Peru's Amazon Indians Warn of Renewed Protests

Peruvian Amazon Indian leaders are warning of renewed protests, alleging Friday that the government has not honored promises made in the aftermath of June violence that left at least 23 police and 10 Indians dead.

Indian leader Salomon Awananch accused the government of blocking the formation of an independent truth commission to investigate the June violence. The government agreed to the comission more than two months ago but has not appointed its representative to the proposed seven person comittee, he said.

Calls to President Alan Garcia's Cabinet chief, who is leading negotiations, were unsuccessful.

Talks "haven't advanced at all. It seems they lack the good will" to resolve the conflict, said Awananch, a member of confederation's national council.

Awananch is a leader of the Awajun people, who suffered 10 deaths during the June 5 government crackdown at an Amazon highway blockade manned by Indians protesting development on their ancestral lands. Twenty-three police were killed in the ensuing violence.

Indians say police opened fire with assault rifles on some 800 protesters bearing spears and rocks, but Garcia's government says Indians with firearms initiated the violence.

More than 100 Indians are charged with murder and rebellion and 17 police have been charged with homicide. Three Indian leaders have taken asylum in Nicaragua. The confederation demands that the government drop the charges.

Awananch said Indian leaders will decide Saturday whether to resume blockades on highways, waterways and oil pumping stations.

Since last year, Indians have opposed 11 pro-investment decrees issued by Garcia under special legislative powers granted by Congress. Congress appealed four of the decrees.

In Peru, the government owns the rights to all subsoil resources. Some 75 percent of the Peruvian Amazon is carved into oil concessions that overlap Indian lands.

The government has pushed back a new round of bidding on oil concessions from July to the end of the year.


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