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Outcry over Bagua violence report
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Indigenous groups blast government-appointed group´s account of bloody clashes between protesters and police.

A government-appointed commission stopped short of blaming Peru´s president and entire executive branch for the bloody clashes between indigenous protesters and police in June that left more than 30 people dead.

The report, released Jan. 12 by the Coordinating Group for the Development of Amazon Peoples, created by the government after 10 indigenous protesters and 23 police were killed on June 5 in the Amazon town of Bagua in demonstrations against pro-investment decrees, found that the central government hurried through decrees thoughtlessly.

The decrees-law, which were passed under the free trade agreement with the United States, sought to open up the Amazon to large-scale investment projects, sparking protests from local indigenous groups who argued their land and human rights were being trampled upon.

But the special commission, comprised of eight ministers, Amazon regional presidents, indigenous representatives and members of Catholic Church, did not blame the government for the violence and repression that reportedly took place in Bagua, but instead blamed the opposition Nationalist Party, army reservists, teachers, community defense groups, and the indigenous protesters themselves for inciting the violence.

“The indigenous movement was overwhelmed by its own collective, unable to control the excesses that unraveled into violence and death,” the report said.

The nongovernmental Legal Defense Institute called the report “totally partial, politicized and ideological.” The report was not endorsed by the main indigenous representative and a religious missionary.

The commission also recommended the government improve forestry legislation to prohibit the use of forests and protected areas for economic activity, and to take local indigenous customs and beliefs into account, while preserving valuable soils and water resources in the areas before authorizing any extractive industries.

Peru, which is two-thirds Amazon jungle, has auctioned off more than 75 percent of its jungle to gas and oil concessions, mostly to foreign companies.  

The commission also called on the government to previously consult indigenous communities before passing any legislation that affects their way of live or livelihoods.

Saúl Puerta, national secretary of the Inter-Ethnic Association of the Peruvian Jungle, or AIDESEP, an umbrella indigenous organization, rejected the report, saying that it was accepted by the government without any further discussion.  

“We came to the table with every intention of reaching a solution with the government,” Puerta said. “We wanted to negotiate with the government to reach a true reconciliation, but we haven´t been able to reach any agreement. We made our proposals and not one was accepted by the executive branch.”

Issues remain over damages to indigenous victims´ families, striking down the investment decrees, the creation of an independent investigative commission and the return of AIDESEP´s president, Alberto Pizango, who has been in Nicaragua under asylum since June. 

“We have the will to dialogue,” said Daysi Zapata, the organization´s acting president. “But if the government wants to close itself off, we have a clear and defined position because our bases are waiting in the Amazon.”
—Latinamerica Press.

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