Chronology of the Current Amazon Issue

Abridged from “Chronicle of a Killing Foretold” by
Instituto Bartolomé de las Casas, Lima ———

November 2007: President García publishes in the daily “El Comercio” his articles on “the dog in the manger syndrome” and “the dog in the manger reloaded,” where the President states:

“The primary resource is Amazonia. It has 63 million hectares and abundant rain. Lumber forestry can be developed here, especially in the eight million hectares destroyed, but to do this it is necessary to own property, that is, a secure land of 5,000, 10,0000 or 20,000 hectares, since with less land there is no long-term, formal investment with top technology.
“At present, there are only concessions that depend on the will of the Government and of the official who can modify them. This is why nobody invests nor creates jobs for each two hectares, as it should be; nor is there any processing of wood and export of furniture. In their majority, these pillage concessions have only served to extract the finest wood, deforest and abandon the land.
Contrary to this, formal property owned by large collective companies such as the pension funds would permit long-term investments from the planting to the harvesting years later.
“Those who oppose this say that one cannot grant ownership in the Amazon (and why can we on the coast and in the highlands?). They also say that granting ownership over huge lots would give earnings to large companies, of course, but it would also create hundreds of thousands of formal jobs to Peruvians who live in the poorest areas. This is the dog in the manger syndrome.”

There is no mention of the indigenous communities that inhabit the Amazonian territory.

December 12, 2007. Garcia asks Congress for faculties to legislate on issues related to implementing the Free Trade Agreement, FTA, with the United States.

December 19, 2007. Congress grants these faculties, limiting legislation by the Executive specifically to issues concerning the FTA. The faculties are granted for six months.
June 28, 2008. Just before the deadline, the Executive issues a package of legislative decrees, some of which cover even issues such as that of universities, unrelated to the FTA.

August and September 2008. The indigenous peoples begin work stoppages, marches, to protest these decrees.

August 2008. Strikes are held by some of the 1350 indigenous communities grouped in the Inter-Ethnic Association for Development of the Jungle, Aidesep. Congress repealed Leg.Decree 1015 (known as the law of the rainforest, which permitted the purchase, with the agreement of three persons, of all community property). At the same time, the Ombudsman’s office filed a suit against this L.D. on grounds that it was unconstitutional, and did likewise regarding Leg.Decree 1073. The president of the Congress, Javier Velasquez Quesquén, proposes to set up a commission to evaluate the legislation.

December 2008. The Congressional commission presented its report, but Velasquez Quesquén says it will be presented to Congress on February 1, after congress members return from vacation.

February 1, 2009. Velasquez Quesquén reneges on his promise.

March 12. Aidesep sends letters to Velasquez Quesquén and to Premier Yehude Simon, reminding them of their commitment.

April 9. A month alter Aidesep’s letter and three months since Velasquez Quesquén promises to present the report to Congress, there is still no response from any of the authorities. Aidesep, which includes leaders from all of the communities, votes to start work stoppages, but within the communities themselves there are those who believe they should hold back.

April 18. Aidesep decides to radicalize the protest, considering that still no one is listening and Premier Simon, in a TV interview on Channel N, describes their demands as capricious.

April 20. Aidesep leaders and Premier Simon meet at the Presidency of the Cabinet offices. Simon promises Aidesep he will form a multi-sector commission (formed by the Executive and Aidesep). Simon tells the press he will sign a resolution to form this commission once the strike is lifted.

April 24. Velasquez Quesquén says he will give the congressional report, which he initially said would be put to the plenary for debate on February 1, to a multipartisan commission with the proviso that it must first be approved by a board of spokespersons. The board of spokespersons did not approve the report be passed to the plenary.

Last week of April. The cities of Tarapoto and Yurimaguas join the strike.

May 9. The government declares a state of emergency in several Amazonian districts, in five of Peru’s regions. The Constitution allows a state of emergency in cases of disturbances of the peace or internal order, catastrophe or grave circumstances that affect the life of the nation.

May 11 and 13. Alberto Pizango, president of Aidesep, meets with Premier Simon but they do not reach an agreement. Simon complains that Pizango speaks to him in Spanish but speaks to the native leaders on the phone in his dialect.

May 15. Pizango announces the right to insurgency.

May 16. President Garcia says “the jungle belongs to all Peruvians and not just to one group.” Aidesep leaders meet with Public Ombudsman officers and announce that they will continue their protest within the rule of law.

May 19. Legislative Decree 1090 (governing forestry and wildlife) is declared unconstitutional by the Congressional commission. Congress will now have to debate repealing the law, not just vote on it.

May 22. The Minister of Justice, Rosario Fernández, denounces Alberto Pizango for encouraging rebellion, sedition and conspiracy. “We have heard Mr. Pizango’s arguments and they don’t appear to be made by a native who is unprepared.”

June 4: The debate to repeal the law is suspended. Mauricio Mulder (Apra) files to suspend the debate and the vote until the multi-sector commission (yet to be installed by Premier Simon) remits its report on the laws in question.
On the same day, the Public Ombudsman’s office files a demand with the Constitutional Court, arguing that Legislative Decree 1064 is unconstitutional because it infringes on the constitutional rights of property of land and of prior consultation of the indigenous peoples.

June 5. The police and military move to quell the protest, with 369 police from the special operations squad, DINOES, as well as military troops and helicopters. The numbers vary according to each press report, but the result could be up to 50 people dead, including 20 police and military and 28 indigenous people. Many more are injured. Riots, vandalism and looting broke out throughout Jaen and Bagua. The government called a curfew from 8pm. A warrant is issued for Pizango’s arrest.

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