A law that puts isolated indigenous people at risk could be approved in the midst of the crisis in Peru

The right, represented by Keiko Fujimori’s party, insists on reviving a project that was rejected even by the Ombudsman’s Office.

The political crisis in Peru does not stop the desires of the political right in Congress. In recent weeks, despite the upheaval generated after Pedro Castillo’s departure from power, the Fuerza Popular party has promoted a project that could put the isolated indigenous populations of that country at risk.

The objective of the project is to remove the protection of the territories where the Indigenous Peoples in Situation of Isolation and Initial Contact (PIACI) live, which would open the door to exploitation by private or transnational companies, even though they may put the life of people who, by their own decision or external pressures, maintain zero contact with the rest of society.

For the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA), giving the green light to this parliamentary initiative would directly mean “genocide.” According to Explain According to the organization, the strategy of the party led by Keiko Fujimori –the loser of the last elections against Pedro Castillo– is to justify the decision by alleging that the protection of the territories limits “investment and extraction of natural resources from the Amazon”.

In the same way, they attack the Ministry of Culture for the supposed “lax rigor” in the approval of indigenous reserves, arguing that these territorial delimitations put a brake on “the sustainable use of natural resources.” In a few words, the Peruvian right proposes privileging the economic interest over the life of the original populations.

broad rejection

Faced with the danger that lifting the protection of the PIACI lands would entail, the Ombudsman’s Office issued a statement in the middle of this month to reject the eventual approval of that law: “It would be a serious setback“, the agency said.

In addition to ordering their immediate archive, the Ombudsman warned that the bill proposes the transfer of powers from the Ministry of Culture to the Regional Governments (GORE) to define policies on the PIACI, which in his opinion would be an error because “it does not considers their stewardship and specialization” and does not include the participation of indigenous communities.

“[Las] modifications that are intended to be made to Law 28736, Law for the protection of Indigenous Peoples in isolation and initial contact, affect your life and existence“, pointed out the Ombudsman, who stressed that its approval would imply a breach of national and international Human Rights obligations.

Currently various organizations estimate that some 7,000 people make up the PIACI in the Peruvian Amazon, scattered in at least 20 towns, and their protection is protected by international treaties to which Peru is a party. Any external incursion into their territories puts their lives at risk, damaging a fundamental right enshrined in the Constitution and in the American Convention on Human Rights (ACHR).

“PL 3518-2022-CR does create conditions that will not only prevent a dignified existence, but also will generate the death of our PIACI brothers and sisters“, insists COICA.

The organization lists several of the reasons for opposing the project, including: that it promotes ethnocide and genocide of isolated peoples, that it imposes contact with these populations under the argument of “scientific rigor”, that it suppresses the participation of indigenous populations in decision-making and that it leaves a group that lives in properties “not yet recognized and in the process of recognition and categorization” unprotected.

Who wins and who loses?

On the front side, those interested in the law passing through the filters of Congress and being promulgated would be the right and the business sectors. According to Guardianthere’s a powerful bosses bloc in the Loreto region who is currently financing a campaign to deny the existence of isolated peoples.

With pieces broadcast on local television, social networks and public events, this conglomerate of companies calling itself Loreto’s Sustainable Development Coordinator intends to erode the rights of these indigenous populations in northern Peru, not only denying their existence but also stigmatizing them as a ” obstacle” to the economic development of the Amazon.

This group, which apparently has the support of the regional government, tries to encourage the exploitation of resources such as wood and oil, while promoting the construction of infrastructure in indigenous reserves.

Business groups from Loreto, in the north of Peru, intend to undermine the rights of these indigenous populations, not only denying their existence but also stigmatizing them as an “obstacle” to the economic development of the Amazon.

Beyond the dangers, clearly warned by indigenous organizations and the Ombudsman itself, the latent risk is that this bill manages to slip through Congresswhile the country is submerged in a political crisis of great dimensions.

Since last December 7, when Pedro Castillo’s failed attempt to dissolve Congress and decree a state of emergency took place, the focus has been on his overthrow, on the massive protests demanding his return to office, on the more than 20 deaths due to repression and in the future of the Government of Dina Boluarte, besieged by instability and questions of legitimacy.

Peru Libre denounces Boluarte before the IACHR for deaths in protests

It is in the context of this convulsion that, in a silent way, the conservative sectors of Peru take the opportunity to give a push to a project, which had previously been rejected by the Ministry of Culture.

Legislator Jorge Morante, from Fuerza Popular, is the visible face of the initiative, which was launched a few months after the governor of Loreto, Elisbán Ochoa, send to a letter to deny the existence of indigenous peoples in their territory, despite all the existing evidence.

For social organizations, there is only one option: raise their voices to protect those 7,000 wills that make the Amazon their home, before economic interests plunder their lives and silence one of Peru’s most valuable assets.

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