Peru Native groups keeping ancestral ways of life may restart protests unless President Alan Garcia makes good on promises to heal dozens of Natives with bullet wounds following the June 5 clash with police armed with assault rifles, and stops harassment and persecution.
More than 300,000 Natives from the Peruvian Amazon organized through the Association for the Development of the Peruvian Amazon (AIDESEP) claim Garcia’s government is doing the opposite of what it said it was going to “consider,” including suggestions by the United Nations to respect rights of indigenous Peruvians.
Natives and their leaders have faced arrests and taken the blame for the June 5 clash following two months of protests that left more than 30 dead and nearly 100 people injured while top indigenous leaders have been forced into exile.
“It is clear that Alan Garcia has started a campaign to silence the legitimate aspirations of people to their free will and to their wellness and to their proposals for the defense of life and of the planet Earth,” AIDESEP leader in exile Alberto Pizango said in La Primera, a Lima newspaper.
Pizango said the Peruvian government has used the little-known National Institute for the Development of Andean, Amazon and Afro-Peruvian Peoples (INDEPA) as an instrument to get rid of AIDESEP, an organization Natives created to organize themselves.
AIDESEP joins diverse groups including the biggest tribes of Awajun, Ashaninka and Machiguenga with myriad smaller groups. It serves as a development tool and a channel for foreign aid, which is the tribe’s main source of revenue, since those groups are often neglected by government.
“They use our indigenous brothers that do not have conscience and behave as ‘Felipillos’ who betray the alignments and world vision of the indigenous people,” Pizango explained why a group of Natives want to take his leadership away. Felipillo was an infamous Peruvian Native who walked alongside conquerors in the 16th century serving as a translator.
According to the organization’s Web site, Pizango remains the head of the group.
Pizango said Alexander Teest, who the Peruvian government now recognizes as AIDESEP president, was a former indigenous leader who tried to continue his term as head of the Organization of Indigenous Peoples of the Peruvian Northern Amazon despite the end of his period. Teest didn’t call elections, was ousted by his people, so found himself at loggerheads with AIDESEP.
Pizango said Teest has now sided with the government, and is posing as a false Native leader using the organization’s name.
Pizango also criticized Peruvian Justice Minister Aurelio Pastor for his presentation before the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Geneva because he said foreign conspirers, non-governmental organizations and the church were responsible for the deadly June 5 clash. Pastor described Garcia’s government as a victim of violence, and Pizango as violent.
“They call me violent to clean their bloody hands,” Pizango said. Natives have demanded an international investigation and strongly denied accusations of being violent.
Carlos Navas, spokesperson for Native Peoples of the Northern Amazon, said on AIDESEP’s Web site that as a result of these problems several Native communities in areas of the Amazon are unhappy with the lack of government compliance with agreements intended to secure peaceful living.
Navas said the government had fully agreed to help some 70 indigenous people, injured by bullets June 5, pay for medical treatment, but is not making good. Indigenous people are also upset about many arrest warrants issued.
The organization is also facing a bureaucratic government crackdown over supposed infractions committed years ago, and AIDESEP could be closed for good, leaving Natives without its key organization.
The alleged “serious infractions,” according to AIDESEP spokeswoman Augustina Mayan, are not over misuse of donations but “for missing a letter, a word in the name of a project and this is called by APCI (Agency for International Cooperation) false information.” APCI regulates agencies that receive donations.
Carlos Pando, APCI director, said he wants to sanction AIDESEP over infractions and is not acting politically to look good before party colleagues and superiors.
Pando has assured that he is an independent technician, though at one point, he was vice president of the APRA Party, led by Garcia; a mid-level ranking position in the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance.