In this edition of Weekend Update, Russell Means speaks to the racist portrayals of Indians by Hollywood, the U.S. Government and the media of the left. He speaks as well to the soft racism of exclusion that too often ignores the Indigenous communites of the world and their concerns of their land and their people.
On December 22, 1997 paramilitary (state-trained and state-funded pro-governing party civil defense) forces surrounded a Catholic chapel in the pacifistTsotsil Mayan community of Acteal, Chiapas state, Mexico. During a period of several hours, this armed force, with the apparent consent of local Mexican Army units stationed not far away, proceeded to surround Acteal’s chapel, and shot to death those inside, and as many of those who escaped as they could find. A number of residents survived the massacre. Those murdered on that day included 15 children, 21 women (four of them pregnant) and 9 men.
On June 6, 2009, Police, supplied by the U.S. ‘War Against Drugs, shot dead more than 38 people. The government of Peru ordered for the National Police to attack the Amazonian Indigenous peoples. Civilians were shot from building roofs and helicopters.
Indigenous peoples in Peru were on strike for the previous 52 days protesting against free trade policies that would allow multinationals to take over their territories. The attack occurred around 5:00 AM in the morning, a day after the Congress of Peru decided not to debate one of the most important decrees that allow the sale of Indigenous land. The number of casualities is according to a Twetter sent by a Peruvian journalist who is in the area of Bagua, a city located in the Amazonas region of Peru.
In the first week of February, according to indigenous witnesses, Columbian FARC rebels massacred up to 27 Awa people in the southern Narino province, including women and young children (from ages 3 to 6), bringing the total number of murdered Native people to 50 since the national march in the fall.
FARC press statements have only acknowledged the “execution” of eight indigenous due to their alleged assistance of Columbian military, but witnesses deny that figure and the assertion that the Awa willingly assisted anyone.
The National Indigenous Organization of Columbia, ONIC and regional UNIPA, Indigenous Unity of the Awa People, issued a joint statement the week after the massacre, decrying the murders.
“The UNIPA and ONIC denounce the grave violation of human rights and the collective rights of the Awa people of Narino, which is nothing new. … in the last 10 years [in the AWA territory] there have been four massacres, approximately 200 murders and 50 people affected by antipersonnel mines (land mines). … and now 1,300 Awa people are trapped in the area due to confrontations between the army, the guerillas and the para-militaries.”
Guatemalan Civil War:
In its final report, the Commission for Historical Clarification (CEH- Guatemalan Truth Commission) concluded that army massacres had destroyed 626 villages, more than 200,000 people were killed or disappeared, 1.5 million were displaced by the violence, and more than 150,000 were driven to seek refuge in Mexico. Further, the Commission found the state (funded largely by the United States) responsible for ninety-three percent of the acts of violence and the guerrillas (URNG-Guatemalan Revolutionary Union) responsible for three percent. All told, eighty-three percent of the victims were Maya and seventeen percent were ladino.
Join us in demanding justice for internationally-respected Peruvian indigenous leader Santiago Manuin! If you have not already done so, you have untill the end of the week to sign this global petition on behalf of Manuin. Peru’s Pro-Human Rights Association (APRODEH) will deliver the letter to Peruvian President Alan Garcia on August 10th in honor of the United Nations recent declaration of August 9th as International Day of the World’s Indigenous People. For a succinct summary of Manuin’s case, please see the below Associated Press article.
Sincerely, Amazon Watch Peru Campaign Team
Jail and trial are next for wounded Peru Indians
By ANDREW WHALEN, Associated Press Writer – Tue Aug 4, 2:00 am ET
CHICLAYO, Peru – Santiago Manuin is lucky to be alive. On June 5, the Awajun Indian leader was hit by at least four bullets when police broke up a protest by Indians over government plans for large-scale economic development of their ancestral lands in the Amazon.
