Indigenous representatives, Gana Peru lawmakers call for approval of prior consultation

Representatives of indigenous communities and legislators from President Ollanta Humala’s ruling Gana Peru party called on Congress Thursday to approve the prior consultation law soon.

Lawmaker Eduardo Nayap, a member of the Awajun indigenous community, said the law will improve social inclusion and prevent social conflicts, which have mired numerous mining and energy projects during the administration of ex-President Alan Garcia.

“In the name of the indigenous peoples and in respect for them, I urge that [Congress] debate and approve this law,” state news agency Andina reported Nayap as saying.  Nayap stressed that not having this law in place has cost many lives. 

A clash in June 2009 between police and indigenous protesters in the north-east jungle of Bagua led to the death of 24 police and more than 10 protesters, while in June this year, six people died at Juliaca airport in the protests against mining investment in the Puno region.

Amnesty International has also called for approval of the bill, which enacts Peru’s recognition and signature of the International Labour Organization Convention 169.

Left-leaning Congressman Javier Diez-Canseco, a member of Humala’s Gana Peru, said the law should be approved as soon as possible because there has already been sufficient time for debates and studies.

“The bill has been widely discussed and now a large sector of the country backs it,” Diez-Canseco said.

International organizations, including Amnesty International and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), have come out recently to support the approval of the bill, saying it is key for indigenous rights in Peru.

The bill was approved last year by Congress, but Garcia would not sign it into law. He cited concerns that the bill could provide communities with veto over large mining and energy projects, which have provided the foundation for Peru’s economic growth.

Officials in Humala’s government have publicly backed the legislation and have said they would make its approval a priority.

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