Indigenous protesters have stepped up demonstrations over the Peruvian government’s moves to support energy development in the Amazon rainforest, reports Reuters.
Indigenous groups are angry over the government’s decision to auction vast tracts of the Amazon to oil and gas developers. More than 70 percent of the Peruvian Amazon is now under foreign concession.
Indian groups are concerned that decrees by President Alan Garcia to liberalize foreign land ownership in the Amazon threaten their traditional rights and resources. Some 30,000 demonstrators from more than 60 tribes have blocked roads and waterways across the country.
The government has responded by declaring a state of emergency in the central regions of Loreto, Amazonas, Ucayali and Cuzco, paving the way for military control of these areas. Some fear a harsh crack down in indigenous groups in these regions.
The government maintains that the reforms are needed to boost economic growth in the South American country. Critics say Garcia’ administration is doing a poor job spending and distributing the windfall it has received in recent years from booming commodity exports.
Protests over García’s legislative decrees broke out last August but were quelled when Peru’s Congress voiced support for indigenous rights.
688,000 square kilometers (170 million acres) of the western Amazon is under concession for oil and gas development, according to a new study published in the August 13 edition of the open-access journal PLoS ONE. The results suggest the region, which is considered by scientists to be the most biodiverse on the planet and is home to some of the world’s last uncontacted indigenous groups, is at great risk of environmental degradation.