Peru accused of cover-up after indigenous protest ends in death at Devil's Bend
By Guy Adams in Los Angeles
Demonstrators getting worked-over by the rifle butts and truncheons of Peru's security forces turn out to be the lucky ones, though. Dozens more were shot as they fled. You can see their bullet-ridden bodies, charred by a fire that swept through the scene of the incident, which has since been dubbed "the Amazon's Tiananmen."
The events of Friday, 5 June, when armed police went to clear 2,000 Aguaruna and Wampi Indians from a secluded highway near the town of Bagua Grande, are the subject of a heated political debate. They have sparked international condemnation and thrown Peru's government into crisis.
“I understand that the members of Congress are upset,” said Simon. “But I ask them to understand, to support us not as persons, but as a country, as Peru.”
“It’s better to take a step back in order to take two forward,” said Simon, who until Monday was still using a hard line with indigenous leaders by refusing to pursue talks while the blockades and demonstrations continued. “Some people think that we should call in the army and apply the full weight of the law. But we already have 24 policemen and 9 civilians dead. We don’t want this episode to repeat itself.”
“We always ask the government to guarantee law and order, and that is fine,” said García. “But these people don’t have crowns. They are not first-class citizens, 400,000 natives can’t tell 28 million Peruvians you don’t have the right to come here. No way. That is a serious error, and those who think like that are completely irrational.”
Here and in Iran, we're seeing the globalization of protest politics. It's fueled by the Internet and a growing sense of worldwide connectedness. People upload cellphone photos and post news on Facebook and Twitter. Others march in the streets and demand justice. Savvy spinmeisters label the story another "Chernobyl" or "Tiananmen." Celebrities express support and late-night comedians make jokes.
When a Tiananmen-like incident happens now, people are instantly tuned into it. In this case, the global outrage has thrown the Peruvian government into crisis and forced it to back down from its hard-line position. Not bad for a few hundred Indians with no access to the conventional reins of power.
Too bad nothing like happened with Bush's unjustified invasion of Iraq. But maybe it will in the future. No longer do we have to rely on the mainstream media with its conservative bias toward the status quo--i.e., its backing of government and big business. Now we all can participate in the dissemination of news.
Once again, we see how political protests and pressure can succeed where armed aggression and attacks fail. Your typical terrorist would be smart to throw down his weapons and begin blogging and posting videos online. He'd be a lot more likely to achieve his political aims that way.
Power to the people!
For more on the subject, see Winning Through Nonviolence.