It’s been a month since the June 5 massacre in Bagua where hundreds of Indigenous peoples were killed in the northern Amazon region of Peru. Let me repeat in case you didn’t read well: a month ago hundreds of Native peoples were massacred by the Peruvian government led by Alan Garcia.
The Garcia government has repeatedly stated that only 33 people died, mostly policemen according to their sources and the mostly-manipulated Lima media. Even the Ombudsman office has fallen into Garcia's game when it reported that "concluded that the acts of violence which occurred on June 5, 2009 in Bagua threw an unfortunate balance of 33 people dead (23 policemen, 5 natives and 5 settlers of Bagua)".
These reports are made by people that came from Lima, and they don't include information available from witnesses in Bagua who saw dead bodies being burned, thrown to the Maranon river and taken away by police helicopters. More information is to be revealed about this in the near future, but Miguel Palacin an Indigenous leader in Peru told me over the phone that he estimates as much as 250 people still missing and most of them could be dead.
This tragedy which has also caused hundreds of injured, detained and missing both civilians and policemen is the result of a violent and well planned attack launched by the Peruvian militarized police. Under the Garcia watch, police attakced a civilian and peaceful protest organized by Indigenous groups and social movements.
Peruvian civilians had blocked roads and oil pumping stations as a protest against private investment policies imposed by the Garcia administration, without previous popular consultations. During months, Indigenous leaders had tried to dialogue with Garcia at not success and Native organizations representing hundreds of thousands –if not millions- of Peruvians, had expressed their strong opposition to free trade policies designed by the United States government and included within the U.S.–Peru free trade pact.
Silence and complicity
Even thought the genocidal actions of Garcia in Bagua were excused and caused mostly by the policies included in the U.S.-Peru Free Trade Agreement, but the U.S. government has remained mostly silent about these crimes against humanity.
President Barack Obama and secretary of State Hillary Clinton have showed no interest in the Peru crisis and they haven't said a single word of solidarity or protest, at least not publicly. Nothing. This speaks a lot about their human dignity and decency and the level of compassion of the current American government.
For once this has been one of the biggest disappointments I personally have endured recently. After volunteering for the Obama presidential campaign in 2008 and after direct talks with staffers of different U.S. Congress members offices -including Hillary Clinton- while lobbying against the U.S.-Peru FTA, I found myself believing that true change was possible in this country.
Now I am convinced that the Obama administration is not different than its predators, and that the United States government is not a friend of the Indigenous peoples of Peru. As long as evil interests run its foreign policies, there won't be change at all.
Only two weeks after the Bagua massacre, president Obama appeared on national TV calling for the Iran government to stop violence on Iranian protesters. A group of civilians in Iran who didn’t agree with the controversial results of the presidential elections were protesting massively. Almost all the U.S. media bombarded us daily with pictures and videos of Iranian people being abused and attacked by the Mahmoud Ahmadinejad government, blood everywhere, really sad. But the violence seeing in Peru had been worst and had caused more deaths, still all of the Obama officials and of course CNN and the other mainstream TV news channels, remained mostly silent on Bagua.
Part of the lousy response from the U.S. government to the Peru's crisis may have to do with the fact that Peru is ruled by a submissive government who mostly obeys what Washington, DC, tells them, unlike Iran. Also Peru is not an anti-Israel state and we know what that means. It is obvious that as long as Peru stays under the U.S. influence it will matter little to the American government if Peruvians don't have a true democracy where civil rights are respected.
On top of that, a campaign of lies and defamation lunched by the Garcia administration through its embassies around the world and that made the case for the Peruvian government. During a press conference in Washington, DC, the Peruvian ambassador Luis Valdivieso lied so much about Bagua that I had to face him and asked directly why his government blamed Venezuela and Bolivia of its own crimes –watch video- but his response was rude and evasive.
No signs of change in Peru
The lack official protests from the international community in the Bagua massacre -especially from the U.S. government- has helped politically to guarantee the impunity of Alan Garcia and his cabinet, and their stay in power. The gross crimes they have committed are not being prosecuted yet. Only countries like Bolivia and Venezuela have expressed outrage.
Peru's government officials have suggested that they might take to court NGOs Amazon Watch and Survival International, and will sue them for ‘lying’ about the Bagua massacre and ‘damaging’ the international image of the country.
Alan Garcia has pressured the Congress of Peru to suspend 7 Indigenous Congress members who protested against the impunity of the Bagua criminals. These are leftist leaders who were forbidden from working at Congress for 3 months because they spoke their minds. Meanwhile, not a single official has been prosecuted for the Bagua massacre, and all the authorities that ordered the cowardly attack are still in office without anyone even apologizing for their actions.
Meanwhile injustice, abuse and corruption continue happening in Peru. Today a close ally of Garcia, Romulo Leon has been released from prison even though he was proven to sale oil contracts to foreign corporations.
By the end of June, Survival International denounced that the Garcia administration signed an agreement with Perenco, an Anglo-French corporation that will drill for oil in the Amazon assuring an investment of over $2 billion dollars, in territories where Indigenous people live away from contact with other cultures. Perenco admits that “contamination of soil, contamination of water and the flight of game and birds are possible consequences of its work”.
But Peruvian people continue their fight for justice: in several regions of the country there are strikes, rallies, and social uprisings shaking up Peru right now, as part of a three day nationwide protest led by union leaders, teachers, students, miners and activists demanding for political changes and the repeal of the Garcia failed policies.
Today people came out to the streets of several cities in Peru, to protest the Garcia government policies that have promoted injustice and the increase of the poverty gap. In Bagua, police stopped the civilians saying their rally was “illegal” which was false. The protesters used alternative routes and met at the main square where once again, the Bagua people asked Lima for justice and for an answer about the hundreds of missing people who are still disappeared since the June 5 attacks.
After days of a voluntary silence, I have decided to retake the issue of Bagua. I am doing this because I see the danger for more violence against Native peoples in Peru and the destruction of the Amazon forest persist, very likely. So I feel that is my duty as a blogger and as an Indigenous man from Peru to express the voice of those who have been forced to be silent for too long already, and to support modestly but convincingly the fight for social justice in Peru. I hope you join this effort by speaking out in behalf of Peruvian people. Obama won't do it.