Peru’s Garcia tussles with tribes over land rights

May 21st, 2009

I was busy when this story really kicked off, so here’s and update from Reuters rather than from me.

LIMA, May 21 (Reuters) – Peruvian President Alan Garcia’s push to lure foreign investors to the Amazon basin has run into homegrown opposition, with indigenous leaders saying he has disregarded a U.N. declaration that protects their rights to control land and natural resources.

Thousands of indigenous people have protested in Peru’s Amazon for much of the past 40 days, hoping to pressure Garcia to modify or strike down a series of laws he passed last year that encourage oil, mining and agricultural companies to invest billions of dollars in the mostly pristine region.

The protests, which have already shut Peru’s pipeline that carries oil from the Amazon to the Pacific Ocean, underscore the risks of investing in a country with a poverty rate of 40 percent and a history of discord between wealthy elites in Lima and poor indigenous groups in the countryside.

“Peru isn’t respecting the U.N. declaration on indigenous rights,” Alberto Pizango, the leader of the protests and the head of a federation of indigenous and environmental groups called Aidesep, said on RPP radio on Thursday.

The declaration, which is non-binding, was passed in 2007 by 143 countries. Though Peru sponsored the declaration, indigenous leaders complain the government is ignoring their rights to decide how ancestral lands and natural resources are used.

Pizango has gone so far as to announce an “insurgency” in his push to have laws that Garcia passed thrown out.

Read the rest here »

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