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Peru’s Garcia orders attack on Natives, clash leaves 35 dead

Peru President Alan Garcia ordered a helicopter attack June 5 by police with assault rifles against a large group of Awajun and other Natives who were blocking a road in the northeastern Peruvian Amazon, unleashing violence that has so far left at least 35 dead on both sides, Natives said.

Alberto Pizango, who leads AIDESEP, the national organization of the Amazon Indigenous people of Peru, said the attack that Natives had awaited since protests started April 8 arrived at dawn.

He said 25 Natives were killed by police Friday morning as a result of a confrontation in a road near the city of Bagua, some 600 miles northeast of Lima. All of them died by gunshots coming from helicopters.

Separately, Peruvian Police Director Jose Sanchez told Canal N television in Lima that at least seven policemen had been killed during the confrontation. Pizango and other Native leaders deny the accusations. “The lives of the indigenous is worth nothing for the government,” Pizango said demanding country military, judicial and other authorities to get the shooting stopped.

Other reports, including information from the mayor of the city of Bagua, Luis Teran, who spoke to media by telephone from near where the incident occurred, said as many as nine policemen as well as three residents of the city had been killed. He said several government buildings were on fire.

“We went out in protest to protect our rights and they are shooting at us,” Pizango said. Other Native leaders including Awajun leader Marcial Mudarra and Huambisa leader Nelida Calvo also described Garcia’s actions as criminal and questioned his intentions.

“Why, instead of shooting at us, they don’t instead send us hospitals, doctors, schools,” said Ruben Binari, a leader of the Machiguenga group.

Garcia told local press that Pizango’s attitude is criminal. Pizango said he and other Native leaders may go into hiding as they fear a possible detention under charges of rebellion. He and other leaders have been accused of rebellion.

The Peruvian Natives are protesting against a set of nine laws approved by Garcia in 2008 which Natives fear will endanger their lands by making it easier to grant concession to oil, gas and lumber developers. Natives have long complained of pollution in their territories and have demanded the government to back down.

Pizango said Amazon Natives would rather die than let the laws of Alan Garcia stand.