Sunday, May 17, 2009

Taking back the river

Peru's Amazon protesters withdraw insurgency call

LIMA, Peru (AP) — Indigenous groups protesting laws opening Peru's Amazon to oil and natural resource development said Saturday they would withdraw a call for an insurgency against the government, but vowed to press ahead with their protests.

Indian leader Alberto Pizango said the government misinterpreted the use of the term insurgency in his group's declaration on Friday, and "for that reason we are withdrawing it."

"But the mobilization of the Amazon people will continue within the rule of law," said the president of the Inter-ethnic Association for the Development of Peru's Jungle, which leads a movement that has blocked roads, waterways and a state oil pipeline since April.

The government had warned that anyone participating in an uprising could be charged with sedition. On Saturday, it authorized the armed forces to support police in quelling protests and guaranteeing services in five Amazon provinces.

The protests, against decrees aligning Peruvian law with a free-trade deal with the United States, have affected production at oil wells owned by Argentina's Pluspetrol, French-English Perenco, Petroperu and Talisman.

President Alan Garcia defended the laws as needed to help impoverished Peru develop.

"We have to understand that when there are resources like oil, gas, wood ... they don't belong to the group that had the good fortune to be born there, because that would mean that more than half of Peru's territory belongs to a few thousand people," the president said Saturday.

But Amazon groups say the laws would pave their way for their ancestral lands to be taken over by multinational companies.

The protests involve some 30,000 Indians across six provinces.

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