June 18, 2009

The Amazon Tiananmen

Images reveal full horror of 'Amazon's Tiananmen'

Peru accused of cover-up after indigenous protest ends in death at Devil's Bend

By Guy Adams in Los Angeles
First, the police fire tear gas, then rubber bullets. As protesters flee, they move on to live rounds. One man, wearing only a pair of shorts, stops to raise his hands in surrender. He is knocked to the ground and given an extended beating by eight policemen in black body-armour and helmets.

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.
Peru Government adopts conciliatory tone after Amazon clashesIn a conciliatory move, after two months of telling indigenous communities that the government would not review legislation aimed to open up the Peruvian Amazon to more foreign investment, Peru’s Premier Yehude Simon asked Congress to repeal the controversial decrees by June 18.

“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.”
Meanwhile, President Garcia continues to malign Native people:“These natives are genocidal, not the government nor the police,” said García, who accused the indigenous communities of impeding progress by opposing gas and oil exploration on their lands, and blamed their opposition to his plans on “elemental ignorance” and manipulation by outside agitators—widely understood to mean Venezuela and Bolivia.

“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.”
Comment:  Ignorant, irrational, genocidal...all words that apply to a Westerner's impression of savage Indians who dare to fight back.

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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Apparently "genocidal" means "surviving".

(To be fair, nobody in the 19th century called Indians genocidal. But if the word existed, they would've used it.)