Peru Natives minority planning bid for country presidency

Renzo Pipoli, Today correspondent
1/5/11

Peruvian Amazon Natives who still live in traditional ways, a minority numbering at least some 350,000 individuals divided in multiple tribes that speak dozens of languages, are making an unprecedented effort to take part in the 2011 presidential elections of Peru, a country of 28 million, mainly to call attention to their pleas to protect the Amazon.

Alberto Pizango, 46, chief of the Amazon tribes grouped under the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Amazon – AIDESEP – made the announcement in mid-November at a meeting in Lima with local and international press. In that ceremony he received powers from tribes in a ceremony to be their leader.

Pizango, who faces accusations in Peru including charges related to murder and insurrection over a June 2009 fight between Natives and police that resulted in 34 deaths, said the Natives’ main objective is to “stop the destruction of the Mother Earth due to the ambition of Western ways of consumption and individualism.”

Natives believe it is important to “acknowledge the rights of our Mother Earth,” he said. Natives must have rights over their ancestral lands that are beyond expiration and which cannot be taken away by any court or authority, he added.

Relations with companies

Pizango said contrary to some reports that Natives are radicals opposed to all capitalism, all the tribes in Peru want is better information about what’s going on with resources in their territories and how could they benefit.

He said there must be above all “respect to the right of consent. That which is free, informed and in good faith and through the relevant organizations by means of previous consultation.”

Natives have long complained in Peru that many corporations and officials somehow fake community approvals. For instance, AIDESEP has challenged an October oil licensing bidding round by Perupetro demanding to see the documents where Amazon tribes allegedly agreed to oil exploration in those lands.

Pizango added in the conference that any government by Peruvian Natives would not seek any changes in property. “Our proposal is simple. You do not need to take away from anybody to give to anyone or expropriations as Peru is immensely rich in culture and biodiversity.

“What is needed is legislation that will allow a viable negotiation because many are saying that the indigenous movement does not want development. What we are proposing is a dialogue in good faith with a constitution that would guarantee compliance with minimum international standards.”

Links to Chavez? Financing?

Asked by a reporter whether he has any relationship with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Pizango said he does not even know him though he would like to.

He “would like the opportunity to talk with Hugo Chavez, exchange experiences in governability matters. I have not had so far any conversation with the president of Venezuela who I respect so much.”

Links to Chavez is an issue in Peru as the Venezuelan president has been accused of financing groups in Peru with the aim of creating social unrest. Before the 2006 presidential elections, Chavez was often accused of supporting movements seen as opposed to capitalism in Peru. Chavez has tried to export his government model to other countries in the region and finances political allies such as Cuba’s Castro regime.

Another reporter made Pizango admittedly uncomfortable when she asked how Natives would obtain funds to finance a presidential campaign. Natives in Peru are among the poorest groups in the country. AIDESEP is in part funded through international organizations.

“I feel as if I were on the accused bench when they ask me those questions. Where are the funds coming from? Who is going to pay because it is costly? It will be the people, the ones who bet and when this solidarity exists, when this cooperation comes from the people then there is the compromise of the people to support and move forward this great proposal.”

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