Peru: Blood Flows in the Amazon

In early June, Peruvian President Alan García, an ally of US President Barack Obama, ordered armored personnel carriers, helicopter gun-ships and hundreds of heavily armed troops to assault and disperse a peaceful, legal protest organized by members of Peru’s Amazonian indigenous communities protesting the entry of foreign multinational mining companies on their traditional homelands. Dozens of Indians were killed or are missing, scores have been injured and arrested and a number of Peruvian police, held hostage by the indigenous protestors were killed in the assault. President García declared martial law in the region in order to enforce his unilateral and unconstitutional fiat granting of mining exploitation rights to foreign companies, which infringed on the integrity of traditional Amazonian indigenous communal lands.

Alan García is no stranger to government-sponsored massacres. In June 1986, he ordered the military to bomb and shell prisons in the capital holding many hundreds of political prisoners protesting prison conditions – resulting in over 400 known victims. Later, obscure mass graves revealed dozens more. This notorious massacre took place while García was hosting a gathering of the so-called ‘Socialist’ International in Lima. His political party, APRA (American Popular Revolutionary Alliance) a member of the ‘International’, was embarrassed by the public display of its ‘national-socialist’ proclivities, before hundreds of European Social Democrat functionaries. Charged with misappropriation of government funds and leaving office with an inflation rate of almost 8,000% in 1990, he agreed to support Presidential candidate Alberto Fujimori in exchange for amnesty. When Fujimori imposed a dictatorship in 1992, García went into self-imposed exile in Colombia and later, France. He returned in 2001 when the statute of limitations on his corruption charges had expired and Fujimori was forced to resign amidst charges of running death squads and spying on his critics. García won the 2006 Presidential elections in a run-off against the pro-Indian nationalist candidate and former Army officer, Ollanta Humala, thanks to financial and media backing by Lima’s rightwing, ethnic European oligarchs and US overseas ‘AID’ agencies.

Back in power, García left no doubt about his political and economic agenda. In October 2007 he announced his strategy of placing foreign multi-national mining companies at the center of his economic ‘development’ program, while justifying the brutal displacement of small producers from communal lands and indigenous villages in the name of ‘modernization’.

García pushed through congressional legislation in line with the US-promoted ‘Free Trade Agreement of the Americas’ or ALCA. Peru was one of only three Latin American nations to support the US proposal. He opened Peru to the unprecedented plunder of its resources, labor, land and markets by the multinationals. In late 2007, García began to award huge tracts of traditional indigenous lands in the Amazon region for exploitation by foreign mining and energy multinationals. This was in violation of a 1969 International Labor Organization-brokered agreement obligating the Peruvian government to consult and negotiate with the indigenous inhabitants over exploitation of their lands and rivers. Under his ‘open door’ policy, the mining sector of the economy expanded rapidly and made huge profits from the record-high world commodity prices and the growing Asian (Chinese) demand for raw materials. The multinational corporations were attracted by Peru’s low corporate taxes and royalty payments and virtually free access to water and cheap government-subsidized electricity rates. The enforcement of environmental regulations was suspended in these ecologically fragile regions, leading to wide-spread contamination of the rivers, ground water, air and soil in the surrounding indigenous communities. Poisons from mining operations led to massive fish kills and rendered the water unfit for drinking. The operations decimated the tropical forests, undermining the livelihood of tens of thousands of villagers engaged in traditional artisan work and subsistence forest gathering and agricultural activities.

The profits of the mining bonanza go primarily to the overseas companies. The García regime distributes state revenues to his supporters among the financial and real estate speculators, luxury goods importers and political cronies in Lima’s enclosed upscale, heavily guarded neighborhoods and exclusive country-clubs. As the profit margins of the multinationals reached an incredible 50% and government revenues exceeded $1 billion US dollars, the indigenous communities lacked paved roads, safe water, basic health services and schools. Worse still, they experienced a rapid deterioration of their everyday lives as the influx of mining capital led to increased prices for basic food and medicine. Even the World Bank in its Annual Report for 2008 and the editors of the Financial Times of London urged the García regime to address the growing discontent and crisis among the indigenous communities. Delegations from the indigenous communities had traveled to Lima to try to establish a dialogue with the President in order to address the degradation of their lands and communities. The delegates were met with closed doors. García maintained that ‘progress and modernity come from the big investments by the multinationals…, (rather than) the poor peasants who haven’t a centavo to invest.’ He interpreted the appeals for peaceful dialogue as a sign of weakness among the indigenous inhabitants of the Amazon and increased his grants of exploitation concessions to foreign MNCs even deeper into the Amazon. He cut off virtually all possibility for dialogue and compromise with the Indian communities.

