Repression of Amazon Indian movement condemned worldwide

November 10, 2009

Peru’s Amazon Indians have been protesting against the exploitation of their lands by oil and gas companies © David Dudenhoefer

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The Peruvian government’s unprecedented attempt to destroy Peru’s Amazon Indian movement has been condemned by Indigenous leaders around the world.

The wave of condemnation comes after it was revealed that the government plans to disband Peru’s national organisation for Amazon Indians, known by its Spanish acronym AIDESEP.

‘We Bushmen of Botswana support the Indians of Peru and think that the government of Peru and the oil companies should not forget the Indigenous peoples. If you destroy their land, you destroy the Indians themselves,’ said Jumanda Gakelebone, from First People of the Kalahari, a Bushman organization in southern Africa.

‘Peru’s government should sit down and talk respectfully to AIDESEP as the legitimate representatives of the country’s Amazonian Indians, not try to attack them through the courts,’ said Armand MacKenzie, from the Innu Council of Nitassinan in Canada.

‘It is outrageous. I condemn Peru’s government for trying to destroy the voice of Peru’s Amazon population,’ said Lal Amlai, a Jumma man from Bangladesh.

‘If you target AIDESEP you’re targeting all Indigenous people – not just those in the Amazon or Peru but all over the world,’ said CAOI, an organization representing Indigenous people in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. CAOI called the attempt to disband AIDESEP ‘absurd’ and further evidence of the government’s ‘racist’ policies.

AIDESEP has been vigorously opposing the government’s attempts to open the Peruvian Amazon to oil, gas and mining companies. The proposal to disband it was made by Peru’s Ministry of Justice just three days after armed Peruvian police attacked a peaceful Indigenous protest in northern Peru, which was part of Amazon-wide protests coordinated by AIDESEP. The attack led to more than thirty deaths and two hundred people injured.

AIDESEP was founded in 1980 and represents 350,000 Indigenous people in the Peruvian Amazon.

Survival director, Stephen Corry, said today, ‘To many people worldwide the first thing that comes to mind when they think of Peru is Machu Picchu, South America’s top tourist attraction. Peru now risks being better known for a repressive government determined to destroy the country’s Indigenous movement.’