The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) deplores the violence that occurred in Bagua, Peru on June 5, 2009, in which both civilians and police officials were killed. WOLA calls on all sides involved in the conflict to end the violence. Furthermore, WOLA calls on the Peruvian government to avoid the use of excessive force, to respect national and international laws, and to engage in genuine negotiations to resolve the conflict without further bloodshed. WOLA also supports calls for the Organization of American States (OAS) to conduct an independent investigation on the events leading up to last Friday and the violence that took place that day.
For nearly two months, over 30,000 indigenous people living in the Bagua Province of the Peruvian Amazon have peacefully blocked roads and rivers to protest legislation enacted in 2008 to speed the exploration and exploitation of natural resources in the region, including gold, oil and wood. The protestors have demanded the repeal of parts of the legislation – a position supported by nine Amazon Bishops, the National Coordinator of Human Rights and the National Human Rights Ombudsman, among others. According to the National Coordinator of Human Rights, the affected indigenous communities have asked for negotiations with the government and for the repeal of the disputed legislation for over a year, but the government failed to consult with the affected communities before enacting the legislation and has remained unwilling to negotiate with indigenous leaders.
On May 9, President Alan Garcia declared a state of emergency and in the early morning of June 5, National Police forces attacked a group of indigenous people at a road blockade outside of Bagua. Initial reports indicate that at least 11 police officers were killed and at least 30 indigenous people and over 150 people wounded. Unconfirmed reports suggest that these figures may be higher.
WOLA laments the loss of life and repudiates the use of violence to resolve the situation in the Peruvian Amazon. WOLA will continue to closely monitor the situation and reiterates its call to end the violence, respect human rights and negotiate a fair and peaceful solution to the conflict.
For more information contact:
Vicki Gass, Senior Associate on Rights and Development
John Walsh, Senior Associate for the Andes and Drug Policy