The Struggle Of The Indigenous And Amazonian Peoples: Peru


No struggle without solidarity!

The struggle of the Indigenous and Amazonian peoples The rubber boom of the late 19th and early 20th centuries came at the expense of the blood of 50,000 indigenous Amazonians. Today, the worthy descendents of the heroism of Juan Santos Atahualpa - the Amazonian people - are rising up against Imperialism and Capitalism and their plan to usurp not only these people's lands, but also their lives and their destinies.

The State is systematically contravening international treaties such as the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples' Convention (Convention No.169 of the International Labour Organisation), which provides for obligatory consultation in advance with indigenous peoples on any planned intervention on their lands, through the appropriate community bodies.

Last year, Amazonian people led a nine-month rebellion, seeking to force the Aprista (Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana) regime to repeal Executive Orders 1015 and 1073 (see http://www.anarkismo.net/article/9576).

In the Peruvian rural regions of Loreto, San Martín, Amazonas, Ucayali, Cuzco and Madre de Dios the war drums are sounding again, calling the people to rebel in an indefinite popular general strike that has been spreading through the countryside and the Amazon regions since 9 April and that has, since 14 may, gone on to become a call to insurgency for the people in struggle.

Faced with this, the government has called a State of Emergency which has already claimed one victim, our Awajun brother Manuel Dekntai, and several arrests.

Legalising the dispossession of the native peoples

Law No.20653, the General Law on Native Communities, which was passed by General Juan Velasco Alvarado's military regime in June 1974, recognised the "legal existence and juridical identity of the indigenous Amazonian people and their territories, declaring them to be inalienable, indefeasible and inviolable". This was confirmed in the 1979 Constitution. However, it was removed at the strike of a pen by the Fujimori Constitution of 1993, to open the way for dispossession and plundering by successive governments, opening the door to the Trade Promotion Agreement (NAFTA) and becoming law following the Executive Orders of the second Aprista government.

So, once again, the Peruvian State has shown itself to be an instrument of domination in the hands of the exploiting classes, who are seeking to continue to expropriate not only the political rights but also the resources of our indigenous (native) peoples who are now rising up in revolt against the oppressor.

As libertarian communists, we declare that the native communities' right to self-determination is the exercising of popular power, based on communitarian principles, the utilization and collective use of natural resources, and on those forms of work and collective benefit that they have traditionally preserved.

In defence of the land and "Pachamama" or "Nugkui"

For the native peoples, whether from the jungles or the Andean region, "the land is our embryo, the origin of the existence of our peoples with out own cultures and identity. If we have no land, we are an indigenous people without life and thus sentenced to extermination".

In the cities, ownership of the land can only be through "title deeds", but for the indigenous people, ownership of the land lies with "mother earth". For the Andeans, it is "Pachamama"; for the Shuar and the Awajun, it is "Nugkui", and so on according to the historical and cultural worldview in each region.

In other words, while each people gives it its own name, the concept of "property" as it is understood in Western society does not exist. Indeed, they consider themselves in some way to be the "children of the earth", which gives them sustenance. Hence, their relationship with the land acquires an almost "sacred" nature. Simply put, the land does not belong to men, it is man who belongs to the land.

In the indigenous Amazonian worldview, for example, "land" covers a "broad concept of integration as a collective benefit in interdependence with nature". "The mountains and waterfalls where our ancestors meditated are inherited as sacred places and they are respected as founts of visions and spiritual strength", as some say. In other words, their relationship with the land that hosts them also conditions their ideological conceptions and their culture.

The State seeks to destroy collectivist nuclei

It is important to denounce the efforts of the official press which is dedicated to misinforming, misrepresenting or hiding the just means that are being attacked in the Peruvian jungle, in collusion with the current neo-liberal government and its leaders - Alan García; the vice-president and retired admiral responsible for the prison massacres during the first Aprista government of the 1980s, Luis Giampietri; the prime minister, Yehude Simon, previously a left-wing leader who had even been imprisoned for his beliefs and who is now the faithful guardian of the Aprista reaction.

For these politicians who control the State under imperialist orders, the path lies through the dispossession of the communities. It is at the same time a plan to destroy their type of social organisation and the relationship that links them to their land, a relationship that in essence clashes with the Western understanding of property and is therefore a brake on the voracity of trans-national Capital which is trying to take root in these zones, usurping them in alliance with the State.

Already the 1993 Constitution of the State repealed the "inalienable, indefeasible and inviolable" nature of the indigenous lands.

This paved the way for the State to declare the lands of the native peoples "negotiable, in accordance with the market economy" by means of executive orders, thus bypassing the legislature.

