BOGOTA – Six months ago, news of violence triggered by indigenous uprisings in the Peruvian hinterland grabbed headlines around the world for several days, then just as quickly disappeared. But in Peru, the tension persists, and some observers fear that if the root causes of the protests aren’t addressed soon, they could provoke future mass uprisings.
The violence began in April, when tens of thousands of Indians mobilized across the Peruvian Amazon in protest of laws that would open up huge tracts of their land to foreign investment.
Following years of outrage over environmental damage from natural resource extraction, natives were irate that the government — without consulting them — had used a U.S. trade pact as a pretext to pass laws handing control over indigenous lands to oil, mining and logging companies.
On June 5th, an estimated 400 riot police were sent to quell opposition of at least 2,500 protestors blockading the road to Bagua, according to press reports. Tear gas exploded and bullets flew. The alarming toll: ten civilians and 23 policemen were killed and 200 wounded.
The protestors got their message across. The government has promised reforms, but now natives are saying that officials are not negotiating in good faith. “The people are bitter,” says Santiago Manuin, an Awajun leader who was shot several times allegedly by police....
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