Inside his hospital room, Manuin lies in a bed while a plastic pouch drains his intestines. Outside the door, five police officers lounge on wooden benches, AK-47 assault rifles resting across their knees.
Manuin is the most prominent of 48 protesters wounded in the June melee who face jail the moment hospital doctors sign discharge papers, according to Peru’s main Amazon Indian federation.
Critics of the government say it is no way to treat people who engaged in peaceful civil disobedience — blocking roads and rivers — to protect their traditional lands from the oil drilling, mining, farming and logging projects envisioned by President Alan Garcia.
Negotiations to resolve the dispute, involving 350,000 Amazon Indians, will be difficult if the government treats the protest leaders as criminals, the U.N. special envoy on indigenous rights, James Anaya, said last week.
The dark, wiry Manuin is more blunt.
“Justice doesn’t exist for the indigenous. The government values the police more than us and doesn’t want to acknowledge its mistake,” the 53-year-old apu, or tribal leader, said from his hospital bed.
The government’s mistake, Indian leaders and sympathizers say, has been to vilify protest leaders while failing to consider that police might have used excessive force. At least 10 civilians and 23 police officers were killed in the violence, while 200 civilians were wounded, 82 by gunshot, according to Peru’s ombudsman’s office.
“It’s very surprising that while there are criminal investigations against people accused of killing police, no one has been arrested or implicated for the abuses that led to the death of the indigenous protesters,” said Susan Lee, director of Amnesty International’s Americas program. Amnesty says it has gathered testimony telling of police abuses.
Peru’s justice minister, Auerelio Pastor, defended the police action before a U.N. Human Rights Committee in Geneva on Monday and said the government has no plans to drop any charges.
The government’s request that protesters clear the road “by no means justifies acts of violence, and the seizure of highways and interruption of public services is illegal,” he said.
Pastor also echoed a claim repeatedly voiced by Garcia: that unidentified foreign elements have incited the Indians to instigate the violence.
The president of AIDESEP, the Indian federation that organized the protests, says 120 Indians have been charged with crimes including murder and sedition. Many wounded Indians have not sought medical attention for fear of arrest, the federation’s president, Daysi Zapata, told The Associated Press.
AIDESEP’s top leader, Alberto Pizango, and two other officials of the organization have taken asylum in Nicaragua from sedition and rebellion charges.
In a July report following a visit to Peru, Anaya, the U.N. envoy, called for an independent, internationally backed investigation into the violence.
The government has yet to publicly respond.
Manuin is expected to be released from the main hospital in Chiclayo shortly after an operation this week to close the hole in his stomach and reconnect his intestines. He will then be jailed and tried on charges of inciting murder and unrest, which carry a maximum penalty of 35 years in prison. His lawyer has appealed to reduce his arrest warrant to an order to appear in court.
The Jesuit-schooled Manuin is an internationally recognized activist who met with Spain’s Queen Sofia in 1994 after leading Awajun resistance to leftist rebels who tried to get his people to grow coca, the basis of cocaine.
On June 5, when heavily armed police advanced toward nearly 5,000 protesters at a highway blockade, he says he approached the officers seeking to talk.
“I never made it because they opened fire when I was about 50 meters (yards) away,” Manuin said. Bullets tore open his left side.
Other protesters saw he was hurt, and “hand-to-hand combat broke out to remove the guns from police,” he added.
Erroneous reports of Manuin’s death spurred a bloody reaction hours later when Awajun protesters killed 12 police officers they had taken captive at an oil pipeline station.
Manuin faults the government, not the police officers, who he says told Indian leaders on June 4 that their superiors in Lima had ordered them to clear the highway.
The Cabinet chief at the time, Yehude Simon, said the entire Cabinet voted to issue the order. He and the then-interior minister were replaced last month as Garcia sought to allay public criticism of his handling of the protests.
The Indians had been blockading jungle highways and rivers on and off since last August, demanding the revocation of 11 decrees issued by Peru’s president last year under the rubric of a free trade pact with the United States.
