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Peru: Blood Flows in the Amazon
In early June, Peruvian President Alan García, an ally of U.S. President Obama, ordered armored personnel carriers, helicopter gunships, and hundreds of heavily armed troops to assault and disperse a peaceful, legal protest organized by members of Peru's Amazonian indigenous communities protesting the entry of foreign multinational mining companies on their traditional homelands. Dozens of Indians were killed or are missing, scores have been injured and arrested, and a number of Peruvian police, held hostage by the indigenous protestors, were killed in the assault. García had declared martial law in the region in order to enforce his unilateral and unconstitutional granting of mining rights to foreign companies, mines that infringed on the integrity of traditional Amazonian indigenous communal lands.
García is no stranger to government-sponsored massacres. In June 1986, he ordered the military to bomb and shell prisons in the capital holding many hundreds of political prisoners protesting prison conditions, resulting in over 400 known victims. Later mass graves revealed dozens more. This notorious massacre took place while García was hosting a gathering of the so-called Socialist International in Lima. His political party, APRA (American Popular Revolutionary Alliance), a member of the International, was embarrassed by the public display of its national-socialist proclivities before hundreds of European Social Democrat functionaries. Charged with misappropriation of government funds and leaving office with an inflation rate of almost 8,000 percent in 1990, he agreed to support presidential candidate Alberto Fujimori in exchange for amnesty. When Fujimori imposed a dictatorship in 1992, García went into self-imposed exile in Colombia and later France. He returned in 2001 when the statute of limitations on his corruption charges had expired and Fujimori was forced to resign amid charges of running death squads and spying on his critics. García won the 2006 presidential election in a run-off against the pro-Indian nationalist candidate and former Army officer, Ollanta Humala, thanks to financial and media backing by Lima's right-wing oligarchs and U.S. overseas "aid" agencies.
Back in power, García announced in October 2007 his strategy of placing foreign multi-national mining companies at the center of his economic development program, while justifying the displacement of small producers from communal lands and indigenous villages in the name of modernization.
García pushed through congressional legislation in line with the U.S.-promoted Free Trade Agreement of the Americas or ALCA. Peru was one of only three Latin American nations to support the U.S. proposal. He then began to award huge tracts of traditional indigenous lands in the Amazon region for exploitation in violation of a 1969 International Labor Organization-brokered agreement obligating the Peruvian government to consult and negotiate with the indigenous inhabitants over exploitation of their lands and rivers. Under García's open door policy, the mining sector of the economy expanded rapidly and made huge profits from the record-high world commodity prices and the growing Asian (Chinese) demand for raw materials. The enforcement of environmental regulations was suspended in these ecologically fragile regions, leading to widespread contamination of the rivers, ground water, air, and soil in the surrounding indigenous communities. Poisons from mining operations led to massive fish kills and rendered the water unfit for drinking. The operations decimated tropical forests, undermining the livelihood of tens of thousands of villagers engaged in traditional artisan work and subsistence forest gathering and agricultural activities.
The profits of the mining bonanza go primarily to the overseas companies. The García regime distributes the state's revenues to his supporters among the financial and real estate speculators, luxury goods importers, and political cronies in Lima's upscale, heavily guarded neighborhoods and exclusive country clubs. As the profit margins of the multinationals reached an incredible 50 percent and government revenues exceeded $1 billion, the indigenous communities lacked paved roads, safe water, basic health services and schools. Worse still, they experienced a rapid deterioration of their everyday lives as the influx of mining capital led to increased prices for basic food and medicine. Even the World Bank in its Annual Report for 2008 and the editors of the Financial Times of London urged the García regime to address the growing discontent and crisis.
Above and below, Awajun indigenous protesters in northern Peru after security forces violently attacked a peaceful bridge blockade on May 10—photos by Thomas Quirynen, www.catapa.be
Above, Peru's security forces open fire on Amazon road blockade demonstrators on June 5; below, an injured demonstrator is pulled from an ambulance and beaten by troops during the assault—photos by independent reporters, www.catapa.be
Delegations from the indigenous communities had traveled to Lima to try to establish a dialogue with the president in order to address the degradation of their lands and communities. The delegates were met with closed doors. García maintained that "progress and modernity come from the big investments by the multinationals...[rather than] the poor peasants who haven't a centavo to invest." He interpreted the appeals for peaceful dialogue as a sign of weakness among the indigenous inhabitants of the Amazon and increased his grants to foreign multinationals.
