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Up to 250 Indigenous Peruvians Killed in Bagua, Says Leader Miguel Palacin

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Originally published on GroundReport.com,the world's most trusted citizen journalism network.

By Calos Quiroz

I just finished a phone conversation with Miguel Palacin, he is the president of Coordinadora Andina de Organizaciones Indigenas (CAOI) or the Andean Coordination of Indigenous Organizations.

I first met Miguel Palacin last year at the OAS building in Washington, DC.

Currently the situation in Lima is very complicated says Palacin, because the Garcia administration is acting against the interest of most Peruvians, and the Congress of Peru last night "suspended" two decrees that Amazonian indigenous peoples had asked to be repealed.

Congress members of right-wing political caucus -including Fujimori and Garcia parties- decided in a secret alliance to suspend the decrees, in what Palacin called "a political maneuver" that doesn't even exist in the Constitution of Peru, so it's not legal.

Right now, opposition Congress members of Peru are under hunger strike inside the Congress building, blocking all debates and protesting against what they consider "a mockery" to the demands of indigenous peoples.

Today people of Peru starts a national day of protest, and many regions will start strikes until the government of Lima responds to their demands, including the controversial Garcia decrees, and other issues like the economic crisis. There are several rallies going in different parts of Lima right now walking towards Plaza Dos de Mayo, where a march to the Government Palace will start around 2:00 PM (3:00 PM Eastern).

The march will try to go to the Palace of Government, but if Police blocks the roads -as expected- the organizers "we will not try any confrontation nor violence" said Palacin. Then we will change the march to other corners. "We will see if they respond with military force, our movement is of solidarity not confrontation..."

The Amazon regions have started more protests today as well, and the crisis is getting worse as the Lima government refuses to listen to the rest of the country.

Miguel Palacin says that the official version of the government on the Bagua massacre says there are 25 police and nine indigenous people dead. But his organization contacts in that area reveal that there are more than 250 people missing, all of them Indigenous leaders who are presumably dead. These missing people are not in the list of injured nor detained, and there is a national commission to investigate this crimes and they were in Bagua yesterday but they found only blood in the road -in an area that is now under the control of Peruvian military.

"How can those with guns and prepared to attack have 25 dead, and those who were unarmed and were defending themselves had only nine people dead. Most people don't believe that anymore" said Palacin, especially international organizations are very exceptical. Rumors say the bodies were burned down and thrown from helicopters.

About the future of relations between Indigenous groups and the government of Lima, he said this is "a racist government" and currently there is a grass-roots movement asking for the removal of the president and his government, including the Congress. Palacin suggested the examples of Bolivia and Ecuador, where all the Executive power would have to go. The Supreme Court would have to assume the presidency temporally who would have to ask for a new Constitution and to call for new elections.

The current government of Alan Garcia controls the media with the economic pressure, through favors and investments in advertising and access to government contracts. Palacin says that most people in Peru don't trust the local media and they are using alternative media like the internet to find out more about the protests.

Also he said that Alberto Pizango, the leader of AIDESEP is currently at the Embassy of Nicaragua in Lima, waiting to get permission to leave the country. Pizango is being blamed of the violent attacks in Bagua, even when that day Friday June 5, he was in Lima and the orders came from the Garcia administration.

Miguel Palacin dennounced that there is a constant harassment from the government, they are being followed around by Peruvian intelligence, he believes even our conversation on the phone was being listened by a third party. He said the Peruvian State is becoming "Colombianized" with the use of secret informants moving all over Lima.

Palacin stated that, "we are not going to stop, we will get the decrees repealed, we want the cabinet to resign, we demand the change of the current economic policies, we don't want more free trade agreements, we want a fair treatment for Indigenous peoples rights, to stop consumism and promote a good living for all."

UPDATE: It is confirmed at least 54 people have been killed in the violence . (6/10/09 18:07 GMT)


Carlos Quiroz is a blogger based in the United States.
Go to GroundReport.com for more coverage from Peru. GroundReport is a citizen journalism platform that allows anyone to publish global news and earn money.