The protests and blockades have followed the accusation by a Peruvian indigenous association which accused the Peruvian government last week of violating the rights of the native communities in the Amazon with laws that favour foreign oil companies. The recently signed Free Trade Agreement with the United States and a number of draft laws in the legislature all allow for the easy commercial exploitation of indigenous territories
The indigenous groups argue that industrial activities in the Amazon region threaten their homelands. They only resorted to protests after talks failed to secure a reversal of the government's decision to develop the area.
President Alan García has ordered the army to put an end to the occupations, and there has already been a fierce confrontation between protesters and police.
The Indians are not backing down.
"If the government does not listen to our demands, the indigenous people are determined to continue until they are listened to," said Alberto Pizango, president of the Inter-ethnic Association Against the Development of the Peruvian Forest.
APTN News reports the Inter-ethnic Association the Development of the Peruvian Forest blamed this situation on the Free Trade Agreement recently signed between the government and the US.
"The government is taking advantage of the legislative powers given by the congress to implement the Free Trade Agreement to dictate more than 38 decrees - all unconstitutional - against the right to life and against the territories of the indigenous people and native communities of the Amazon," said Pizango.
24 Horas Libre says a significant clash occurred on Sunday in the district of Aramango (Bagua, Amazon) between police and Indians. The battle began when police attempted to push demonstrators away from the intake water channel of a hydroelectric plant which provides electric power to the provinces of Bagua and Utcubamba. The clash left eight policemen and four Indians injured.
Today, the protesters continue to demand the restoration of their inalienable collective rights over their land. The government insists it will not negotiate until the protests end.
Environment Minister Antonio Brack said protesters have closed a bridge and highway "and threatened to cut the supply of oil via the oil pipeline and gas through the Camisea gas pipeline." He says the government cannot allow this to continue.
The former president of the Peruvian Congress, Mercedes Cabanillas told La Republica (Lima) that the blockade of gas or oil for the operation of basic services is a serious crime. He indicated that the government will figure out who is behind it all and will take appropriate action against them.
The government today has threatened to send in the army. Reuters is reporting the government issued a decree for the provinces of Cusco, Loreto and Amazonas, allowing it to order the armed forces to disperse protesters.
Why is all this happening?
According to Radio Netherlands an area of 92,000 square kilometres in the Amazon Basin has been designated for development. Economists estimate that the oil, timber and other forestry products in the region are worth about 3.5 billion dollars.
The following is from Prensa Latina.
Peru, Natives' Protest Ends in Crisis
Lima, Aug 18 (Prensa Latina) In view of the protests of 60 ethnic groups from the Amazonian jungle against official decrees, the Peruvian government declared three provinces and one municipality in state of emergency on Monday.
According to a resolution published in the official journal El Peruano, the state of emergency was declared to keep the peace after at least nine people were injured during some encounters between the police and the natives.
The measure provides the suspension of constitutional rights which prevents the exercise of certain rights like the freedom of assembly and movement, and gives the police authority to arrest and carry out raids without a warrant.
The state of emergency comprises the provinces of Bagua and Utcubamba, the north of the Amazon and Datem del Marañon, Loreto in the west, and the municipality of Echarate in the southern region of Cuzco.
The incident between the Awajun ethnic group and the police in Muyo, Bagua, was preceded by the government decision of disregarding the natives' demand of meeting with Prime Minister Jorge del Castillo instead of with Minister on Environment Antonio Brack.
The talks had begun on Friday in San Lorenzo but the members of AIDESEP (Interethnic Peruvian Jungle Development Association) interrupted them because the minister had no rank to make decisions.
President of AIDESEP Luis Pizango said the government had to cancel the decrees that affect the rights of the natives to land and the environment, and which answer to free trade agreements with the United States.