Photo via Intercontinental Cry
At least 34 people have been killed in clashes between indigenous groups and the Peruvian police after the government passed a law opening up regions in the Amazon for foreign oil and gas ventures. The crisis has escalated to such heights that Peru's Prime Minister, Yehude Simon, has said that he plans on resigning due to his failure to win the support of the indigenous population in moving ahead with the land law—but has the Amazon been spared?
It's hard to say. If we hope to find some semblance of an answer to that question, we've got to look at the origin of the crisis. And what lies at the heart of the conflict? Apparent abuses of special powers given to the Peruvian president (who outranks the prime minister) by congress to join a free trade agreement with none other than the good ol' US of A.
From Al Jazeera:
Alan Garcia, the Peruvian president, whose approval rating stands at 30 per cent, had issued a series of decrees last year using special powers that congress had given him to implement a free-trade agreement with the US.
Among those decrees was essentially the claiming of ancestral Amazonian rainforest land as Peru's to divvy and open up to natural resource oriented business ventures. And so,
Peru's indigenous leaders launched strikes in April, saying that the government did not consult them in good faith before signing contracts that could affect at least 30,000 people across six of the nation's provinces.
Essentially, the Peruvian government claimed the resource-rich rainforest region for its own, despite long standing agreements with indigenous peoples who've called the Amazon home for hundreds of years. However, protests and demonstrations seem to have rocked the government into overturning the land law, which it claims it's doing now.
Antonio Brack, Peru's environment minister, said on Monday that the government would ask congress to repeal the land laws, after a delegation led by Simon met indigenous leaders in the central Peruvian Amazon jungle town of Mazamari.
And thanks to the courageous people who were willing to give their lives to protect both their ancestral homes and one of the greatest environmental wonders in the world, the region may be spared from the deforestation and degradation that inevitably accompanies gas, oil and cattle ventures. At least for the time being—some feel that Simon's resignation means that President Garcia won't have to listen to the requests of indigenous peoples in making future decisions regarding the Amazon. He'll just have to throw another official under the bus.
But for now, the indigenous people appear to be vindicated, and their lands on the way to being properly protected once again.