In 2009, right in the middle of the Free Trade Agreement negotiations with the United States, and as part of the government’s strategy to bypass the legislative branch, the president of Peru Alan Garcia, issued a series of decrees that “facilitated” mining and oil extraction in indigenous territories. This, in fact, led to the cancellation of the right to prior consultation of Indigenous communities, which is guaranteed under ILO Convention 169 signed by the Peruvian state.
The Awajún and Wampís indigenous people mobilized in the Amazon region to defend their territory, block access roads to their region, and resisted for more than 50 days to demand legal recognition of their territories. The neoliberal government decided to repress the indigenous mobilization on June 5, 2009, sending more than 350 police to evacuate the road and end the resistance leaving a devastating outcome for the communities: 33 dead, 83 people arrested, and 200 wounded in an event to be known as the “Baguazo.”
Long legal confrontations followed, with harsh consequences for indigenous leaders who were imprisoned and had to wait years for the courts to determine their innocence. There were no convictions for those responsible for the attack and massacre of indigenous people. There were no reparations for the damage done.
Now, eleven years later, on the anniversary of the Baguazo, its rememberance has opened the possibility for Indigenous peoples to defend their territoriality and claim their right to food sovereignty and self-determination in the midst of the pandemic, especially to be able to respond to the lack of attention from the national state. Indigenous leaders of the region are expressing their concern about the abandonment of the state due to extractive and development activities that threaten their livelihoods, regardless of the regime.
During the virtual forum “Baguazo, 11 years: Indigenous peoples in the face of COVID 19,” several indigenous leaders from the Peruvian Amazon analyzed the impact of the Baguazo, as well as how that event relates to indigenous people surviving the pandemic today. Speaking about the context in which indigenous peoples have addressed attention to the pandemic, Segundo Chuquipiondo, indigenous Shawi and representative of AIDESEP, said, “We asked the government and international aid agencies, first, for biosecurity equipment, second, for food supplies, and third, timely high-quality information,” but recognized that the biggest emergency is unity.
We must organize ourselves in an articulated way, with civil society, Indigenous people, with whom we believe that development can be achieved without denigrating the environment and without violating human rights.”
Melania Silvestre Canales Poma, vice president of the National Organization of Andean and Amazon Indigenous Women of Peru (ONAMIAP) pointed out,
Extractivism destroys our food, our medicinal plants, our animals, it destroys women, with contamination, and it also destroys our spirituality, our principles and values, because what extractive activities have done is to promote corruption … Extractivism destroys harmony, the balance between human beings and mother nature … “
Agoustina Mayan, former president of Odecofroc, an Awajún leader, said,
My people are using natural medicines to attend the pandemic. The defenders of the territory have made a decision to go to the mountains and stay there. Other brothers and sisters who decided to stay to take care of the community have gotten sick. “
COVID19 has been ravaging Amazonian indigenous communities; everything indicates that the pandemic is spreading to communities in a swift manner. The Amazonian indigenous communities see an urgency to strengthen their processes of indigenous autonomy to face the risk of ethnocide.”
The Awajún communities reported that they have isolated themselves as much as possible and are using herbal medicines based on coriander sacha or tumbo leaf, which mixed with ginger and lemon help to treat the symptoms of pneumonia, because the government has not provided medical attention. Indigenous peoples continue to fight injustices while attending the symptoms of COVID-19. The government has yet to recognize the processes of indigenous autonomy that emerged from the Baguazo, has not modified its extractive and invasive policies of Indigenous territories, and continues to attend only the symptoms of the crisis, which can lead to a devastating loss for indigenous communities.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: