Don't forget the joint Green Left/Bolivarian Embassy of Venezuela rally on the latin american green process next thursday 4th September at Bolivar Hall, Grafton Street.
Hugo Blanco on the
Indigenous Struggle in Amazonia
Introduction, by Ian Angus
On August 22, Indigenous people in the Amazon rain forest areas of Peru celebrated a victory in their struggle against laws that promote privatization of communally owned land.
Last October, the country's right-wing president, Alan García, outraged Indigenous communities by saying their refusal to permit exploitation of timber, oil and minerals on their lands was a result of "taboo, laziness, indolence or the law of the gardener's dog that says: `If I don't do it, no one can.'" Garcia continued:
"In addition to real peasant communities, there are artificial communities that have title to 200 thousand hectares but farm only 10 thousand hectares, leaving the rest idle, while the people, who live in extreme poverty, look to the state for help."
"The anti-capitalist communist of the 19th Century, who disguised himself as a protectionist in the 20th Century, has in the 21st Century adopted the cloak of environmentalism. But always anti-capitalist, anti-investment…"
García's neoliberal goal is elimination of Indigenous communal property rights in the Amazon basin, releasing this environmentally sensitive area for development of timber, oil and minerals with an estimated value of 3.5 billion dollars.
Under Peru's 1979 Constitution, communally-owned land could not be sold. That clause was removed by the notorious Fujimori government in 1993; the only remaining legal protection was a law that requires a two-thirds vote of the community involved before land could be sold or leased. This year, García took a further step towards privatization, reducing the requirement to a simple majority vote. He made the change unilaterally, using powers granted to him by Congress to implement the recently-signed free trade agreement with the United States.
On August 9, the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, some 700 members of the Aguaruna Indigenous community occupied an oil pumping station in the Peruvian Amazon region, demanding repeal of the new laws and restoration of the provisions of the 1979 constitution. Similar occupations, road blockades, and strikes quickly spread across the forest regions of Peru, involving some 12,000 people in 63 communities.
There were clashes between police and protestors in a number of areas, including the city of Bagua Chica, where urban dwellers joined with Indigenous forces to expel the police from the town. On August 18, García declared a state of emergency, suspending civil liberties, banning public meetings in three provinces, and sending in 1,500 armed soldiers.
García refused to negotiate with the protestors, but growing popular outrage forced members of Congress to intervene. On Friday, August 22, the Congress voted 66 to 29 to disallow García's decrees. It remains to be seen whether the repeal will hold, since under the constitution García can send the law back to Congress with revisions, and he still has emergency powers. Nevertheless, news reports say that there has been widespread celebration in the forest areas.
The following statement was distributed in Peru by supporters of the newspaper Lucha Indígena (Indigenous Struggle)
Translation Note: In this article, Hugo Blanco uses the phrase "Buen Vivir," which translates literally as "Living Well" but implies much more. A central concept in the Andes Indigenous world vision, it has been defined by Bolivian president Evo Morales as "Thinking not only in terms of income per capita but of cultural identity, community, and harmony among ourselves and with our Mother Earth."
Rosalia Paiva, the Quechua liberation activist and author who suggested this quotation from Morales, adds the following information:
"Our brother Hugo, in writing of Buen Vivir, is referring to Sumak Kausay or Allin Kausay. This was a central element in the lives of our Inca ancestors. Allin Kausay means to live in harmony with yourself, with the natural world, and with society. Allin means `splendid,' Kausay means `life,' or, better, `existence.' Allin Kausay is composed of a diversity of factors including knowledge, ethical and spiritual codes of conduct, the relationship with the environment, human values, and the vision of the future. In this sense, it is a category that is in constant development in the life of Andean/Amazonian peoples. For more on this, go to http://mamapacha.org/allinkausay.html."