Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Massacres in Amazonia: Courtesy of New Free Trade Agreement

All too often, U.S. politicians denigrate actions and statements made by various Latin American leaders who oppose that which they call U.S. imperialism in their countries. Yet, during most of this decade, the political landscape throughout much of Central and South America has been swinging decidedly to the left; this, in continual opposition to U.S. brokered free trade agreements; this, in support of national economic autonomy. Even as politicians in the United States (including Barak Obama) continue to arrogantly support, and even push for the creation of ever more economic agreements with our neighbors to the south, the evidence continues to mount that these agreements imposed upon the people exact a very high price - one that almost always comes at the expense of the people - often indigenous people.

On the morning of June 5, Peruvian police, at the behest of President Alan Garcia, launched a brutal attack upon indigenous protesters in the Bagua Province who had been non-violently conducting a road blockade in protest of ten laws - rules designed to open up indigenous lands to increased mineral, oil, gas and timber exploitation. According to an in depth report, which aired on the June 8 edition of Democracy Now, the laws had been presented to the Peruvian congress on a fast track without any consultation with the native peoples who would be so deeply affected by the passage of these laws. These laws were apparently passed in order to expedite the industrialization of Peru's Amazon region.

During the weeks leading up to the above-mentioned attack, many roads and bridges had been blocked by a coalition of indigenous peoples from throughout the region. According to reports in various independent media outlets, all of these blockades were of a peaceful nature. Still, during the June 5 attack the police opened fire upon the protesters with live amunition; the protesters, according to video footage and photographic evidence, were only carrying spears. The death toll among the amazonian defenders now ranges in the dozens with at least 150 more injured. Some two dozen police have also been reported as being killed in the conflict.

Meanwhile,in what is being alleged as his typical behavior, Peruvian President Garcia is attempting to lay the blame for the conflict upon Bolivia and Equador where leftist governments have been elected into power. Bolivian President Evo Morales, was elected on a pro-indigenous platform and is himself Native American. Peru, with Alan Garcia as its president, is one of the few countries in Latin America that remains loyal to U.S. economic and foreign policy toward that region. Mr. Garcia is joined by Mexican President Felipe Calderón and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.

Protests against the massacre at Bagua have begun taking place in other parts of the world. On June 9 a demonstration for the rights of the Amazonian people took place at the Hague in the Netherlands. Beginning front of the Institute for Social Sciences, the demonstration later moved to the Peruvian embassy there.

On June 11 three activists, as part of a larger demonstration, chained themselves to the doors of Senator Charles Schumer's office in New York City. The activists accuse Schumer, President Obama, and many other politicians of complicity with the recent Peruvian massacre; this, due to their support of the U.S.-Peru Free Trade Agreement. It is claimed that those supporting the agreement were warned that the it would be a violation of indigenous land rights as well as the cause of environmental desecration. According to a report in NYC Indymedia, "Members of Trade Justice NY Metro had met with Schumer's staff twice before the Peru Free Trade Agreement vote, presenting him with reports from the Washington Office on Latin America predicting violence and instability if the agreement passed."

For all of their talk about defending the rights of all peoples, and for all of their talk about defending the environment, it is clear that the majority of our politicians - including President Obama, are generally interested in only two things, which include the continuation of the American worldwide empire, and the continual advance of the U.S. economy by any means necessary. It is doubtful that Senator Schumer in particular, will even make a comment after NYC activists did such a good job of implicating him with the massacres. Still, with so many injustices in the world, and with so much environmental desecration taking place, it would be wonderful if our so-called representatives and elected officials would begin looking past their collective noses in order to understand where their reckless policies are leading humanity.

For more information in Spanish and with parts in English click here for global Indymedia. offers a take-action page here.

Photo courtesy of Global and/or Peru Indymedia.

1 comment:

Hogeye Bill said...

I don't see how the managed trade ("free trade") agreement forces the Peruvian government to take over indigenous people's property. Can you quote the text that says so?

"Some Washington organizations have now signed a letter asking the Obama administration to communicate to the Peruvian government that repeal of the decrees 'does not conflict with the obligations of the U.S.-Peru TPA.'" - FPIF article

It looks to me like the Peruvian government used the managed trade agreement as an excuse/rationalization for something they wanted to do anyway (and have been doing for a long time), i.e, stealing indigenous people's land.

One nitpick - you might put "free trade agreement" in scare quotes, since it is actually quite the opposite.

Keep up the good work, Al.