Thursday, August 28, 2008


Last week I wrote an article about indigenous groups fighting in Peru to save their land from being taken over by oil and gas giants. A state of emergency had been declared after thousands of Amazonian tribes people armed with spears, bows and arrows took over main roads, a hydroelectric dam, and oil and gas installations in the provinces of Cusco, Loreto and Amazonas. Now comes reports that the battle appears to have been won.

After several hours of discussion and debate, Congress passed legislative decree 2440, repealing decrees 1015 and 1073, by a vote of 66 in favour, 29 against, and no abstentions.The former facilitated procedures for the fragmentation and sale of communal lands held by indigenous and farming communities in the mountainous (Sierra) and forest (Selva) regions of the country, enabling these crucial decisions to be made in an assembly by a simple majority, instead of the previously required two thirds of communal landowners, thus bringing these regions in line with the procedures of Peru's coastal region. Decree #1073 made further modifications to decree #1015.

President Alan Garcia maintained his opposition to the overturning of the decrees, an act he categorized as an “historic error.”

Indigenous movement spokesperson Alberto Pizango celebrated the decision, declaring, “The people of Peru, indigenous or not, have demonstrated once more that it is possible to reclaim our rights to life, to dignity, and to a lasting sustainable development. This is a new dawn for the Indigenous Peoples of the country."

The following is taken from Dos Mundos (Kansas City).

Indigenous groups win major battle in congress
Written by Milagros Salazar

LIMA (IPS) - The Peruvian Congress voted to repeal two decrees that opened up communally owned native lands to private investment and that triggered a wave of protests this month by indigenous people in Amazon jungle provinces.

The vote was a rare instance of cooperation between opposition lawmakers and legislators from parties that up to now have been allied with the government, who voted to overturn the decrees on the argument that they undermined the rights of native communities.

Sixty-six lawmakers voted to revoke the decrees and 29 members of the governing APRA party voted against the decision.

The decrees were adopted by the executive branch in an unconstitutional manner and without respecting indigenous groups’ right to be consulted prior to any project on their land, as established by International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 169, which has been ratified by Peru.

A majority in Congress agreed that the government went beyond the special powers it was granted by parliament as part of the free trade agreement negotiated with the United States, when it vetoed the legislature’s original vote against the two laws.
Under the decrees, a mechanism created in the 1990s, which allowed indigenous communities to sell or lease collectively-owned land to third parties if approved by two-thirds of the members of a community assembly, was modified to permit sales with the votes of just 50 percent plus one of the assembly members.

“The executive branch ran roughshod over Congress, native communities and international conventions,” said Roger Najar, the new chairman of the parliamentary committee on Andean and Amazon peoples and the environment.

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