Ollanta Humala acknowledges hand in indigenous protests in Peru’s Amazon

Ollanta Humala, the leader of Peru’s left-leaning nationalist opposition party, has admitted having a hand in the more than week-long strike and occupation of Amazonian natural gas facilities to protest government decrees that indigenous rights groups say are promoting unrestricted oil exploration while stripping their full rights to control communal lands.

“We can’t say that there aren’t any nationalists making these demands, we acknowledge that,” Humala told Spanish news agency Efe. “Those that don’t admit to it belong to other groups.”
The Interethnic Association for the Development of Peru’s Jungle, or Aidesep, and the indigenous tribes are demanding that Peru President Alan García repeal the controversial communal land rights decree N°1015 as well as 37 other decrees promulgated as part of the Peru-U.S. free trade agreement they say violate their territorial and ancestral rights.

“These people recognize the state of law and are legitimately making their demands,” said Humala. “And a political force that stands within the government must support them.”

Humala warned Aidesep “not to believe that the solution will come by signing an agreement.”

“The government has already signed 35 agreements and I don’t know of a single one that has been respected,” Humala said.

President Alan Garcia declared a 30-day state of emergency Monday in three Amazonian provinces and one department after negotiations between Environment Minister Antonio Brack and indigenous rights groups broke down Friday and a violent confrontation left eight police officers and one protester injured on Sunday.

Protesters continue to block roads and occupy seized drilling platforms and buildings in southern Peru as well as the El Muyo hydroelectric power station owned by Oriental Electric Corp., Argentine-operated Pluspetrol gas lots in Camisea gas field Block-56, public buildings, and part of an oil duct in northern Peru.

“The government is trying to sell their land to transnational capital,” said Humala.
My party “doesn’t oppose foreign investment,” contended Humala, but the government should give priority to consensus and dialogue, not the imposition of laws.

Humala, a former lieutenant colonel in Peru’s army, led a minor military revolt in 2000 against ex-President Alberto Fujimori in the waning days of his corruption-riddled regime. Humala went on to be  a front runner in the last presidential election, but was ultimately defeated in a runoff  vote in June 2006 by García , who adroitly painted his opponent as a pawn of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez  and his quest to expand Venezuela’s influence over the region.

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