Protests and state of emergency in Amazon region continue, negotiations have so far failed to find solution

After negotiations with premier Yehude Simon fell through on Thursday, indigenous communities in Peru’s Amazon region decided to pursue their protests against the contamination of their ancestral lands by mining companies, and to demand the repeal of a series of decrees they say are promoting unrestricted oil exploration.

“Peru is one country, where each and every one of the different cultures is respected,” said Simon, who believes the protests are manipulated politically and that the indigenous communities are misinformed about the scope and risks of the legislation enacted last year to meet standards set in the Free Trade Agreement signed with the United States.

“In the Amazon, there is only one discourse, but there are some people who don’t want these protests to end. We are willing to initiate dialogue, but the Indians have to put a stop to their protests. We are making progress, and hopefully tomorrow will bring solutions.”

“We need concrete options so that we may end our protests,” said the President of Peru’s Interethnic Association for the Development of Peru’s Jungle, or Aidesep, Alberto Pizango. “Until then, I don’t hold myself responsible for what is happening in the Amazon region. Each leader makes his own decision.”

Last week, the Executive declared a state of emergency for 60 days in the Amazon districts of four departments in eastern Peru, including Loreto, Amazonas, Ucayali and Cuzco.

The state of emergency, signed by President Garcia, Simon, and by the ministers of Justice, Defence, Interior, and Energy and Mines, suspends the constitutional rights of personal safety and freedom, the liberty of gatherings and public meetings, and freedom of transit, and authorizes law enforcement officers to search people’s homes or other private property without a warrant.

The decision was triggered by continuing protests from indigenous communities throughout the Amazon region, most recently in the northeast at Petroperu’s Nº 5 pump station on the North Peru Pipeline, where Awajun indigenous leaders have cut off water and electricity supplies.

In the Department of San Martín, the Fernando Belaunde Terry Highway has been blocked off for almost two weeks, and dozens of trucks filled with rotting fruit and other food products have been left stranded, lining up for over 10 kilometers. Residents of Tarapoto, the region’s largest city, have since seen the price of chicken triple, and food and fuel are becoming scarce.

On the Urubamba River, more than 500 Ashánika Indians continue to hold back river traffic, including twelve boats owned by oil companies Pluspetrol, Petrobrás and Repsol.

For over a month now, more than 15,000 Indians have been protesting decrees they say threaten their ancestral land and resources, are promoting unrestricted oil exploration, and have set the stage for the privatization of water resources.

The protests are not unlike those that occurred last August, when indigenous rights groups disrupted operations at drilling platforms and sections of the North Peru oil pipeline.

After nearly two weeks of protests, Congress ratified a congressional committee’s motion to repeal two land Amazon jungle development laws decreed by García. Congress’ action came over the objections of García, who warned that overturning his decrees would condemn indigenous tribes to a century more of poverty.

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