Peru’s Congress suspends land laws, but is it enough to calm Amazon conflict?

June 11, 2009

Peru’s Congress hopes to calm protests over President Alan Garcia’s plans to open up the country’s Amazon region to oil and logging by multinational companies but the conflict is far from being resolved. 

Peruvian lawmakers temporarily suspended two decrees that triggered deadly protests by indigenous groups opposed to the move. 

 At least 60 people died last week in clashes between security forces and Indian protesters and the government hopes the suspension will ease tensions.

A wide divide remains. Indian groups say they want the government to repeal those decrees and roll back on other laws giving energy and mining firms access to jungle areas. 

The government, meanwhile, is hoping to make up for what analysts say was a critical misstep in its push to develop the Amazon: failure to consult Indian groups living in the region. 

The clashes have sparked vitriol from both sides with Garcia referring to the Indians as “terrorists” and indigenous leaders calling him a “murderer.” 

Also complicating any agreement is that circumstances surrounding the clashes and the death toll remain murky. 

Indigenous groups say police opened fire on demonstrators blocking a highway in protest at the laws, and the government charge protesters wielding homemade spears attacked police, taking some hostage and stabbing others to death. 

Some Indian leaders have said they will no longer talk with certain members of Garcia’s government, which they feel has lost the “moral authority” to negotiate a deal. 

Garcia, who has played up the police death toll in public, has so far resisted opposition calls for him to fire several of his top aides, including Prime Minister Yehude Simon, for the government’s response to the protests. 

Any solution will have to overcome Garcia’s fear of appearing weak among Peru’s political class, long dominated by a European elite focused on governing for the country’s costal urban centers, where more than half of the population lives. 

It will also test Indian groups who are just beginning to organize themselves politically but remain deeply resentful of generations of political neglect

(Photograph by Reuters/Enrique Castro-Mendivil, taken during a protest at the entrance to Yurimaguas city, in the Amazon region of northern Peru, June 11, 2009)


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

This article is skewed as hell. It says that Garcia has played up the police death poll but doesn’t give specifics, which regardless of the exact number, largely outnumbers the indian death poll. Pictures of the dead policemen have surfaced; they were naked and tied. The indians are in their right, Garcia is a bit of an idiot and his cabinet a bunch of fools, but the indians are clearly acting out like anything but civilized men in their right.

Posted by Ignacio | Report as abusive

[…] The protests threatened to disrupt both national energy supplies and exports. Progress! Global News Blog Blog Archive Peru’s Congress suspends land laws, but is it enough to calm Ama… […]

Posted by 54 Confirmed Dead in Clash between Indigenous and Peruvian Military | Report as abusive

[…] 11/perus-congress-suspends-land-laws-but -is-it-enough-to-cal… […]

Posted by Peru’s Congress suspends land laws, but is it enough to calm Amazon conflict? : BeijingToday | Report as abusive

Ignacio, I disagree on matters of principle. You are merely assuming the information regarding the police deal toll is not inflated. This is a great deal of political ground to be gained in fudging the numbers. The pictures have surfaced, but do you question the source?I could make a photograph, and show it to people. It would not be difficult to stoke imaginations by claiming the source of the photo to be of an entirely different context than that under which it was taken.I’m sorry, but your comment lacks verifiability, leaving you in a position of ignorance.

Posted by Nigel | Report as abusive

The numbers of deaths of police is highly exagerated. How many caskets did you see coming off airplanes? Not as many as deaths reported. Working with the indigenous we have learned of many deaths and injuries they have suffered and yet why isn’t the press reporting this? Garcia doesn’t want the truth to get out. The police acted with force of guns and the indigenous with spears.

Posted by Teresa | Report as abusive

Rain forests are considered the lungs of the planet. In 100 years, they will be gone and the people of that time will have to find a way to rebuild all that is being destroyed in this generation.

Posted by Dave W. | Report as abusive

Ecuador, Nigeria, now Peru… How much longer do we have to deal with private companies and their greed and ambition? I highly recommend a book called Open Veins of Latin America from Eduardo Galeano… please search on wikipedia or amazon -not intend to advertise anything-… it seems like Obama has one copy and he should not make assumptions of this book or the author by the person who actually gave it to him. This book was written in 1971 and still the words are more current than ever and it not only applies to Latin America but for most part of the world that is devastated by the unawareness and blind ambition from certain groups of people. It is a shame that Obama made a comment of such brilliant and “in the sore” book, highly controversial because no one wants to hear the truth but that is what is happening and still happens with our people. Please publish my comment. thank you!

Posted by Susan | Report as abusive

Anyone hearing this with the slightest breath of awarenss, cannot but remember the Indian Wars in the United States. Read “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee,” “Black Elk Speaks,” and many books too numerous to list here. “The Predator Mind” [Native activist John Trudell] has marshalled genocide of indigenous peoples on Turtle Island [Native term for North America] for 500 years in the name of progress, financial and national security, manifest destiny, and so on. When I read the story of the conflict between Peruvian soldiers and Indians as described here, the hundreds of stories and books I’ve read and heard about the Indian Wars in the US leapt painfully back into life in my mind–right down to hand made spears! The lack of trust between the highland and lowland Indians! This hotspot is nothing less than the tip of the spear of a potential massacre, disapora, and humiliation of Peruvian Indians for the sake of resource extraction and land grabbing. If the Peruvian government and their allies, the multinational corporations, complete their mission, the very heart and breath of the Indians will be crushed from them. One needs only study life on the Reservations in the US today to understand the poverty of the legacy of government, military and corporate policies since Columbus landed. A people who forget their history are doomed to repeat it. I amend that to state, especially in these times of a one world global village, a people who do not come to the aid of a people fighting to maintain their history, are doomed to responsible inaction that will lead to genocide. These Indians deserve our respect, our prayers, and our activism. Hoka hey.

Posted by Michael O’ | Report as abusive

On june 1st. was my 60th. birthday.I don’t have any children, fortunately.I’m glad I don’t have to see the global disaster mankind is headed for.The coming wars for water and the other simple basic necesities we’ve taken for granted for a few decades.The inevitible suffering and killing humanity will have to endure.And the END…I feel I’ve had the best the Earth has had to offer. Aboundance of resources, stunning landscapes and awfully clear views of the surrounding universe on cold wintery nights.

Posted by Peter | Report as abusive