Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Peruvian Congress Votes 82 – 12 to Repeal Two Controversial Laws
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Government Urged to Drop Criminal Charges Against Indigenous Leaders and Allow Independent Investigation into Violent Incidents in Bagua
Lima, Peru – The Peruvian Congress voted today 82 – 12 to repeal two of nine contested laws in an attempt to end widespread indigenous protests that have been paralyzing transportation and commerce in the Peruvian Amazon for 70 days. In a complete shift of discourse, President Garcia admitted that “there were a series errors and exaggerations” in the government’s handling of this conflict and asked Congress to repeal decrees 1090 and 1064, which were passed in 2008 as part of a package of new laws to facilitate the implementation of the Free Trade Agreement with the United States.
Having witnessed the vote in the Peruvian Congress, Daysi Zapata, acting President of AIDESEP, Peru’s national Amazonian indigenous organization welcomed the President’s comments and declared: "Today is a historic day. We are grateful that the will of the indigenous peoples has been heard and we only hope that in the future governments listen and attend to indigenous peoples, and not legislate behind their backs.”
Zapata said that AIDESEP it is calling on our base organizations and communities to end their blockades and protests while also calling on the government to enter into a good faith and transparent dialogue.
Primer Minister Simon, who has been a lead negotiator to the indigenous communities, said Tuesday that he would resign after bringing the current conflict closer to resolution. The Peruvian Government has been heavily criticized for the June 5 attack to quell nonviolent protests by Amazonian indigenous communities, which resulted in dozens of deaths of both protesters and police and left 150 of indigenous demonstrators injured.
In addition to decrees 1090 and 1064, AIDESEP points to at least seven other laws that continue to pose a threat to their constitutionally guaranteed rights. In addition to the repeal of all these controversial laws, indigenous people are demanding that the Peruvian Government lift the State of Emergency, in effect since May 9 in several regions throughout the Amazon. AIDESEP is also calling for the Government to drop criminal charges against Alberto Pizango and five other indigenous leaders. Pizango was given safe passage to leave the country and is now exiled in Nicaragua.
In the United States, fifteen human rights and environmental organizations recently sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other top Administration officials urging the United States to take immediate steps towards addressing the political crisis in Peru. Representatives from this coalition met with the U.S. Trade Representative’s office on Wednesday to again urge the U.S. Government to publicly clarify if Peru would be penalized for revoking the package of “free trade laws.”

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