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6/5/09

Peru: indigenous vs gov't and oil: The killing begins


It was one of those things I didn't want to say out loud, but the whole Peruvian Amazonas state of emergency and protests against the laws that Twobreakfasts has tried to force through in order to develop the Amazon basin oil business looked like spiralling out of control at any given moment.

That moment came today. In Bagua Grande Amazonas, at a place called "Curva del Diablo", indigenous protestors have blocked the main highway for the last 10 days. This morning police moved into break up the roadblock. The toll left after the confrontation is four dead police officers, one dead indigenous leader and 20 injured. UPDATE: It's getting worse. Authorities are now reporting between seven and ten dead police, two dead civilians and local health services "are collapsing" under the number of injured. UPDATE 2: It's getting worse and worse. Unofficial numbers now talk about twenty-five civilian deaths. This number is as yet unconfirmed, but even if it's half that number we're looking at a true bloodbath. Also, reports talk of government and APRA party building being burned and running battles in the town centre of Bagua Grande.
Points to make:

  • My sincere condolences go out to the families of the police officers. They were basically ordered into battle this morning by superiors that knew there would be casualties.
  • These indigenous are not messing about. This is not some sort of posture. They will kill and kill again to protect their lands, be in no doubt. And before you try to pigeonhole them, they're not a band of ignorants; these people know both sides of the argument but the need to safeguard the land is an ancient cultural calling. They are willing to die if necessary to protect the area from forced development.
  • They are also extremely efficient fighters. Seriously, you don't mess with these dudes, even with an AK-47 in your hands and body armour on your chest.

All this came after a pathetic scene in Peru's parliament this week when the chamber was about to vote down the controversial law, the so-called 1090 decree, (the so-called "law of the jungle") when suddenly the APRA members threw a faked hissyfit and stormed out of the building, thus stopping the final vote. The locals shouldn't kill police? Of course. Police shouldn't have been ordered in? Of course. Leaders in The Republic of Lima have just used the bodies of four police officers as cannonfodder and an excuse to send in the army? Yes, that as well.

This cannot end well. It's all very, very sad.