Peru’s Congress repealed two of the decrees after protests last year and two more after June’s bloodshed. Indians feared the decrees would lead to a widespread land and resource grab by private companies.
Despite the revocations of some of the decrees, 75 percent of Peru’s Amazon remains carved up into oil concessions, with the government owning all subsoil rights.
“If they want to put the Amazon up for sale, they’ll do it by spilling blood. Period,” Manuin said.
–FULL TEXT OF LETTER TO PERUVIAN PRESIDENT ALAN GARCIA BELOW–
Peru, July 21, 2009
Dr. Alan García Pérez
President of the Republic of Peru
Dear Mr. President -
As citizens of Peru and the world, we are writing to you about the disproportionate and violent police incursion carried out to remove protesting indigenous people in Bagua, Amazonas, that Santiago Munuin Valera, a 52 year old Awajun indigenous leader, has been seriously injured. At the moment that he was shot, he was unarmed and calling for peace.
Santiago Munuin, chief of the indigenous leaders (Apus) of the five River-basins of Santa María de Nieva, is one of the most important leaders of the Aguaruna-Huambisa communities. A pacifist and founder of the Jesuit Social Center SAIPE, he was also President of the Aguaruna-Huambisa Council (CAH) and the Organizing Committee for Respect of the Indigenous People of Condorcanqui Province, Amazonas. He has been internationally recognized for this commitment to the environment and human rights.
This past June 5th, Santiago Manuin was shot 8 times throughout his body with bullets coming from AKM rifles. As a product of this disproportionate use of force by members of the DINOES, the Awajun leader was rushed to the Las Mercedes hospital in Chiclayo.
This situation notwithstanding, this past June 13th, Francisco Miranda Caramutti, judge with the First Penal Court of Utcubamba, ordered the search, finding, capture, and booking (order no. 0610-09-1) of Santiago Manuin, for his responsibility in the confrontation that happened in “The Devil’s Curve”, in which dozens of people were killed, among them police and indigenous citizens. Given Manuin’s history, it is surprising and outrageous that the court is attempting to hold him responsible for the lamentable death of police officers.
In recent weeks, some authorities have pressured for this pacifist indigenous leader to be released from the hospital and taken to the local jail, even as his health situation continues to be delicate and requires medical attention. Manuin has 8 gunshot wounds in his body and is at great risk of infection. Because of the gunshots, his colon is outside of his body that requires a prolonged and intensive treatment. Additionally, he is diabetic, which makes more difficult the healing of his wounds and requires new surgical procedures. At the moment the hospital’s doctors have indicated that he won’t be released until he has recovered fully.
Similar to the case of Santiago Manuin, there are other cases of indigenous leaders facing legal charges, investigations, and legal persecution. The Peruvian government intends to hold them responsible, both materially and intellectually, for various violent acts. Amongst them we mention Alberto Pizango Chota, Saúl Puerta Peña, Cervando Puerta Peña, Teresita Antazú López, Marcial Mudarra Taki, Daysi Zapata Fasabi, Walter Kategari Iratsimery, Roger Muro Guardián, and Milton Silva, amongst leaders, even though there isn’t valid evidence to support the accusations against them.
In this regard, the recent report on the events in Bagua and Utcubamba by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya, “reiterates the recommendation to revise the criminal charges against the individuals and indigenous leaders and urges the State to carefully justify future claims, given the special circumstances that have arisen surrounding the alleged crimes and the need to create adequate conditions for dialogue”.
The Special Rapporteur also emphasizes that “while recognizing the need to preserve the public order and to investigate and punish those responsible for crimes and/ or human rights violations, the use of criminal recourse should not be the standard route for dealing with social unrest and protest, but should instead be applied as a last resort and should be strictly limited to the principle of social necessity in a democratic society”.
