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Stop the Killing in Peru

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In May, 2009, Peru's army began staging to deploy in the Amazon rainforest to lift blockades across rivers and roads by indigenous people opposed to oil, gas, logging and mining projects. The government has moved into remote provinces and is currently deployed against indigenous people, local police and Catholic clergy.

Center right President Alan Garcia has said repeatedly that the state has the right and responsibility to develop mineral and hydrocarbon wealth to benefit all Peruvians. "We have to understand that when there are resources like oil, gas and timber, they don't belong only to the people who had the fortune to be born there because that would mean more than half of Peru's territory belongs to a few thousand people."

According to one study oil, gas and timber deals would cover an estimated 70% of the forest, the largest area of Amazonian rainforest outside of Brazil.

Garcia has made good that policy by signing deals with multinationals to open swaths of rainforest, including a lucrative long term agreement in April with the Anglo-French oil company Perenco. Those in opposition to Garcia’s policies, the representatives of some 30,000 people from about 65 tribes, have said developers will devastate vast areas of indigenous land and that they intend to resist in every way possible. They have made good their policies by obstructing developers, government officials and the army wherever possible.

Survival International, a London-based rights advocacy group, reports the situation has become particularly violent along the Napo River where large numbers of energy company vessels and equipment have been involved in skirmishes with police: "After local indigenous people blockaded the river with a nylon cable, a naval gunboat and three boats belonging to Perenco broke through the blockade, sinking some of the protesters' canoes in the process."

The National Organization of the Amazon Indigenous People of Peru says that the suspension of constitutional rights in four jungle provinces amounts to a declaration of war on the part of the Peruvian government.

The government, under the legal penumbra of the Peru FTA, is sending the army to remove the Indian people and a mass killing is happening right now.

For all intents and purposes, the US Congress and the Obama administration support these actions by the Garcia government. This is not “free” trade. This is looting and murder and is a clear violation of human rights being carried out by the government of Peru. Action must be taken immediately to stop the killing.

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A trade agreement should never be a pretext to violence and looting.

Never! Never! Never!

The passage of the Peru FTA, which was overwhelmingly opposed in the United States and Peru, is bad foreign policy, bad domestic policy and bad politics. Both of Peru’s labor federations, its major indigenous people’s organization and its archbishop called on the U.S. Congress to oppose the deal based on the damage it was projected to cause Peru’s small farmers and environment.

They were right in voicing their alarm. Too bad no one listened.

Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois supported it. Clinton’s and Obama’s support for the Peru FTA – after both opposed the 2005 Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), which contained identical provisions, needs to be re-examined. President Obama needs to take a long hard look at the death and destruction policies he apparently supports are causing for the native peoples of Peru and he needs to do it now and stop the killing.

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Richard W. Overfield is an artist/writer currently based in New Mexico after living in Vancouver, Canada for 20 years.His paintings are represented in over 300 public & private collections in the U.S., Canada, Switzerland, France, England, Japan & (more...)

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