, April 23, 2009 (ENS) - A framework for negotiating the removal of road and river blockades by indigenous peoples in the Peruvian Amazon was signed Monday by government and indigenous representatives in Lima.
The president of the Peruvian Rainforest Inter-Ethnic Development Association, AIDESEP, Alberto Pizango Chota, and other indigenous leaders signed the agreement after a four hour meeting with Prime Minister Yehude Simon and Environment Minister Antonio Brack Egg.
For weeks, thousands of indigenous people have been blockading roads and river traffic throughout the Amazon in non-violent protests over the Peruvian government's roll-back of indigenous land rights and plans for water privatization.
Peruvian government officials and indigenous leaders meet in Lima. (Photo courtesy AIDESEP)
Indigenous peoples are demanding the repeal of a series of new laws enacted by the administration of Peruvian President Alan Garcia as part of Peru's Free Trade Agreement with the United States, which took effect on February 1, 2009.
The indigenous communities say these laws have created a rush of private investments in natural resource extraction on their lands and have stripped away their rights to their traditionally owned ancestral territories.
In a letter to Pizango Chota dated April 22, the President of the Peruvian Congress Javier Velasquez Quesquen undertakes to bring the issues motivating the indigenous protest up in a plenary session of Congress next Tuesday without putting these matters through the usual parliamentary proceedings.
To prepare for the congressional hearing, technical advisers with the presidency of the Congress will work jointly with AIDESEP representatives from Thursday through Monday, Velasquez says in the letter.
In March, Pizango Chota demanded the repeal of legislative decrees 1020, 1064, 1080, 1081, 1089 and 1090 for "impinging upon the rights of indigenous peoples, violating the Constitution as well as Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization."
A similar mobilization of Amazonian indigenous peoples was suspended last August after promises made by Velasquez to revise the decrees were not carried out.
"Far from carrying out its promise, Congress instead passed Law 29317 that modified and incorporated diverse articles of Decree 1090 known as the Forest and Fauna Law," AIDESEP leaders told the Servindi news agency.
"We are opposed to a development model that destroys the rainforest for profit of a few individuals and companies. We seek development in harmony with the environment, where all indigenous peoples can participate and benefit," says Pizango Chota.
Piles of earth block a road in Peru. March 25, 2009 (Photo by Revolution Cycle)
Indigenous and environmental organizations are concerned that the new legislation takes advantage of the hundreds of indigenous communities whose land titles have not yet been formalized by the Peruvian government.
"This amounts to government backed land-grab," said Atossa Soltani, executive director of Amazon Watch, based in the United States. "Peru is basically becoming a 'corpocracy' with large corporations that possess close political ties to the government chomping at the bit to get a slice of the pie."
Last week, the Peruvian authorities called out troops to confront protesters in what indigenous organizers saw as an act of provocation.
"For the third time this week we are calling on the Prime Minister to set aside hostile intentions and recognize that acts of provocation are not the solution to problems in the Amazon," said Pizango Chota at the time.
Roger Najar, the President of the Congressional Commission of Andean and Amazonian Peoples, agreed, saying, "There's been no political resolve in either Congress or the Executive to deal with this issue."
In addition to repeal of the six presidential decrees, AIDESEP is concerned about plans to privatize water resources on indigenous lands, and the rapid expansion of palm oil plantations that are one of the biggest threats to the rainforest.
AIDESEP has issued a statement demanding the restoration of territorial rights; the recognition and titling of indigenous communal lands; the creation of reserves to protect the rainforest and uncontacted populations; and the suspension of all oil, gas, mining, tourist and logging concessions within indigenous territories.
"This is not only about indigenous rights but also the basic human right to live in peace," said Pizango Chota, "We're not seeking confrontation, but to simply be allowed to protect our environment, our homes and our lives."
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2009. All rights reserved.
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