WASHINGTON, DC — As demonstrations by indigenous peoples of the Peruvian Amazon turned to deadly conflict in recent days, international aid agency Oxfam America urges the US government to take action to help resolve the escalating social and political crisis in Peru.
Demonstrations in the northern Peruvian town of Bagua began in late April, when indigenous organizations began protesting over the content of a set of legislative decrees justified by the Peruvian government as part of the United States-Peru Free Trade Agreement (US-Peru FTA). The national police's action to quell the protests resulted in a tragic loss of lives and a large number of wounded police officers and indigenous peoples.
Indigenous federations and many civil society organizations claim the new legislative decrees could have detrimental consequences for the Amazon rainforest and indigenous land rights, and were passed without transparency or genuine consultation with indigenous communities. This is an apparent contradiction to US-Peru FTA commitments as well as a direct violation of ILO Convention 169. This convention, ratified by the Peruvian government in 1993, grants indigenous communities the right to be consulted on issues affecting them.
"Oxfam calls on the Peruvian government and indigenous organizations to end the use of violence," said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America. "By clarifying that concerns raised by indigenous communities do no conflict with Peru's obligations under the US-Peru FTA, the US government can help foster a mutually beneficial resolution."
On June 10, the Peruvian Congress temporarily suspended two of these legislative decrees, numbers 1090 and 1064.
"The Peruvian Congress has taken an important first step by suspending these decrees, but much more needs to be done to bring an end to this conflict. The US government can help by fostering a solution through dialogue, not force," said Offenheiser.
With the most recent tragic events and the possibility of more violence—especially now that the Peruvian government has communicated its intention to clear protesters in other areas of the Amazon—the US government must act quickly to work with Peru to address the concerns about these legislative decrees, and to clarify what relation, if any, these decrees have to compliance with US-Peru FTA.
"We strongly urge the US government to help bring an end to this crisis by supporting a dialogue that includes views of indigenous communities and protects the human rights of these citizens as guaranteed by national and international law," said Offenheiser.