[Marxism] Analysis: Peru's indigenous losing faith in reformed Humala

Greg McDonald gregmc59 at gmail.com
Wed Aug 17 13:51:16 MDT 2011


Analysis: Peru's indigenous losing faith in reformed Humala

LIMA — Indigenous leaders and rights groups in Peru are expressing
disappointment with President Ollanta Humala's plan to encourage oil
exploration in the Amazon and want the leftist leader to safeguard
tribal lands.

The new head of Peru's oil agency has said Peru hopes to attract up to
$20 billion in petroleum and gas investment in the next five years,
more than the $6.2 billion the sector brought in under former
President Alan Garcia.

Garcia's term was marred by frequent clashes with indigenous groups
over laws aimed at opening ancestral lands to foreign investors.
Tensions with police often erupted in violence, at times turning
deadly. Indigenous communities had thought Humala, who championed the
glory of the Incan empire during the campaign, would be different.

But the former anti-capitalist radical has reinvented himself as a
moderate and is now wooing the foreign investors he once railed

Indigenous groups, who have not made the political inroads of their
peers in neighboring Bolivia and Ecuador, now fear Humala will put
finding new energy for Peru's surging economy ahead of preserving
their lands.

"The communities had entrusted this government to oversee a real,
profound change," said Alberto Pizango, head of Peru's most important
indigenous rights group in the Amazon, AIDESEP. "But Humala has
altered his discourse, leading the people to say this government will
just be more of the same."

Pizango criticized Humala for designating Carlos Herrera, an engineer,
as mine and energy minister. Pizango says Herrera showed little
concern for indigenous people when he approved petroleum concessions
during the first time he held the post in 2000.

Humala's defenders, however, praise him for backing a proposed measure
that would require firms to hold consultation meetings with local
communities before drilling for oil or mining near their homes.
Passing the consultation law has long been a priority for indigenous

The measure, which was passed by Congress but vetoed by Garcia last
year, would put Peru in compliance with a U.N. convention on
indigenous peoples that Peru signed in 1989.

Aurelio Ochoa, an Humala appointee in charge of energy concessions,
told Reuters he personally supports the proposed consultation law.


Pizango said enacting a consultation law would give indigenous
communities more influence over how their lands are used but might not
be enough to curb widespread opposition to energy extraction in the

More than 200 towns have organized to stop mining or oil projects in
Peru. In numerous cases, violence has erupted, causing at least 100
deaths in the past 3-1/2 years, according to the government's human
rights office.

The conflicts threaten to delay some of the $50 billion companies plan
to spend on natural resource projects in Peru over the next decade.

A clash between police and indigenous protesters in the northern
Amazon town of Bagua killed 33 people in June 2009, the low point of
Garcia's presidency. His government accused Pizango of fomenting the
violence and blamed leftist presidents in the region for encouraging
the unrest.

"I feel the people are increasingly convinced that the only way to be
heard is through their protests," Pizango said. "They want an end to
traditional politics ... not just dialogue."

Others worry that tribes living in voluntary isolation from the
outside world would suffer if virgin lands are opened up to drilling
and mining.

Peru is home to one of the world's largest populations of so-called
uncontacted tribes, advocacy groups say.

Peru has set up reserves to protect tribes that live in voluntary
isolation. But Garcia's government said in some cases drilling was
permitted in reserves, frustrating activists.

Humala's views on the reserves are not yet known, but activists
working in the region are not especially optimistic.

"I'm not convinced Humala's going to stand up for people who don't
have any power," said Gregor MacLennan of the group Amazon Watch. "I'm
concerned about what's happening to the whole region. It's going to
reach a tipping point."

The international advocacy group has complained that Pluspetrol, which
operates two lots on the Camisea natural gas fields, explores inside
reserve areas. Pluspetrol declined immediate comment.

Ochoa, the geologist managing concessions for Humala, says the
reserves will be treated with "total respect" but he does plan to
aggressively promote exploratory drilling in Peru, which he considers
a "semi-explored" petroleum landscape.

"Remember that there are different types of reserves," he said. "There
are some that are untouched and virgin, but others can see some

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