The Amazonian Indian communities responded by forming the Inter-Ethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (AIDESEP). They held public protests for over 7 weeks culminating in the blocking of two transnational highways. This enraged García, who referred to the protestors as ‘savages and barbarians‘ and sent police and military units to suppress the mass action. What García failed to consider was the fact that a significant proportion of indigenous men in these villages had served as rmy conscripts, who fought in the 1995 war against Ecuador while others had been trained in local self-defense community organizations. These combat veterans were not intimidated by state terror and their resistance to the initial police attacks resulted in both police and Indian casualties. García then declared ‘war on the savages’ sending a heavy military force with helicopters and armored troops with orders to ‘shoot to kill’. AIDESEP activists report over one hundred deaths among the indigenous protestors and their families: Indians were murdered in the streets, in their homes and workplaces. The remains of many victims are believed to have been dumped in the ravines and rivers.

Conclusion

The Obama regime has predictably not issued a single word of concern or protest in the face of one of the worst massacres of Peruvian civilians in this decade – perpetrated by one of America’s closest remaining allies in Latin America. García, taking his talking points from the US Ambassador, accused Venezuela and Bolivia of having instigated the Indian ‘uprising’, quoting a letter of support from Bolivia’s President Evo Morales sent to an intercontinental conference of Indian communities held in Lima in May as ‘proof’. Martial law was declared and the entire Amazon region of Peru is being militarized. Meetings are banned and family members are forbidden from searching for their missing relatives.

Throughout Latin America, all the major Indian organizations have expressed their solidarity with the Peruvian indigenous movements. Within Peru, mass social movements, trade unions and human rights groups have organized a general strike on June 11. Fearing the spread of mass protests, El Commercio, the conservative Lima daily, cautioned García to adopt some conciliatory measures to avoid a generalized urban uprising. A one-day truce was declared on June 10, but the Indian organizations refused to end their blockade of the highways unless the García Government rescinds its illegal land grant decrees.

In the meantime, a strange silence hangs over the White House. Our usually garrulous President Obama, so adept at reciting platitudes about diversity and tolerance and praising peace and justice, cannot find a single phrase in his prepared script condemning the massacre of scores of indigenous inhabitants of the Peruvian Amazon. When egregious violations of human rights are committed in Latin America by a US backed client-President following Washington’s formula of ‘free trade’, deregulation of environmental protections and hostility toward anti-imperialist countries (Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador), Obama favors complicity over condemnation.

James Petras, a former Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York, owns a 50-year membership in the class struggle, is an adviser to the landless and jobless in Brazil and Argentina, and is co-author of Globalization Unmasked (Zed Books). Petras’ most recent book is The Arab Revolt and the Imperialist Counterattack. He can be reached at: jpetras@binghamton.edu. Read other articles by James, or visit James's website.

20 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Don Hawkins said on June 13th, 2009 at 8:24am #

    Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. And it will leave you unfulfilled. Barack Obama

    [On the House Un-American Activities Committee] “They`ll nail anyone who ever scratched his ass during the National Anthem.” Humphrey Bogart

    My ventures in media are not as important to me as spreading my personal political beliefs. Rupert Murdoch

    This is the story of America. Everybody’s doing what they think they’re supposed to do.

    JACK KEROUAC, On the Road

    America’s abundance was created not by public sacrifices to the common good, but by the productive genius of free men who pursued their own personal interests and the making of their own private fortunes. They did not starve the people to pay for America’s industrialization. They gave the people better jobs, higher wages, and cheaper goods with every new machine they invented, with every scientific discovery or technological advance — and thus the whole country was moving forward and profiting, not suffering, every step of the way.

