Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Violence in the Amazon

I meant to blog about this when it occurred, but in June tensions between amazonian indigenous tribes and the Peruvian government boiled over into violence that left dozens of policemen and indigenous protesters dead. The conflict was about oil exploration: the government is pushing for it, the indigenous groups are fighting it.

The incident itself is a little murky, with both sides claiming different stories of "who shot first." Tragically it seems possible that early, inflated reports of the indigenous death count may have led to revenge killings of captured policemen. The fallout does not seem to have resolved the underlying issues at all. You can find good round-ups of news coverage from Amazon Watch and Climate Science Watch.

A few weeks ago, a similar indigenous protest in Ecuador--this time over a new law governing mining and water rights--also turned violent, leading to scores of injuries and at least one death. The fallout from this confrontation seems to be more constructive than in Peru, with the left-wing Correa government accepting talks with the protesters and apparently agreeing to some of their demands. Again, Amazon Watch has the news round-up.

In Ecuador at least, the indigenous people are very well organized, very interested in protecting their sovereignty and (at 35% of the population) a voting bloc to be reckoned with. They are also on the cutting edge of movements for environmental protection. I am less familiar with the situation in Peru, but it is an issue I'm hoping to learn more about.


Unknown said...

This topic brings up so many thoughts/memories/hopes/despair that I am sure that I will not be able to express my thoughts clearly. Clean water, we take it for granted, yet so many little ones die within the first few years of their life because they have no access to it! When I worked in Guatemala the people I admired the most were those engineers that provided a garden hose type faucet of potable water to the surrounding populace. Instead of going down to the river where folks did their laundry, bathing, etc. they could get their drinking and cooking water from a clean source that was often times closer than the river/creek. I was involved in trying to protect the watershed, but, potable water that was not contaminated from upstream is a miracle!! Reading the links in your post & the comments to those links does not bring the hope of a successful outcome for the indigenous folks. Big Money, OUR (read United States) Demand for their natural resources OIL always leads to a bad outcome for indigenous folks. I used to joke with folks in Guatemala that the United States is a country where even the poor people have cars, but I now realize that US Demand for OIL is the ROOT of the problem! We should not have so many cars we should all be taking public transportation. Public transportation should be more efficient/convenient/affordable that not having a car is desirable not a sacrifice!! God Please Help these people in their efforts to keep their land and culture intact!
Unc Joe

t said...

Hey Uncle Joe - thanks for your thoughts. It is indeed depressing to see the impact of our lifestyle on people who just want to live their lives. Here's to local solutions not corporate pollution! Would love to hear more about your time in Guatemala when we see you next week!