We have no doubt that behind the arrest warrant of Santiago Manuin and other leaders, exist forces not only driven by legal motivations but also by a political interest to criminalize public protests in Peru.
Given this, we the citizens of the world in exercise of our rights and ethical responsibility to defend life and human rights from any kind of abuse, are asking that:
An investigation be initiated around the attempt on the life of Santiago Manuin Valera (ID# 337600081, 52 years old) and that the material and intellectual authors be brought to justice.
Economic reparations be paid to this Awajun leader, that he be provided with quality medical expertise independent of the State, and that the State guarantee his health and complete recovery, assuming the costs of medical attention for the injuries he has suffered.
Legal harassment against Santiago Manuin and other social leaders be ended, that the police officers that surround the hospital where Manuin is being interned be called off, and that the arrest warrant be changed to a summons for a court appearance.
We reiterate our belief in the innocence of Santiago Manuin, for whom we are expressing our solidarity.
221 Pine St., 4th floor San Francisco, CA 94104
Tel 415-487-9600 www.amazonwatch.org
President Barack Obama declared at the Summit of the Americas meeting in Trinidad and Tobago in April that there would no longer be junior and senior partners in the Americas–but his actions are sending a different message.
The most egregious case is Honduras, where the U.S. has played ball with the coup-makers who overthrew democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya earlier this month. The Obama administration also failed to speak out against last month’s Peruvian police massacre of more than 50 indigenous people in the Peruvian Amazon who were protesting the incursion of petroleum transnational corporations into their territory.
In Bolivia, too, Obama failed another important test. On June 30, the Obama administration rejected renewal of the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA) for Bolivia, citing the country’s alleged failure to cooperate in drug eradication efforts.
With this pronouncement, the administration ratified George W. Bush’s decision last November to suspend the trade agreement with Bolivia on the basis of supposed non-cooperation in counter-narcotics operations. In reality, the suspension was one of a series of tit-for-tat moves that began when Bolivian President Evo Morales declared U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg persona non grata after he advised opposition politicians plotting a coup last September.
Bush overrode the decision of Congress to extend the agreement for six months just a few weeks after Morales announced that the Drug Enforcement Agency was no longer welcome in Bolivia. A few months earlier, Morales had supported the decision of coca growers in the Chapare region, where Morales was a union leader before becoming president, to expel the United States Agency for International Development from the area.
- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - -
According to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the law was intended to help Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia “in their fight against drug production and trafficking by expanding their economic alternatives. To this end, the ATPA provided reduced-duty or duty-free treatment to most of these countries’ exports to the United States.” It was renewed in 2002 under the ATPDEA name.
The criteria for continued participation fall into four categories: investment policies, trade policies, counter-narcotics operations and workers’ rights.
While the decision cited Bolivia’s supposed failure to meet its counter-narcotics commitments as the reason for non-renewal, it is clear from the text of the U.S. Trade Representative’s report that Bolivia had offended the U.S. in other areas as well. The report cites Bolivia’s nationalization of hydrocarbons, the country’s withdrawal from the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes, a “difficult investment climate,” and increased tariffs. These are described in matter-of-fact language–but it’s clear that the U.S. is none too pleased.
In the area of counter-narcotics, the trade representative’s report claims that the “loss of the DEA presence and its information network has severely diminished Bolivia’s interdiction capacity in both the short and the long term.”
The report concedes that the Bolivian government has “maintained its support for interdiction efforts” and that “interdiction of drugs and precursor chemicals continues to rise,” and that “the Bolivian counter-narcotics police and other CN [counter-narcotics] units have improved coordination effectiveness.” Yet even Bolivia’s success in these efforts is seen as a problem–the U.S. report concludes that Bolivia’s increased drug interdiction is evidence of “increased cocaine production and transshipment.”
While it appears that cocaine production has, in fact, increased in Bolivia, this is being used as an excuse for the U.S. to punish a government that is challenging American interference within its borders.