    AYN RAND,

    “”The name of American, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism…. It should be the highest ambition of every American to extend his views beyond himself, and to bear in mind that his conduct will not only affect himself, his country, and his immediate posterity; but that its influence may be co-extensive with the world, and stamp political happiness or misery on ages yet unborn.” –George Washington”

    America has not led but fled on the issue of global warming.”
    Senator John Kerry quotes

    Climate change and energy use are global problems. News Corp is a global company. Our operations affect the environment all over the world.
    Rupert Murdoch

    Climate change poses clear, catastrophic threats. We may not agree on the extent, but we certainly can’t afford the risk of inaction.
    Rupert Murdoch

    Let me tell you something. For those of you who think climate change is real and manmade, you should know this, that — I mean, you don’t have to be a socialist, I guess, to believe in global warming. It’s just that almost everyone who does believe in global warming is a socialist. Glenn Beck

    All across the world, in every kind of environment and region known to man, increasingly dangerous weather patterns and devastating storms are abruptly putting an end to the long-running debate over whether or not climate change is real. Not only is it real, it’s here, and its effects are giving rise to a frighteningly new global phenomenon: the man-made natural disaster.
    Barack Obama

    We are upsetting the atmosphere upon which all life depends. In the late 80s when I began to take climate change seriously, we referred to global warming as a “slowmotion catastrophe” one we expected to kick in perhaps generations later. Instead, the signs of change have accelerated alarmingly.
    David Suzuki

    The Greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge. –Stephen Hawking

  2. john andrews said on June 13th, 2009 at 10:44am #

    Great piece, James.

    Thanks.

  3. bozh said on June 13th, 2009 at 11:42am #

    or to say it in other words: evaluating as true s’mthing that is not true, is our greatest enemy?
    some people also say: People know so much that isn’t so. tnx

  4. Mulga Mumblebrain said on June 13th, 2009 at 3:58pm #

    So it goes. The US Empire of Death grinds on, pulverising all that get in its way to pulp. The hour is late, indeed it is actually past midnight, it’s just that we are too willingly blind to see the signs. Obama must, I imagine, be the last gasp of a dying system, reduced to the utter charade of installing an ersatz black man, a true ‘house Negro’ in Malcolm X’s terminology, to fool the gullible into imagining that things had changed simply because the new imperial Boss was, as Berlusconi noted, ‘nicely tanned’. I expect the process of collapse to accelerate rapidly, there being not one sign that the real rulers intend to change course in any way, and, of course, it will get increasingly bloody from here on in.

  5. Don Hawkins said on June 13th, 2009 at 4:56pm #

    http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090629/klare

    I expect the process of collapse to accelerate rapidly, there being not one sign that the real rulers intend to change course in any way. Read this and just another sign.

  6. Danny Ray said on June 14th, 2009 at 5:57am #

    I have to ask this question , did any one who has posted above really read this wonderful article ? This article is about the president of Peru ordering the murder of a number of indigenous tribesmen to further , number one is political ambitions , and number two to sell out to north American and European business interests . With the exception of John Andrews , I find that my friend Don Hawkins has turned this into a forum on global warming . It’s not that the mining of the Amazon does not have something to do with global warming but that he’s so casually dismisses the death and violence perpetrated on the owners of the land .
    And then there is our friend Mulga’s post . Instead of lodging her protest at the murder of these poor bastards in the jungle she decides to do for almost a hourly ranton the American empire of death and the fact that our president is not black enough . How in the hell does that had anything to do with gunning down tribesmen in the Amazon I have yet to figure .

    And to the author , James what a lovely article . I do have one question , you stated that also killed were a number of Peruvian police who were being held hostage . How can you have a peaceful protest and hold hostages . But other than that thank you for pointing out what’s going on in the jungles today .

    Thank you for listening to my rant ,
    Danny

  7. Don Hawkins said on June 14th, 2009 at 6:29am #

    Danny not a rant what you wrote. What is happening to the people in the Amazon is about profit money. It is sad to see this happening and it is happening. Here’s a comment I saved from DV from a few months back.

    one gigantic boat, we are all in it together. some rich, some poor, some supposed to be our smart ones, but it seems the dumb have figured out whats going on, but feel powerless to do anything about it! theres a behind the scene agenda, been there since time imortal. ok, you smart ones, what do we do about it? it’s only about good verses evil, who can change a mans heart!!!!!!!!! that’s really the bottom line, its the human heart condition!!!

    but feel powerless to do anything about it! In the Amazon a little more than feeling powerless not a fair fight and then it’s burn more forests.

