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Action Alert: Violence Flares as Peru's Government Fires Upon Indigenous Peoples Protecting Their Rainforest Homes

Support tens of thousands of indigenous people bravely protesting Peru government's give-away of their rainforest homes to oil, mining and logging industry without their approval; insist peaceful protests are not met with further violence by President Alan Garcia's government, and that the focus for Amazonian development be upon benefiting from standing trees and intact rainforest ecosystems.

By Forests.org, a project of EcoInternet - June 6, 2009

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UPDATE! Two of the controversial land decrees have been overturned, but indigenous rights and rainforest development issues remain unresolved. Please continue to send the protest below.

UPDATE! Reports police have massacred protesters from helicopters as they were peacefully protesting. The alert has been updated and must be sent now!

Indigenous communities in the Peruvian Amazon are protesting investment laws passed under a free-trade pact with the United States and against concessions granted to foreign energy companies. Some 30,000 indigenous people have blockaded roads, rivers and railways to demand repeal of new laws that allow oil and mining companies to enter indigenous territories without seeking consent or even any consultation. Indigenous communities complain that some 70% of Peruvian Amazon territory is now leased for oil and gas exploration, putting at risk their own lives and the biodiversity of the Amazon.

Protestors have already shut down Peru's state energy company's crude oil pipeline. Peru's President Alan Garcia has said that "small groups" must not stand in the way of "development" of the Amazon. On May 9th, the Peruvian government declared a state of emergency for 60 days and sent in the military and special police to violently suppress the non-violent protests and protect largely overseas corporate interests. There have been several incidents of unprovoked violence against indigenous demonstrators.

The Peruvian rainforest is the biggest stretch of Amazon outside Brazil. As the Earth's largest tropical rainforest, the Amazon plays a critical role in safeguarding global climate. Scientists estimate Peru is home to some 25,000 plant species, 10 % of the world total, and to 1,816 bird species. But this crucial global ecosystem has been threatened in recent decades by the industrial extraction of natural resources. More than 70% of the Peruvian Amazon is now under some sort of foreign resource concession. Between 2002 and 2007, mining grew more than 70 percent. Last year some 4,200 timber permits were granted to local communities, but tons of cedar and mahogany ended up being sold abroad. The new forestry law (Decree 1090), which had been deemed unconstitutional (a previous Ecological Internet campaign success) is again being debated in the Peruvian Congress.

Alberto Pizango, head of the indigenous Amazonian organisation, AIDESEP, said their ancestral territories were being handed over to multinational companies without consultation, and talks with the government had broken down. The government has responded by declaring a state of emergency in the central regions of Loreto, Amazonas, Ucayali and Cuzco, paving the way for military control of these areas. Some fear a harsh crack down in indigenous groups in these regions. Protesters had responded that they would begin an insurgency to defend their rights, a threat later withdrawn. Please add your voice in solidarity with the tens of thousands of indigenous people and their international supporters mobilizing to protect the Peruvian Amazon. Send a letter today to the Garcia Administration demanding respect for the constitutionally guaranteed rights of indigenous peoples, and Amazon development based upon standing forests.

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Ancient rainforests are clearly worth more standing than cut for oil, minerals and timber
Awajun indigenous protesters in Bagua, northern Peru, where many were wounded and taken to hospitals on May 10 after armed police attacked their non-violent blockade of the Corral Quemado Bridge (photo courtesy of Global Response and Thomas Quirynen)  (link)

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