Peru revokes controversial Amazon land decrees

Mark mark at
Fri Jun 19 13:18:10 BST 2009

Peru revokes controversial Amazon land decrees

Fri Jun 19, 2009

Peru's Congress has revoked two controversial decrees on land ownership in
the Amazon River basin that triggered protests by indigenous groups that
killed 34 people earlier this month.

The measure was approved 82-12 after a five-hour debate in Peru's
single-chamber legislature.

About 30 Amazon natives of the Ashanika community wearing feather
headdresses and traditional garb, witnessed the vote in Congress.

The Amazon Indians - 400,000 strong out of a population of 28 million
Peruvians - have been in conflict with the government for the past two
months over half a dozen decrees issued in 2007 and 2008.

They claim the laws will threaten their way of life by opening the Amazon
rainforest to foreign oil and mining companies and other commercial

The protests erupted into bloody clashes on June 5 and 6 after police were
sent in to clear roads of Indian-manned blockades around Bagua, 1,000
kilometres north of the capital, Lima.

At least 24 police and 10 protesters were killed in two days of clashes.

Peru Indians hail 'historic' day
BBC News Online
Friday, 19 June 2009

Indigenous groups in Peru have called off protests after two land laws
which led to deadly fighting were revoked.

Hailing victory, Amazonian Indian groups said it was an "historic day".

At least 34 people died during weeks of strikes against the legislation,
which allowed foreign companies to exploit resources in the Amazon forest.

The violence provoked tension with Peru's neighbour, Bolivia, where
Preisdent Evo Morales backed the Peruvian Indians' tribal rights.

"This is a historic day for indigenous people because it shows that our
demands and our battles were just," said Daysi Zapata, vice president of
the Amazon Indian confederation that led the protests.

She urged fellow activists to end their action by lifting blockades of
jungle rivers and roads set up since April across six provinces in the
Peruvian Amazon.

The controversial laws, passed to implement a free trade agreement with
the US, were revoked by Peru's Congress by a margin of 82-12 after a
five-hour debate.

Diplomatic dispute

The worst of the clashes occurred on 5 June when police tried to clear
roadblocks set up by the groups at Bagua, 1,000km (600 miles) north of

At least 30 civilians died, according to Indian groups, as well as 23 police.

Peru's Prime Minister Yehude Simon said the reversal of policy would not
put at risk Peru's free trade agreement with the US, but he has said he
will step down once the dispute is settled.

The dispute led to a diplomatic row between Peru and Latin American
neighbours Venezuela and Bolivia.

Peru recalled its ambassador to Bolivia for consultation on Tuesday after
Bolivian President Evo Morales described the deaths of the indigenous
protesters as a genocide caused by free trade.

Peru's Foreign Minister Jose Antonia Garcia Belaunde called Mr Morales an
"enemy of Peru".

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