The Amazonian Indian communities responded by forming the Inter-Ethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (AIDESEP). They held public protests for over seven weeks, culminating in the blocking of two transnational highways. García, who referred to the protestors as "savages and barbarians," sent police and military units to suppress the mass action. What García failed to consider was the fact that a significant proportion of indigenous people in these villages had served as army conscripts and fought in the 1995 war against Ecuador, while others had been trained in local self-defense community organizations. These combat veterans were not intimidated by state terror and their resistance to the initial police attacks resulted in both police and Indian casualties. García then sent a heavy military force of helicopters and armored troops with orders to shoot to kill. AIDESEP activists report over 100 deaths among the protestors and their families, as Indians were murdered in the streets, in their homes, and workplaces. The remains of many victims are believed to have been dumped in the ravines and rivers.
García, taking his talking points from the U.S. ambassador, accused Venezuela and Bolivia of having instigated the Indian "uprising," quoting a letter of support from Bolivia's President Evo Morales sent to an intercontinental conference of Indian communities in Lima in May as "proof." Martial law was declared and the entire Amazon region of Peru has been militarized. Meetings are banned and family members are forbidden from searching for missing relatives.
Throughout Latin America, all the major Indian organizations have expressed their solidarity with the Peruvian indigenous movements. Fearing the spread of mass protests, El Commercio, the conservative Lima daily, cautioned García to adopt some conciliatory measures to avoid a generalized urban uprising. A one-day truce was declared on June 10, but the Indian organizations refused to end their blockade of the highways unless the García government rescinded its illegal land grant decrees.
On June 11, 30,000 workers, students, and urban poor took over the streets of Lima in solidarity with the Indian communities. They confronted the police at the Peruvian Congress and demanded the repeal of President García's land grants to multinational corporations, the resignation of his administration, and the convening of an international tribunal to investigate the complicity of the foreign multinationals in the brutal crimes against the Amazonian communities. Strikes and demonstrations of solidarity organized by trade unions and peasants paralyzed economic activity in most provincial capitals and towns. A vast umbrella organization coordinating all major social movements convoked a nationwide general strike for early July.
As political pressures mounted and extended from the indigenous and peasant mass movements in the Amazon and the Andes to the coastal regions, the García regime temporarily suspended the recent laws infringing on the rights of indigenous communities. A motion by the congressional opposition Nationalist Party, led by Ollanta Humala, to rescind all land grants in the Amazon received over 40 percent support among congresspeople. Fissures have appeared in García's cabinet with the resignation of one minister and there is increasing pressure on the prime minister to resign.
Confronted by mass extra-parliamentary and institutional pressure, an enraged and isolated García took more repressive measures. He closed down the Amazonian Indians' principle radio station "The Voice," located in the town of Bagu—the center of the bloody confrontation—for not broadcasting the government's official version of the massacre. García's attorney general ordered the arrest of six leaders of AIDESEP, charging them with inciting the Indians "to take illegal violent action in order to be heard and accepted." They face at least six years imprisonment.
At this writing on June 17, Indian resistance continues its blockades, limiting traffic on two major transnational highways, strikes continue to paralyze economic activity, and road pickets in Cusco, Apurimac, and Junin block even more highways.
Bolivia's President Evo Morales pointed to the root cause of the popular uprising and brutal government repression: "The violence between the Peruvian police and the Indians is an act of genocide caused by the [U.S.-Peruvian] Free Trade Agreement, which privatized and handed Latin America over to the multinationals" (La Jornada, June 14, 2009).
In the meantime, a strange silence hangs over the White House. The usually garrulous Obama, so adept at reciting platitudes about diversity and tolerance and praising peace and justice, cannot find a single phrase in his prepared script to condemn the massacre of scores of indigenous inhabitants of the Peruvian Amazon. When egregious violations of human rights are committed in Latin America by a U.S.-backed client-president, one who follows Washington's formula of "free trade," deregulation of environmental protections, and hostility toward anti-imperialist countries (Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador), Obama favors complicity over condemnation.
The recent events in Peru demonstrate the importance of organized mass direct action in detonating a national popular movement. This, in turn, strengthens progressive electoral opposition whose pressure divided and isolated a Washington-backed regime armed to the teeth but incapable of ruling.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; email@example.com; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; firstname.lastname@example.org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: email@example.com; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; email@example.com.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; email@example.com; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: email@example.com; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.