We must not forget the fact that it was Fujimori's 1993 Constitution that left the door open for dispossession, as mentioned above. So it is clear that work has already begun to suffocate and isolate the communities, for the greed of the multinationals in gaining concessions for oil, gas, mining, tourism and logging in areas traditionally belonging to these peoples.

The Unión Socialista Libertaria believes that the struggle of the indigenous people, Amazonian and Andean, for the defence of their land, their way of organising themselves and their culture, is part of a minimum programme that involves the conquest of the demands of the peoples oppressed by the State, Capitalism and Imperialism.

This minimum platform should be based on the need for or the use of direct action in order to expel the trans-nationals from their lands. This is necessary in order to protect the integrity and sustainability of the region's habitat and ecosystem - which, it should be remembered, is one of the "lungs" of the planet - and in order that there can be sustainable development and planned usage of the flora and fauna, on the basis of criteria established by the communities. Furthermore, there needs to be active self-defence of their lands, which must be restored to their original condition.

True, active solidarity with the indigenous and Amazonian peoples' struggle will take the form of popular protest (agitation, propaganda, union-led strikes and popular strikes, direct action, etc.), to be incorporated into a general platform of struggle based on that of the native peoples.

Support the just protest of the Indigenous and Amazonian peoples

As libertarian communists who expect nothing from the State (other than its destruction), we sympathise with the struggle of the native peoples as an immediate part of a larger project for the liberation of all exploited people, and thus part of a wider strategy or maximum programme of social revolution.

For this reason, we should support demands which in the short term serve to improve living conditions and to enhance their social, political and economic organisation with the aim of facing up to the exploiter State and destroy it from within, building those kernels of popular power which will bring down the giant with the feet of clay that is Capitalism, mortally wounded at a global level by a global crisis from which it cannot recover if, as we want, it is the bourgeoisie that has to pay and not the poor.

Now all that is needed is to put capitalism out of its agony by giving it the coup de grace.

We thus support the struggle of the Amazonian people to seek satisfaction of the following immediate demands from the State:
  • Respect for the autonomy and self-determination of the native communities and their active political participation in the making of decisions. The final decision of whether or not to approve legal regulations or contracts for concessions must be made by means of direct-democratic mechanisms (popular assemblies, referendums, etc.).
  • The repeal of laws that damage or endanger the interests of Native and Rural Communities: repeal of Law No.29317, the Forestry & Wildlife law, which is the product of a forced and partial modification of Executive Order No.1090 (the "Jungle Law") and the related orders 1089, 1064 and 1020. In other words, the 99 Orders that were imposed on the people without any consultation.
  • Benefits and facilities so that native communities or peoples can develop their productive, commercial and industrial activities.
  • Similarly, benefits and facilities for the commencement and promotion of education and culture within the communities (by them and for them). More schools and qualified teachers to promote the education of native students.
  • Greater benefit from oil and gas exploration and extraction to devolve to the native peoples, together with the building of hospitals, roads and all the necessary infrastructure, provided it is approved by the people themselves.

Capitalist property and community holdings

Why is capitalism not only seeking to appropriate the lands and natural resources of our native communities, but also to demolish their traditional organizational forms, based on communitarian and collectivist principles?

Private property serves to separate men, it is the origin of social classes.

But ownership and possession are two completely different things. Possession derives from the use of goods according to the needs of the person or the group, whereas property is concerned with the right of certain persons or groups to these goods at will, in any moment.

Quite rightly, the communitarian form of the possession, management and use of the means of production is more than a right, it is the product of the exercise of popular power that has been built up over the centuries by native peoples.

Popular power has nothing to do with institutions created in direct opposition or by some chance mechanistic deformation of the dialectic: it is a network of social relations in which the criteria of equality, solidarity and fraternity between the members of the exploited classes predominates, in a class war against the exploiters against whom they stand. It seeks their annihilation as a class of oppressors, not only through direct action but also through the construction of a new form of social organisation based on communitarian and federalist principles (free association).

Anarchism takes this concept of power and carries it out through instruments such as federations, assemblies and communities, with the active and continuous exercise of direct democracy as opposed to "bourgeois or representative democracy". We therefore believe that delegating power means centralising it and institutionalising it, in other words turning it into an end, not a service. Our answer to this is to build a popular, libertarian alternative in Peru (of a type discussed above) that ensures a truly multicultural, diverse and solid society.

Respect for the autonomy and self-determination of the native peoples! Long live the struggle of the native communities! Down with the Jungle Law and the privatization of water! Down with the expropriating laws of the State! Against NAFTA - submissive and anti-popular! The jungle is not for sale, it is for protecting! Trans-nationals out! Create and build popular power! Long live those who struggle!

Unión Socialista Libertaria

Translation by FdCA-International Relations Office



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