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As Peruvian Indigenous Leader Seeks Asylum, Indigenous Voices Must Be Heard

Posted on: Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Keywords: Peru, Indigenous Rights

As protests by Indigenous Peoples continue in Peru, Indigenous leader Alberto Pizango this week took refuge at the Nicaraguan embassy in Lima.  The Peruvian government has sought his arrest, charging him with sedition for leading these protests.  

Today, MADRE joins Indigenous leaders in Peru and worldwide who underscore that the perspectives of Indigenous Peoples are essential to a full understanding of this crisis and must be heard in the press and beyond.  

Alberto Pizango has served as a leader and spokesperson for an Indigenous movement standing in opposition to new government laws that open the door for increased incursions by multi-national corporations in the Amazon region of Peru.  To prevent an escalation in oil drilling, industrial agriculture, mining and logging, Indigenous Peoples organized against these laws and mobilized protests across the region.

The recent violence was sparked early last Friday when the government called in police forces to confront a group of Indigenous protesters blocking a road in the province of Bagua.  As many as 25 Indigenous people were killed and many more injured when the police opened fire on the crowd.  The violence has continued to claim lives in recent days.

Vivian Stromberg, Executive Director of MADRE, said today, "In many official portrayals of the crisis in Peru, Indigenous Peoples have been cast as agitators undermining national development.  In fact, Indigenous Peoples have organized to protect their lands against harmful policies that were negotiated and decided without their consent-in contravention of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  Alberto Pizango has been crucial to this effort, and Peruvian authorities' depictions of him as an outlaw or assassin are politically motivated.  These portrayals have been uncritically reproduced by many in the global media."

The Nicaraguan ambassador to Peru has indicated that Nicaragua has granted asylum for Alberto Pizango.

For more information about the crisis in Peru, see this MADRE statement, "MADRE Denounces Peruvian Police Crackdown on Indigenous Protesters," available here:

This press release is a joint initiative of MADRE and the International Indigenous Women's Forum (FIMI/IIWF).

Available for comment:

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz is Executive Director of the Tebtebba Foundation (Indigenous Peoples' International Center for Policy Research & Education) and serves as the Chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples (UNPFII).  She was the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations from 1996 to 2003; she is the founder and convener of the Asia Indigenous Women's Network. She is an Indigenous activist who is committed to the recognition, protection, and promotion of Indigenous Peoples' rights worldwide; and has been defending the rights and cultures of Indigenous Peoples for more than 30 years.



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