Congress repeals Peru president’s Amazon jungle development decrees

Congress ratified Friday a congressional committee’s motion to repeal two land Amazon jungle development laws decreed by President Alan García, two days lawmakers struck a deal with indigenous rights groups to lift protests that disrupted operations at drilling platforms and sections of an oil duct in northern Peru.

Congress’ action came over the objections of García, who warned that overturning his decrees would condemn indigenous tribes to a century more of poverty.

Indigenous rights groups, headed by the umbrella Interethnic Association for the Development of Peru’s Jungle, or Aidesep, maintained that the decrees weakened tribal control of ancestral lands – estimated to contain billions of dollars worth of minerals, oil and lumber – and made it easier for private investors to obtain permission from indigenous communities to set up business.

Lawmakers voted 66 to 29 to roll back Legislative Decree N°1015 — reinstating articles 10 and 11 of the prior development and private investment land law N° 26505 — and revoking García’s Legislative Decree N°1073, which made subtle changes to the legal definition of collective land ownership in Peru’s Amazon.

Decree N°1015 replaced an earlier communal land rights law approved by Congress in 1995 that required the “consent by a two-thirds majority vote by all members of the community” to approve private development projects. Under García’s deceee, instead of requiring a vote representing 66 percent of the entire community, investors needed only to persuade a simple majority of those in attendance at a community assembly.

Congressman Mauricio Mulder, general secretary of García’s ruling Aprista party, said the Apristas would respect the democratic vote and carry through with the Congress’ decision.

García, issued the decrees in May under extraordinary powers granted by Congress to fast-track legislation to bring Peru into compliance with its free trade agreement with the United States. His environment minister, Antonio Brack, appealed to legislators not to succumb to political pressure and uphold the Executive’s laws.

“They must analyze what is best for the indigenous people of Peru, and not act on the basis solely of affairs of a political nature, or to create opposition,” Brack told Radio Programas radio as lawmakers headed into session. “I hope that the Parliament’s decision won’t be political or pure verbal diarrhea.”

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