R.O.W - news item
08 Jun 2009
Death and injuries in Peru clash
At least 20 people died and 50 were injured today in clashes between Peruvian
police and Amazon tribes opposed to foreign companies opening oil wells and
in the rainforest.
Indigenous leaders accused police of shooting at hundreds of protesters from
helicopters to end a road block on a remote jungle highway 870 miles (1400
kilometes) from Lima.
"There are 12 dead ... from bullets shot from helicopters," indigenous
leader Alberto Pizango told reporters in Lima. "I hold the government of
President Alan Garcia responsible for ordering this genocide," he said as
government issued a warrant for his arrest for encouraging the protests.
Police said the protesters fired first, but the tribesmen denied having guns and
said they only bore their traditional spears, said a Reuters report.
Tribal leaders said a dozen protesters were killed, while the interior ministry
said eight officers died in protests over the government's push to open up Peru
to foreign investment.
It was the first round of severe violence since demonstrations started in April.
Thousands of Amazon natives, demanding more control over natural resources,
blocked roads and waterways off-and-on in a bid to force the government to
revoke a series of investment laws passed last year and to revise concessions
to foreign energy companies.
Garcia, whose approval ratings are at 30%, blamed protesters for provoking
violence and said it was time to lift the blockades of roads, rivers and energy
Argentina's Pluspetrol, which had already curtailed most work at its lot 1AB
northern Peru, said it had stopped production.
It normally pumps about a fifth of Peru's total oil output. In April, lot 1AB
produced about 16,770 barrels a day. "It appears that this is being done
generate disorder for electoral reasons," Garcia said.
Garcia's allies have at times linked the protests to populist opposition leader
Ollanta Humala, who spooked investors when he nearly won the 2006 presidential
race and is expected to run again in 2011.
Humala, who enjoys support among the rural poor, said Garcia's APRA party made a
gross error yesterday, when it blocked a motion in Congress to open debate on a
law that tribal leaders want to revise or overturn.
Some of the controversial laws encouraging foreign investment in the Amazon were
passed last year as Garcia moved to bring Peru's regulatory framework into
compliance with a free-trade agreement with the US.
"The government has decided to solve this social, economic and political
problem not in Congress, where it should be solved, but on the
Humala said at a news conference