In Bagua, the situation is particularly tense, Blanco said. “The police stations are currently without police because the police are afraid to be seen there. Some of the police live in the area but they go around without their uniforms.”
Other struggles are also being waged against transnational mining companies operating in Peru. “In parts of the mountainous regions, conflicts continue against the mining companies.
“Some indigenous people have declared that they will not allow mining companies in.
“Because these communities have received a large amount of solidarity, the government does not dare attack them. But the rivers continue to be patrolled by the navy, threatening local communities.
“There are also peasants in a jail located in the area who the government is attempting to transfer to Lima, something which is illegal.”
The government is also persecuting indigenous leaders, with 41 AIDESEP leaders facing charges. Eight have already been detained.
AIDESEP leader Alberto Pizango, along with two other activists, is in exile, facing charges of sedition and rebellion against the state. Many others are in hiding.
The government has attempted to stage farcical negotiations with hand picked, unrepresentative indigenous leaders.
The Garcia government “has demonstrated itself to be a faithful servant of the multinational companies”, Blanco said.
These companies “plunder the jungle and mountain regions, poisoning the rivers, destroying the soil and using agrochemicals”.
“It is this commitment to defending imperialist companies that explains why the government has been waging this campaign of intimidation against the indigenous peoples.”
Indigenous peoples “have responded with indignation”.
Blanco said that while the recent upsurge became national in scope, struggles tend to be regionalised, with a local leadership.
“Some people belong to organisations, such as my group the Peasant Confederation of Peru, others to CONACAMI [National Coordinating Committee of Communities Affected by Mining], but in essence they are local leaders.”
Unlike Bolivia, where the indigenous movement has been able to create a powerful united national force, Blanco said in Peru, “the movements and struggles are not led by any of the national organisations”.
In this context, Lucha Indigena aims to be “one more voice for indigenous people”, Blanco said it tries to unte “the mobilisations, the struggles that the people are waging”.
With presidential elections scheduled for 2011, and with polls placing “anti-neoliberal” candidate Ollanta Humala among the top two preferred candidates, some on the left are arguing that an electoral victory for Humala could be an important breakthrough in Peruvian politics.
In the last presidential elections, Garcia narrowly won out against Humala, who heads the Peruvian Nationalist Party (PNP).
However, Blanco, who is also director of the monthly Lucha Indigena newspaper, doesn’t believe “a government like that of Morales [in Bolivia] or Correa [in Ecuador]” will emerge from these elections.
“We have to remember that in those countries, they overthrew various presidents before electing such governments. We are only now overcoming 20 years of internal war and great repression, where some 70,000 Peruvians died — particularly indigenous and popular leaders.”
Blanco said the reason Humala polled so well in the last elections was because he “appeared as the only serious opposition to neoliberalism. He talked about the issues that people felt strongly about. while the left was shifting to the centre.
“He maintained a radical discourse, but it was radical in words only.”
For example, the Socialist Party and other organisations collected signatures to call a referendum on the issue of the US-Peru FTA.
“They collected the signatures and presented them. Humala did not move a single finger during that campaign.
“But paradoxically, in the election campaign, he talked about the FTA but the left parties didn’t.
“That is why the people voted for him.”
Blanco also criticised Humala’s “top down” approach to naming leaders and candidates of the PNP.
“It’s interesting to note that despite the fact that he won a high vote in his campaign to become president, in the regional and municipal elections that occurred afterwards, the PNP vote was a failure because he imposed the candidates.
“They were not candidates that had support from the people or even the ranks of the party.”
As well as the PNP, a new political formation has emerged, Peru Plurinational, which aims to build a political instrument of the indigenous peoples and social movements.
“The idea that the indigenous population should have a single political expression, that they are not trailing behind others, is a positive proposal”, Blanco said.
“But this has been organised in a very apparatus-based manner and it also seems to not be moving forward.”
Blanco said that the only important force really promoting Peru Plurinational was CONACAMI.
It was announced on October 12 that Pizango would stand as the PP candidate for president.
Blanco told GLW on October 15 that this was a positive development: “Pizango is [a representative of] the energetic and prolonged Amazonian struggle and his candidacy strengthens the indigenous and popular movements.
“The simple launching of the candidacy is a triumph of those movements, even if we do not win.”
Blanco said victory would be difficult, “because we need a lot of money for the campaign and because Humala and [progressive priest and presidential candidate Father Marco] Arana will take votes away from him.”
However, Blanco said Pizango’s campaign will help “bring together all those who believe that it through struggles like those of the Amazonian peoples that we can confront big multinational capital”.