  8. Danny Ray said on June 14th, 2009 at 7:14am #

    Mr. Hawkins, forgive me for my rash post, as I read it over I know that you did not casually dismiss the murder of those unfortunate people. Had I read it over before I posted I would not have said such a thing.

    You’re right it is all about profit. Unfortunately it is also about resources, and we have to find resources for the 7 billion people on this planet. Unless we can reduce this population substantially we are doomed. As I stated on other post 5 billion of us will not go quietly into the darkness.

  9. kalidas said on June 14th, 2009 at 8:32am #

    Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.
    Einstein

  10. Jeff said on June 14th, 2009 at 4:25pm #

    kalidas,

    Blood type determines your diet. Educate yourself!? The fact of the matter is that there are TOO many humans on this very small sphere for survival. That is not any slight to any religion, movement or others which no doubt will be offended. Facts are facts. The will to keep the human race expanding will not be allowed. Deal with it. Those poor souls in the Amazon have paid a price. (WTF). The gold of their value now lies on your collective heads. “Whom holds the gold pays the debt.”
    Deal with it. This holier than thou belly aching is becoming very repugnant.
    Maybe I should just let my fields lay fallow and watch your civilization go all to hell.
    Maybe that is just what i will do.
    Good luck. Not really.

  11. kalidas said on June 14th, 2009 at 4:56pm #

    Jeff, chill.
    Perhaps a transfusion from a universal recipient?

  12. Jeff said on June 14th, 2009 at 5:01pm #

    kalidas,

    did not realize my blood pressure rose!

  13. Max Shields said on June 14th, 2009 at 6:13pm #

    Jeffs point is well taken.

    The problem is when posters take facts and turn them into an ideological argument. As if the FACT that the world’s population is almost 4 times what it was a century which means that the planet has never had this many homo sapiens. At the rate of growth and continued resource consumption it’s estimated that it will take 4 Earths to meet the demand of just this one species we are part of.

    Human have to get off their high horses and realize we are part of a delicate interdependent ecosystem that CANNOT tolerate the massive intrusion of one species gobbling up the planet with total abandonment.

  14. Deadbeat said on June 14th, 2009 at 7:32pm #

    The problem is when posters take facts and turn them into an ideological argument. … Human[s] have to get off their high horses and realize we are part of a delicate interdependent ecosystem that CANNOT tolerate the massive intrusion of one species gobbling up the planet with total abandonment.

    Max Shields the misanthrope is still here making a fool of himself. He now here on DV to condemn ALL humans expecially the 40% of them who live on less than $1.25/day because this bottom 40% have the audacity to reproduce.

    No solution from Max to deal with the MISALLOCATION of resources and power. Just the same old “blame the victim rhetoric” that offer nothing but the lack of solidarity and hopelessness.

  15. lichen said on June 14th, 2009 at 8:00pm #

    No, blood type does not “determine your diet,” (there are plenty of very healthy vegans with all blood types, because they are not murderous idiots) and furthermore it is not justifiable to waste resources by insisting on killing and eating animals when less land, water, and soil are needed for a plant-based diet. Don’t argue for the earth when you are part of the problem. And no, it doesn’t matter what “blood type” you have when your an Indian peasant destroyed by global corporate scum to the point where you have nothing but rice and garbage to pick through.

  16. Mulga Mumblebrain said on June 15th, 2009 at 2:08am #

    Ah, Danny. Stop pretending to be so obtuse. Behind Garcia, the Peruvian massacres and violent Rightwing state terror everywhere stands the Yankee cappo di tutti cappi in Washington, currently the ‘house Negro’, Obama. That can’t really be so hard to understand, can it? Or are you just feigning imbecility in order to divert attention from the puppet-master of the ‘Real Evil Empire’, and then one must ask.. why?

