Cowboys and Indians in Peru
I have to admit, I don’t get that riled up about free trade agreements very often. But this is kind of beyond the pale. This weekend at least 50 people were killed in Peru as protests by indigenous Indians living in the Amazon turned violent. The protests were over a plan to sell private companies oil, natural gas and forestry rights on Amazon land that the indigenous people consider to be theirs. The plan was adopted without any input from the people who live in the affected areas, says the noted leftist rag Wall Street Journal:
[T]he García government didn’t involve the indigenous population in discussions before it implemented new development rules. “In the U.S., the whole debate and discussion happens before the legislation passes … In Latin America, you start by passing a law, and then the discussion begins.”
So why was the plan adopted? Ah, a U.S. free trade agreement:
Analysts say giving in to protester demands would make Mr. García seem weak and cast a cloud over a recently signed free-trade agreement with the U.S. Following the pact, the government enacted laws that opened up indigenous lands to development, changes that the indigenous groups oppose.
And the right-wing government, predictably, is blaming the protests on Hugo Chavez. From the Washington Times:
Some Peruvian officials see the onset of a nationwide insurgency backed by Venzuelan President Hugo Chavez, a socialist leader who is using his country’s oil wealth to back like-minded politicians and activists throughout the region.
What sort of evidence does the WT’s source offer for those allegations?
Mr. Nunez declin[ed] to elaborate on the nature of the evidence against Mr. Chavez…
So, while we wait for that evidence to materialize, we might consider that it looks like Chavez’s foes, like the U.S. and the Peruvian government, are doing plenty to drive this “nationwide insurgency” without any help from Chavez or anyone else.
via Peru Struggles to Defuse Amazon Violence With 50 Dead – WSJ.com. H/T: BoRev (And for more excellent background, see this dispatch from Alex Zaitchik in The New Republic. )