According to this morning's edition of Peru's El Comercio newspaper, the long standing dispute between Amazon tribes and the Peruvian federal government is far from over. While discussions are ongoing, the alternate President of the Regional Organization of Indigenous Amazon Towns (Orpian), Leandro Calvo Nantip, has now said that while no strikes are currently taking place, the possibility for future strikes remains open because of unresolved demands from the tribes.
One of the tribes' new complaints is that the government has incorporated a number of communities into a new national reserve without their consultation, even though the tribes already possessed legal titles to their properties. Tribal members say that by being placed in the Cordillera del Condór National Reserve, their rights to hunt, fish, and use gold obtained from rivers will be limited unfairly.
In terms of the broader context, "What [Peruvian President Alan] Garcia wants to do, in a sense, is privatize the rainforest - to fundamentally change the legal framework, which will have a serious impact on indigenous people's livelihoods," said George Stetson, who is working with the non-profit Village Earth. Stetson, who works with Village Earth on grassroots development projects with the Shipibo of the Ucayali region in Peru, said that indigenous peoples for years have been engaged in a historic struggle to obtain collective rights over indigenous territories. At this point, says Stetson, they are demanding that the Garcia NOT dismantle these rights that have taken so long to acquire. But what is really at stake is that indigenous people want to decide what type of development they want." The government's attempt to "give" indigenous peoples national parks sounds good, but the government still has not resolved very specific demands that have been the subject of intense intense indigenous protests over the last two summers. "It seems pretty clear that the Peruvian Government is more interested in attracting foreign capital to development the region's natural resources, including gas and oil, water, and timber resources, than in protecting the forests," says Stetson.
Peru's Agriculture Ministry would be in charge of the new National Reserve, and more specifically its Forestry and Wild Animal Division typically enforces harvesting limits from various hut-like stations across the reserves it manages. Leandro Nantip has claimed, however, that if any buildings are constructed, they will be destroyed and burned because of the unresolved demands. "That is the agreement. We have to defend our right to subsistence," he said.
In fairness, the Peruvian government has yet to explain their side of the story in what would seem to be a new development in the long dispute between it and the tribes.
Tension between the tribes and government reached a high point this June, when a highly controversial skirmish between police officers and protesting indigenous groups in the town of Bagua left at least 34 people dead and quite possibly many more. As a result of the battle, Peru's government repealed two more of the eleven decrees that the tribes were protesting. The laws would have allowed for oil exploration on their lands.
The United Nations recently chastised the Peruvian government for its lackadaisical response to the concerns of Amazonian tribes and condemned the consequential violence that has resulted. Survival International, an international organization that supports indigenous tribes, now refers to the Bagua conflict as 'Amazon's Tiananmen'.
Additional reporting by Timothy Hurst
Photo courtesy of anoldent on Flickr