Peru protestors call on Lima to scrap Amazon land laws
Sat, Jun 13, 2009

TARAPOTO, Peru - Peru's indigenous groups continued blocking roads Friday in protest against unpopular decrees on farming, oil drilling and water rights in the Amazon rainforest, as support actions spread across the country.

"We the Amazon people demand the repeal of the legislative decrees," said AIDESEP Vice President Daisy Zapata, representing the National Organization of the Amazon Indigenous people of Peru.

Zapata vowed that trade and communication routes in the Amazon region would be paralyzed by protesters until the decrees were fully lifted.

Across Peru, demonstrating trade unions, farmers and human rights groups kept up protests in support of the indigenous groups.

Protest violence peaked last weekend when some 400 police officers moved in to clear activists blocking a highway near the northern city of Bagua. Protesters fought back, then retaliated by killing police hostages.

According to the government, 25 police officers and nine Indian protesters died in the clashes. Protest leaders and media reports, however, insist the death toll is much higher.

Lawmakers on Wednesday suspended Decree 1090 -- dubbed the "Law of the Jungle" -- that covers forestry and fauna in Peru's northeastern Amazon rain forest, and also halted another decree related to governing private investment.

The indigenous demonstrators were unimpressed, arguing that the decrees are an assault on their way of life and insisting that they be scrapped altogether along with other decrees relating to land rights that were not discussed.

In the protest's ground zero here, in two Amazonian cities in Peru's northeast -- Tarapoto and Yurimaguas -- the strain of the 40-day protests are beginning to show.

The majority indigenous towns, some 900 kilometers (600 miles) north of Lima, are twin industrial hubs for the region, with roads linking them a vital access point to the wider world.

On these roads native tribes armed with spears continue to block all traffic -- and even though residents in both towns, 130 kilometers (80 miles) apart, support the protests, they fear they cannot hold out for much longer.

"Food prices have risen over 100 per cent and in some cases even more," mother of five Graciela told AFP in Tarapoto's main plaza.

"A chicken went from six soles (two dollars) to 18 soles; the poorest people are cooking with wood because gas prices have increased between 50 to 70 per cent," she said.

President Alan Garcia said Friday the country's economy will soon regain its "cruising speed," and "will continue to move forward, despite the world economic crisis, and despite the political agitation from those who do not want this model" of development. -AFP

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