Congress repeals controversial Amazon laws

June 22, 2009

Police break up indigenous protests near Bagua, Peru, June 5th. © Thomas Quirynen

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The Peruvian Congress has voted to repeal two controversial Amazonian laws after protests that led to the death of an unknown number of policemen and Indigenous people.

The Congress voted to repeal the laws at the end of last week. The laws undermined Indigenous peoples’ rights and made it easier for outsiders to take control of their land.

Peru’s Amazon Indian organisation, AIDESEP, described the government’s decision as ‘historic’. ‘Our struggle and the lives of our Indigenous brothers and sisters have not been in vain,’ said AIDESEP’s vice-president, Daysi Zapata Fasabi. ‘(This decision) shows that our struggle is a just one and that no one is manipulating us.’

Peru’s president, Alan Garcia, admitted that the laws were passed without consulting the Amazon’s Indigenous inhabitants and that a ‘succession of errors’ was made in the government’s handling of the protests.

The government’s official figure is that 24 policemen and 10 Indigenous people were killed during the protests, but those figures are disputed by local sources. According to reports, the mayor of local town Bagua has said that up to sixty Indigenous people are still missing.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya, has issued a call for an independent investigation into the violence. For photos and eyewitness testimonies, see here.