According to the New York Times, on Thursday Peru's Congress voted to overturn two measures that would have opened native land to development by outside companies. Indigenous Peruvians claim the land as their own, although they have no formal property titles to prove their assertions.
Here's an excerpt from Simon Romero's NY Times article:
After the vote on Thursday, however, some indigenous leaders said they would lift the scattered blockades and halt the protests.
“Today is a historic day for all indigenous people and for the nation of Peru,” said Daysi Zapata, a leader of the Peruvian Jungle Inter-Ethnic Development Association, a group representing more than 300,000 people from Peru’s indigenous groups.
The apparent end to the impasse came after at least 24 police officers and 10 civilians were killed in clashes and acts of retaliation in northern Bagua Province, some of Peru’s bloodiest political violence since a two-decade war ended in 2000.
Frustrated by the government's refusal to bend on the issue, indigenous groups had taken to the streets, protesting and blocking roads in some parts of the country. The standoff turned ugly at the beginning of June, when police reportedly attacked a northwest Peru roadblock. Police say that more than 30 people died during the showdown, while indigenous groups estimate the number at 100+.
I had an interesting chat with Nathan a few days ago about the situation in Peru. He shared with me how many believe that lack of property rights is a contributing factor to poverty across the globe. I did a bit of Google research and found this article which details how those without formal property rights have been jipped, again and again, all over the world. Interesting (and thought-provoking!) reading.
As I mentioned last week, we have relationships with several cooperatives in Peru, many of whom are comprised of mostly indigenous people. This latest news can only be a positive for them, although Romero reported that "other disputed decrees...remain in effect, raising the prospect of new protests."
For more information on the situation in Peru, check out this blog post by Elizabeth with the Washington DC Fair Trade Network (note: it appears she was writing before news of the overturned measures had spread). She was in Peru preparing to hike to Macchu Pichu as the situation unfolded. Elizabeth writes about how the Peruvian government's pursuit of free trade policies (as opposed to fair trade) have contributed to the problems.
A final note: my younger sister, Mary Emily, has been in Peru for most of this month working at a Lima orphanage during her summer break. She is fine and has not been affected by the violence, although news of the protests has been everywhere. I think that mostly she has just been grateful for the opportunity to meet and work with precious children who are just in need of someone to love (and hug) them!