The images that have emerged out of the Amazon region of Bagua in Peru over the past few days have been deeply disturbing. For months, Indigenous Peoples have spoken out against increasing incursions by government and multinational corporations on their land. Violence broke out over the past weekend, as police cracked down early Friday morning on Indigenous people protesting and blocking a road.
Eyewitness reports have shown that police opened fire into the crowd and shot at people from helicopters, killing at least 25 Indigenous people and injuring many more. In the ensuing clashes, up to 22 police officers and at least 40 Indigenous people, including three children, have been killed.
Democracy Now! today provided coverage of this issue, including video of the attacks over the weekend. The video is embedded below, and please note that the images included in this video are violent and graphic.
Whereas the Wall Street Journal today blandly described the situation as a government attempt to “defuse a protest,” these images speak volumes about the scale of the police brutality.
In recent weeks, Indigenous Peoples in Peru have mobilized against government plans to exploit their land and resources. The US-Peru Free Trade Agreement entered into force on February 1, 2009, and since then new laws in Peru have opened up Indigenous lands in the Amazon region to multinational corporations for increased mining, agribusiness, oil drilling and deforestation. In an attempt to suppress Indigenous protest against these laws, the government has confronted these activists with violence.
MADRE released a statement today, excerpted below:
MADRE decries the police brutality that led to these killings and notes that the human rights crisis in Bagua is ongoing: the government has declared a curfew from 3pm to 6am, protesters have been labeled “terrorists,” and Peruvian troops have occupied towns.
MADRE joins the international Indigenous movement in condemning the Peruvian government’s incursions onto Indigenous territories in the Amazon. […]
While Peruvian President Alan Garcia has claimed that the protesters are standing in the way of development, MADRE joins Indigenous leaders who have underscored their right to free, prior and informed consent regarding any activities on their lands, as codified in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Member of the MADRE Network of Experts and Chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Victoria Tauli-Corpuz released this statement in the wake of the violence:
"The Chair of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues expresses her shock and deep distress at reports received of atrocities committed starting 5 June against Indigenous Peoples in the Amazon region, resulting in the loss of lives, disappearances and grave injuries. The Chair sends her deepest condolences to the families of the victims. The Chair calls upon the Peruvian Government to:
- Immediately cease all violence against indigenous communities and organizations,
- Ensure immediate and urgent medical attention to the wounded and assist the families of the victims,
- Abide by its national and international obligations regarding the protection of all human rights, including the rights of indigenous peoples and human rights defenders, especially their right to life and security."
*Photo credit: Amazon Watch