Peru’s government has declared a ‘state of emergency’ in several regions in the Amazon following protests involving thousands of indigenous people.
The protests are against government laws and policies which undermine indigenous peoples’ rights and make it easier for companies to take over their land. They started on April 9: several rivers have been blockaded, roads closed, and one airport has been shut down. According to reports, at least ten indigenous people have been seriously wounded.
The government’s decision to declare a ‘state of emergency’ has been severely criticised by many different individuals and organisations in Peru, with the president of the leading indigenous peoples’ organisation, AIDESEP, describing it as tantamount to ‘war’. It suspends constitutional rights to personal security, the inviolability of the home, freedom to hold meetings, and travel.
One of the areas of greatest tension has been along the Napo River, a major tributary of the Amazon in the north of Peru. After local indigenous people blockaded the river with a nylon cable, a naval gunboat and three boats belonging to Anglo-French oil company Perenco broke through the blockade, sinking some of the protesters’ canoes in the process.
Perenco is working in a region of the Amazon inhabited by at least two uncontacted tribes. Survival is urging the company to withdraw from the project.