Amazon Theater

Peru recalls ambassador from Bolivia over Amazon crisis

Peru recalled its ambassador to June 16 after President Evo Morales described the recent killings of indigenous protesters in the Peruvian Amazon as "genocide." Ambassador Fernando Rojas said Morales' comments were a "totally false assessment." Peruvian Foreign Minister José García Belaunde said the measure was "a redress manifestation for the continued intromissions of the Bolivian government on internal issues of the country." He added that he considered Morales an "enemy of Peru."

Peru clamps down on indigenous organizations

Senior figures in Peru are threatening a clamp-down on both Peruvian and foreign NGOs in the wake of the violent protests which have erupted in the country's Amazon region. The Congressional Foreign Relations Committee is examining a proposal to restrict the funding of Peruvian NGOs by outside agencies. Many indigenous organizations have for decades received financial support from Western funding agencies.

Peru: prime minister to step down in bid to defuse Amazon crisis

Peru's Prime Minister Yehude Simon said June 16 he plans to resign in the coming weeks, as President Alan García's government faces harsh criticism over its handling of protests by indigenous groups in the Amazon region. Simon, a former left-wing activist, joined the cabinet last October in an effort by García to improve relations with Peru's poor. A day earlier, Simon announced that he had reached a deal with the protesters in which he would ask Congress to repeal the controversial decrees that would speed development in the Amazon. (NYT, June 16)

Brazil: bill on Amazon land transfers advances

On June 3 the Brazilian Senate approved a bill regulating government transfers of land in the Amazon region. The bill—Conversion Bill 09 (PLV 09/2009, originally MP 458/09)—was passed by the Chamber of Deputies in May and awaits the signature of President Luis Inácio "Lula" da Silva. The Catholic Church's Pastoral Commission on Land (CPT), Greenpeace, WWF-Brasil (the Brazilian affiliate of the World Wildlife Fund) and other groups say some articles in the measure will enable companies and individuals to keep lands they seized illegally. The law "especially benefits people who should be on trial for usurping areas covered by the agrarian reform," according to Greenpeace. The groups are urging people to call on Lula (phone +61-3411.1200, +61-3411.1201 or email at to veto the articles. (Adital, June 12)

Peru: radio silenced, legislators suspended

On June 8 Peru's Transportation and Communication Ministry (MTC) cancelled the license of Radio La Voz de Bagua, a family-owned radio station with a signal of 100 watts in Utcubamba province in the Amazonas region in the north of the country. The MTC cited technical issues with the station's equipment, but La Voz news director Carlos Flores Burgos dismissed this as "a lie." The station is based in the area where dozens of people died on June 5 in a confrontation between police and indigenous protesters, and Flores said the station had made it possible for members of the public to report alleged abuses by security forces. After the June 5 killings, Interior Minister Mercedes Cabanillas accused the station of agitating the situation and called for sanctions against it, while Congress members Aurelio Pastor, Jorge Del Castillo and Mauricio Mulde, all from the Peruvian Aprista Party (PAP) of President Alan García, accused La Voz and Flores of supporting and inciting violence.

Peru: congress suspends decrees on Amazon resources as protests mount

Following the wave of violent unrest in the Amazon region, on June 10, Peru's congress temporarily suspended two decrees issued by President Alan García that would open vast areas to corporate exploitation and allow companies to bypass indigenous communities in winning permits for resource extraction. The following day, police used batons and tear gas to turn back protesters who marched on the congress building in support of indigenous demands that the laws be overturned. At least 20,000 students, trade unionists and indigenous Peruvians from both the Andean highlands and Amazon lowlands joined protests. Some of the students reportedly hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails at police. Several were arrested, but police did not release a figure.

Nicaragua grants asylum to Peruvian indigenous leader

By order of President Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua granted asylum June 9 to Alberto Pizango, the Peruvian indigenous leader wanted on charges of sedition for leading protests in the Amazon over the past two months. Pizango, a member of the Shawi people, sought refuge in Nicaragua's embassy in Lima the day before. The Nicaraguan chancellor, Samuel Santos, said his government will guarantee Pizango's safe conduct to the Central American nation.

Peru: labor, rights groups condemn killing of Amazon protesters

On June 5 Peru's largest labor confederation, the General Confederation of Peruvian Workers (CGTP), condemned what it called "the slaughter ordered by the government of President Alan García," referring to the deaths of at least 20 police agents and indigenous protesters earlier that day when police tried to break up a demonstration blocking a road in Bagua province in the northern region of Amazonas. The CGTP called for Congress to repeal the decrees on drilling, mining and land rights that Amazonian indigenous groups had been protesting since April 9. The labor group had held a one-day national strike on May 26 to support the demands of the Amazonian indigenous group leading the protests, the Inter-Ethnic Association for Development of the Peruvian Forest (AIDESEP). (CGTP press release, June 5)

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