, between where they were blocking the road and the town of Bagua.
* In Bagua, the police firing shots into the air as they looked for indigenous leaders. Two non-indigenous residents are reported killed. Now the non-indigenous population is protesting police presence and have reportedly taken control of the police station and government offices including the APRA offices, COFOPRI and PRONAA.
* Reports of deaths include at least four indigenous protesters (Santiago Valera, Luis Yankun, Feliz Dupis, and Luis Jintas), two Bagua towns people, and four police officers.
* On Tuesday the constitutional committee of congress was suspended from debating the constitutionality of the other legislative decrees because the APRA participants did not turn up.
* Yesterday congress was scheduled for the second time to debate the constitutionality of 1090, but again suspended the debate.
* Yesterday the Defensoría del Pueblo published a report to the constitutional tribunal on the unconstitutionality of law 1064.
* Yesterday the local chief of police confirmed that he had orders from above to open the roads in the next 24 hours. The indigenous protesters had agreed not to allow anyone passed.
May 27, 2009:
In support of the National Day of Protest: The jungle city of Iquitos in the Peruvian Amazon (pop. ~400,000) was on 24 hour General Strike in support of the indigenous struggle. The market was closed, no public transportation, and the schools closed. A few businesses tried to sell to customers with their doors locked. The students from the University carried out picket duty. The riot police injured 13 people with rubber bullets. 18 construction workers demonstrating for the indigenous peoples were arrested together with two Indians.
Three hundred Indians blocked the tourist action Machu Pichu near Cuzco in the highlands preventing tourists from entering.
There are two separate blockades by indigenous tribes of the Fernando Beluande highway. 300 policemen have gathered in front of the Corral Quemado bridge where one of the blockades is taking place.
The head of the National Miners Union has declared a national strike on June 15th.
The Rondas Campesinas, originally set up by the government as a para-police force to oppose the guerrillas, has declared they will be carrying national actions to support the indigenous struggle unless the government repeals its privatization laws.
May 9, 2009:
"On May 9th the Peruvian government declared a state of emergency in nearly all the Amazonian region of Peru. There has been almost no press coverage in Peru of this crisis. In Bagua thousands of awajan and wampis natives took control of the Corral Quemado bridge, principal access to the northern jungle. The police attacked and two natives were injured by tear gas grenades. The indigneous blockade of the river Napo was broken by a Peruvian navy gunboat which ran over the canoes of kichua and Arabela peoples. The kechwa people have set up blockades on the Beluande Terry highway near Tarapoto. Thousands of indigenous people marched in Yurimaguas in support.
The state of emrgency, however, does not include all areas where there is indigenous mobilization...rather it is in effect where there are plans for petroleum and gas pipelines, where multinationals have received concessions on indian lands. The special elite police, Direccion de Operaciones Speciales, formed to fight the narcotraffic, instead are being used against the indigenous tribes.
The indigneous people are fighting to defend their communal lands and the "modernization plans" of the government which would contaminate the jungle. Example:Plans for Petroleum Concession Lot 76 which consists of 1 million 500 thousand hectacres consists of building 166 helicopter landing areas, 1944 loading areas and buidling 166 building areas. This will compeltely eliminate the Communal Reserve Amarskaire and will operate inside the National Park areas of Manu, Bahuaha-Sonene and the Tambopata-Candamo Reserve. It will severely affect one of the areas of greatest biodiversity in theplanet.
The indigenous people are also fighting against the privitization of their water supply. The Peruvian government sees it is bringing "develpment and progress" to the Amazon in accord with the Free Trade Agreement with the United States. In the mountanous areas of Peru, the government is encouraging mining by foreign companies leading to water contamination, and in the case of gold mining, mercury poisoning."
May 4, 2009:
"On May 4 the Peruvian Navy with one gun ship, one helicopter and 3 speed boats attacked the native tribes´ blockade of the Napo River in the Amazon. After the Navy departed, the tribes reestablished their blockade.
Another tribe turned off the valves for petroleum pipeline for Petroperu. In Loreto, the indigenous tribes forced out the Canadian oil company Talisman. The provinces of Loreto and Condorcanque in the Amazon are now surrounded by the police.
The indigenous movement, led by AIDSEP, which groups together 1350 communities and 57 Amazonian organizations, is demanding repeal of a law which will lead to a privitization of water. They also oppose the sale by the government of mining and petroleum rights on Indian lands, which lead to contamination of the environment. Some 30 new laws in Peru have been passed taking away indigenous rights as a result of the Free Trade Agreement with the US.
The indigenous movement is demanding a new Constitution which affirms the multi-cultural nature of the State and participative democracy."
Earl Gilman, a SF Gray Panther member, is a former chapter president of SEIU Local 535, Labor Council delegate, and was involved with the Liverpool Dockers and Chilean Bank Workers Union.