Peru: Inter-ethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (Asociación Interétnica de Desarrollo de la Selva Peruana, AIDESEP)
According to the most recent census conducted by the national statistics institute (INEI), 1,786 indigenous communities dwell in Peru. The country’s most populous indigenous peoples are the Aymara and Quechua from Peru’s highlands. Approximately 65 different indigenous peoples comprising over 300,000 people live in the Amazon region. Each people has its own language, traditions, culture and life philosophies.
Although Peru has signed the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Convention No.169, the government headed by President Fujimori has actually taken steps in the opposite direction. The indigenous peoples have the right to negotiate with the companies wishing to exploit the natural resources in their areas, but it is ultimately the government who decides in cases of doubt. In addition to the disputes with oil and mining companies, indigenous peoples have also been victims of the war between the Maoist “Shining Path” (Sendero Luminoso) underground movement and the army. In the Peruvian Amazon region, supplies of oil, natural gas, timber and mineral ores are plentiful.
The current government headed by social democratic president Alan García is planning to allow multinational companies including oil corporations to set up shop in the indigenous populations’ territories. This plan is underpinned by recently enacted decrees. The habitat of rare species of animals and plants as well as the living space of the indigenous peoples would thus be destroyed.
In 2009, indigenous people protested against the decree law, which allows for legal expropriation of their land and destruction of the rainforests through oil exploitation. They demand their right to independent and sustainable development.
They reinforced their demands by blockading roads and rivers, and occupying oil and natural gas production stations, whereupon the government declared a state of emergency in several areas. The blockades were then prevented forcibly through military intervention. Between 30 and 50 people died during the protests.
53 regional and local organisations from the Amazon region have joined forces within the Inter-ethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (Asociación Interétnica de Desarrollo de la Selva Peruana, AIDESEP), which was established in 1980. It represents over 1,340 communities and thus some 350,000 indigenous people from the region. AIDESEP is committed to indigenous rights and the recognition of territories at the national level. Their goals include:
- Representing the interests of all indigenous peoples of Amazonia
- Preserving and developing the cultural identity, their territories and the values of each indigenous people in the Amazon region
- Reinforcing the self-determination of the indigenous peoples within the framework of Peruvian and international law
- Consolidating human and sustainable development
Text updated: Maryhen Jiménez (April 2010)