Four confirmed dead and 18 injured in a pre-dawn attack on peaceful demonstrators
Press release from Amazon Watch
Bagua, Peru (June 5, 2009) - At approximately 5 am this morning, the Peruvian military police staged a violent raid on a group of indigenous people at a peaceful blockade on a road outside of Bagua, in a remote area of northern Peruvian Amazon. Several thousand Awajun and Wambis indigenous peoples were forcibly dispersed by tear gas and real bullets, among them are confirmed reports of at least 18 injured and four people confirmed dead, although the number of dead is likely to be several times higher.
At 2am police began to approach the demonstrators as they were sleeping along the Fernando Belaúnde Terry road. Demonstrators refused to move from the roadblock as helicopters dropped teargas bombs from overhead. Eyewitnesses report that police attacked from both sides firing real bullets into the crowd as people fled into the hills. As the unarmed demonstrators were killed and injured some wrestled the Police and took away their guns and fought back in self-defense resulting in deaths of several Police officers.
In local radio reports, the chief of Police claimed that the indigenous demonstrators were armed with guns necessitating the use of bullets for dispersal. This claim is refuted by dozens of local eyewitnesses including local journalists. Marijke Deleu, a Belgium environmentalist from the local conservation organization reported from the scene that the Amazonian demonstrators have been entirely peaceful and only bear traditional spears and in no way provoked any violence.
The Garcia Government yesterday accused the indigenous movement of turning violent and issued an order for the police to begin forcibly removing indigenous demonstrations that have paralyzed the Amazon region of Peru for nearly two months.
Gregor MacLennan of Amazon Watch who is currently in Peru stated: "It is outrageous and absolutely untrue that indigenous peoples provoked violence. Rather, they are engaged in peaceful and non-violent civil disobedience in the tradition of Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi. It has been the Peruvian Government forces who have provoked violence against peaceful people who are trying to protect their forests, their sacred lands from shortsighted pollution and industrial development. They are sacrificing a lot to safeguard the Amazon for future generations and for all Peruvians."
Indigenous peoples have vowed to continue protests until the Peruvian Congress revokes the "free trade" decrees issued by President Garcia under special powers granted by Congress in the context of the Free Trade Agreement with the United States.
In the past two weeks, the constitutional committee of Congress has ruled that legislative decree 994 and 1090 were unconstitutional. The Peruvian Congress was scheduled to debate the revocation of decree 1090 again yesterday, however, Garcia's political party once again prevented the debate. The government Ombudsman office has filed a demand with the constitutional tribunal on the unconstitutionality of decree 1064, which affects the land rights laws in Peru.
The protests have provoked national debate about government policies in the Amazon that ignore indigenous peoples and encourage large-scale extractive industries and the privatization of Amazonian lands. Indigenous peoples claim that new laws undermine their rights and open up their ancestral lands to private companies for mining, logging, plantations and oil drilling.
A coalition of human rights and environmental organizations are urging the Garcia Government to step down and cease violent confrontations by the military and calling for solidarity demonstrations at Peruvian Embassies around the world.
AIDESEP, the national indigenous organization of Peru has called for a nationwide general strike starting June 11th.