  17. bozh said on June 15th, 2009 at 6:32am #

    max, i don’t understand your statement: “Problem is when posters turn facts into an ideological argument”
    you have not provided us with an isnstance where this occurs.

    you also appear to be blaming victims when you said that people shld get off their high horses and realize that we live in an interdependent eco-system?

    it seems to me that people who don’t know this are people who went to schools governed by the ruling classes. This knowledge, propagated at first by just a few wise/brave souls and now accepted as valid by mns, is systematically withheld from children.
    while at the same time ruling classes subtly taught and teach them now to believe in a never-ending progress while all regress was non-existent.

    you use the word “intrusion” to limn growth in pop. Such a word, as far as i can tell, occludes further talk about this matter.

    imo, not much can go right for us if much or all world remains fascist; i.e., in a world divided into les miserables and and les admirables.
    we need also greater interdependence on human level. A person mistaught, disinformed, etc., becomes a serf, a dependency. On the other hand, the rich nurture high grade interdependence.
    and the bailout proves it. tnx

  18. kalidas said on June 15th, 2009 at 6:43am #

    Jeff, funny. I obviously was not referring to your blood pressure.
    I’m suggesting that if blood type is creating a carnivorous conundrum, (as well as a moral one), folks might consider a blood transfusion.
    Since I am AB+, the universal recipient, I guess have all my bases are covered?

    http://everything2.com/node/1323852

  19. Max Shields said on June 15th, 2009 at 7:47am #

    Deadbeat I provided time and again the answer to “misallocation of resources”. The answer is clear: take back the commons. That can be done, not through armed struggle, but through rent of resource use. Farmland, for instance is relatively inexpensive and can be made readily available to more community farmers.

    As far as being a misanthrope, I have no idea where you get that idea. Do you think people can just continue to populate the planet mindless of the consequences? We can either do it; or nature will take care of it the hard way. Our choice.

    That there are over a billion people who live on less than $2 does not eliminate the problem or change the facts. Poverty is created through a combination of resource access and unsustainable population growth. The paradox is that population (as say in Italy and Europe and US) is curbed when needs are taken care of. So resource access would reduce not only poverty, but population.

    Human population some years ago exceeded the weight of the planet. It is unsustainable to continue to procreate at this rate. I don’t care which region you come from or what color you are. It’s a fact. You can dislike the fact. You can call those who present it misanthropes, but they are what they are.

    Bozh, victims? I’m saying we, generally, as a species – certainly not all – have removed ourselves from our connection with the planet. There are indigenous people the world over who clearly, and intuitively understand this and live by a different set of rules.

    But most developing and developed nations have drift far from this essential truth.

    Facism and Capitalism and Socialism are human inventions. I’m talking about living as if we are part of the planet, not about it.

  20. Max Shields said on June 15th, 2009 at 8:19am #

    correction to last sentence about. Should be: I’m talking about living as if we are part of the planet, not ABOVE it.

    Since I’ve tried to make this point, I’m leaving off much of what I’ve said and referenced in the past.

    There are first principle. If you discover them they are universal and provide the solutions to human existence. “isms” are simply invented power structures (it’s just a question of who has the power – usually it’s either a plutocracy/oligarchy/tyrant/dictator or the state; rarely the people who are subjected to this power structure.)

    Most people in hierarchical societies are dupped by that power structure. Throughout history there have been some exceptions; enough so we know that a hierarchical model is not the only one we can live by.

    I don’t think their is the coming of a utopian/Garden of Eden world order. What we can practically work for is to nip in the bud monopolies and assure ample public access to the commons. This requires a mature understanding of what should be in the public domain and an equally mature populace to vigilently guard against monopolistic tendencies in the species.

    Heirarchical organizing principles install monopolies and concentrate power. That is why understanding such structures of human organizing is a first principle. If you have a state that is self-described Marxist/Communist and is structure around some sort of hierarchy of power, you have a monopoly and massive injustice. It doesn’t matter if Marx/Lenin is tossed around; or you call the party in power: the People’s Socialist Party. You still have a top-down hegemony controlling what you think, eat, drink, etc.

    Discovering first principles is essential to improving human existence (necessary but not sufficient). Once discovered, understanding their impact on a just society must be discerned and remediated by a mature populace; one that has a holistic life long learning that is not simply about obtaining a “job”.

    We lack that and thus the power to change what is.