Monday, June 8, 2009

Deaths mount in Peruvian Amazon

The conflict between Peru’s indigenous protestors and the government went from bad to worse over the weekend.

According to Canadian indigenous rights activist Ben Powless, approximately 100 natives were killed in violent clashes between domesticators and police. Powless- who is working alongside Peru’s main indigenous organization- said that the government is misleading the press by saying that there have at most nine protestors killed.

Both sides have blamed each other for the outbreak of violence resulting from weeks of protest in Peru’s Amazon region. Peruvian president Alan Garcia accused protestors of "barbarity" after 22 paramilitary troops were killed trying to breakup blockades on roads and oil pipelines. Garcia insinuated that "foreign forces” from Bolivia and Venezuela joined protesters in order to incite violence.

On the other hand, some locals have accused the army of heavy-handed actions by indiscriminately attacking unarmed protestors:
The country's security forces now have a firm grip on the area and are enforcing a curfew in the three main towns, (BBC’s Dan Collyns) says.

But local people say the measures are preventing them from looking for the dead.

Eyewitnesses reported having seen bodies burnt or dumped in a river.

"The police were shooting to kill, but that's not all, because they hid the dead," one man told the BBC.

"They took them to the ravine and threw them from the helicopter in plastic bags. There are also dead on the river banks. Up there beyond the hill, there are more, as if it were a common grave."
The conflict centers on Garcia’s orders to permit increased foreign investment in oil and gas ventures. Garcia claimed that it would allow Peru to advance economically yet protest leaders said that the move does little to improve the conditions of impoverished natives.

Image- AP (“In this picture released by Amazon Watch on June 6, 2009, police open fire on Indians blocking the road in Bagua Grande in Peru's northern province of Utcubamba, Friday, June 5, 2009.)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, AP, Al Jazeera English, BBC News,

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