Friday, 19 June 2009

Peru, Land and Indigenous Peoples

The Upper Amazon, PerĂºImage by Stefe via Flickr

There have been stories in the media regarding the protests by indigenous Peruvians in the north of Peru. The protests have been against the decision of the government to open up lands to drill for oil and gas, lands which the indigenous claim are tribal and ancestral to them, coupled with their belief that such exploration mark the end of what quality of life they have in the area. The protests seem to have become exceptionally violent with the deaths of dozens of protesters and police this last month.

In 2007 and in 2008 the Peruvian government passed decrees allowing these regions to be opened up to oil, mining and mineral exploration by the multinational companies. This was done in support of a free trade agreement with the US.

So once again we have seen a government riding roughshod over the wishes of the people in it's obedience to market forces, regardless of the social, economic and environmental aspects. This evidences the outworkings of capitalism and it's effect on the poor. Capitalism needs fresh markets and access to resources in order to survive. Why the pillaging of land and people in this manner needs to be a cornerstone of a so-called 'free-trade agreement' underlines the lack of soul and humanity in capitalisma nd those who practice it.

However, the good news is that the protests, both by the indigenous inhabitants, national and international groups and also protests by Peru's neighbours like Bolivia have led the Peruvian Congress to overturn these two laws. It's just a shame that so many have had to die over this.

So lessons to be learned:

  • challenge the phrase 'it's just the way it has to be'
  • protest works
  • seek support locally, nationally and internationally
While we're at it it's maybe time that corporations should be liable for the social and environmental issues they create in their race to grab profits.


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3 comments:

  1. It's interesting that the "mainstream" media have played down this story, but have hyped stories about protests against the Iran election results.

    Could it be that their atttitude is determined by the Western capitalists' desire to get their hands on oil in both places?

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  2. I think you've got it there Steve, oil is a common factor here and also with other areas of conflict like the Niger Delta. Such is the drive of the capitalist system that it doesn't let things like local ownership, social or environmental concerns get in it's way.

    It would be nice one day for the western powers and corporations to step back and not interfere militarily or economically.

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  3. I watched Sky News reporting on London protests about bankers etc. It was all "the police said..." -- I wonder what would happen if they took that line on the Iraq protests.

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Keep it clean!