If the U.S. government was truly concerned with stopping the production and distribution of illegal drugs, and believed that ending trade preference agreements could have such an effect, it would refuse to extend trade preferences to U.S. ally Colombia, a country at the heart of cocaine production.
According to the Andean Information Network, coca production has risen in three of the four Andean countries participating in the ATPDEA: Colombia, Peru and Bolivia. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported that land area under coca cultivation in the region grew by 16 percent from 2006 to 2007. Colombia led the way with a 27 percent increase, while growth in Bolivia was 5 percent and in Peru 4 percent. “Overall, Colombia accounted for 85 percent of the net 24,700 hectare increase region-wide, while Peru accounted for 9 percent and Bolivia for 6 percent,” the UN agency reported.
Despite this region-wide spike in cocaine production, only Bolivia faces non-renewal of trade preferences. The U.S. recently renewed the ATPDEA for Peru and Colombia, and renewed it for Ecuador the same day it denied renewal to Bolivia.
The suspension of preferred trade status as of December 2008 had already led to a 14 percent decline in Bolivian sales to the U.S. and the loss of more than 2,000 jobs in the country’s largest textile exporter. The textile industry had benefited the most from trade preference and is being hit the hardest by its suspension.
According to AmericaEconomic.com, “Bolivian exports to the U.S., in large part due to the ATPDEA, reached $171,920,000 dollars in the first five months of 2008. In the same period in 2009, exports fell 19.5 percent to $138,370,000. The textile industry has protested that the suspension of the ATPDEA will lose the sector close to 9,000 jobs.”
The Agencia de Noticias Fides (ANF) estimates that 46,000 jobs will be lost nationally and between 5,000 and 7,000 businesses will be affected in the department (region) of La Paz alone. The Santa Cruz Chamber of Exporters estimates that exports from its department to the U.S. will decline 60 percent by the end of the year.
- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - -
IN THE lead-up to the decision on ATPDEA, President Morales appealed to the U.S. to renew the agreement, even sending a delegation to the U.S. to make the case. “If President Obama wants to have good relations,” Morales said, “I want to publicly tell him that hopefully he can mend the ways of ex-President Bush.”
When Obama followed Bush’s lead and refused to renew Bolivia’s status as a cooperating government in anti-drug efforts, Morales said the decision was “clearly political.” “I feel deceived by the suspension of the ATPDEA because the Obama government has lied and made slanderous and false accusations against the Bolivian government to suspend the trade preferences,” he told reporters.
So much for the Obama administration’s stated aim of improving relations with Latin America by establishing mutual respect and cooperation. Rather, recent events indicate that Obama is committed to re-establishing U.S. hegemony in the region in order to counter the “pink tide” of center-left governments that have been elected from Central America to the Southern Cone.
Morales put it well:
In the U.S., the appearance of the leaders has changed, but the politics of empire have not. When he told us in Trinidad and Tobago that they are no longer senior and junior partners, President Obama lied to Latin America. Now there is not only a senior partner, there is a patron [boss], a policeman…
They told me not to trust Obama–that the empire is the empire. To those who made this recommendation to me, I thank you. Truly, the empire is the empire. But thankfully, the battle will continue with the consciousness of not only the Bolivian people, but all of the peoples of Latin America.
In a discussion with a New York audience in May, Uruguayan author Eduardo Galleano urged Obama, instead of restoring U.S. “leadership” in the region, to leave Latin America alone. While Obama would win a lot more favor with Latin American governments and populations were he to follow this advice, all signs point to an empire that is gearing up to reassert control in what it has long considered its backyard.
But the increasing consciousness, organization and mobilization of Latin America’s popular classes–there to see on the streets of Honduras in recent weeks–means that the U.S. won’t be able to re-establish hegemony in Latin America without a fight.
Sarah Hines writes from Bolivia
Originally Appeared on Socialistworker.org: http://socialistworker.org/2009/07/22/obamas-latin-america-policy