Indigenous leader arrested in Peru after returning from exile in Nicaragua

Former indigenous leader Alberto Pizango returned to Peru on Wednesday from exile in Nicaragua and was arrested on arrival at Lima’s Jorge Chavez International Airport.

Pizango arrived at about 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday and was accompanied by Daysi Zapata, the interim president of the Interethnic Association for the Development of Peru’s Jungle, and actress Qorianka Kilcher, who told TV reporters she had come to ensure Pizango’s human rights were not violated.

Police took Pizango into custody and transferred to a jail in Lima, daily El Comercio reported.

Pizango, a Shawi Indian who is well-regarded among Amazonian communities, had been charged with sedition, conspiracy and rebellion for leading protests in 2009 over plans to open large swaths of the Amazon jungle to oil drilling and other large development projects.

He had sought refuge in Nicaragua’s embassy in Lima and was later granted a letter of safe-conduct by Peru’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to travel to Nicaragua where he was granted asylum.

Aidesep and other Amazon groups, including the Confederation of Amazonian Nationalities of Peru, had been seeking to repeal several laws that were enacted by the Executive in 2008 to fit in with private investment policies within the Free Trade Agreement signed with the United States, as well as other laws that infringe on their own territorial rights.

Demonstrations led to the confrontation between some 5,000 protesters and Peruvian soldiers and police on a remote jungle highway in the Bagua province of Amazonas department. Six natives, four Bagua residents and 11 police were killed in the crisis.

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