E Mau Ke Ea I Ka ‘Aina I Ka Pono

~E Mau Ke Ea I Ka ‘Aina I Ka Pono~

“The very life of the land and all that nourishes life is protected by the right intentions, the right actions, and the right outcomes of the people.”

And here, I dedicate this post to my home and the very land on which I live. Hawai’i.

Hawaiians are a Pacific Island people. It is said that Hawaiians are the Maoli of Hawai’i, related to the Maohi of Tahiti and the Maori of Aotearoa (New Zealand).

Three Kanaka Maoli leaders share their philosophy of Aloha ‘Aina – to love that which nourishes you. This provides the grounds for a spiritual revitalization and ecological restoration in Hawai’i. Many of these lessons are related to the Taro (Kalo), a sacred food, connected to the cultural practices which can bring about a healing to our (and humanity’s) relationship with our lands. The land and the environment gives what we need to sustain ourselves. The problems facing the deep forests of the Amazon are also problems we are facing right here. The challenges we are facing today, need to be faced right now – our decisions need to be looked at ‘Seven Generation’ into the future.

Taro is the main staple of the Hawaiian people. With the loss of agricultural land here, a huge part of the culture was also taken away. Health here is also declining, our waters are being contaminated, and cancer rates are on the rise. According to studies, Hawai’i has one of the leading rates of prostate and colon cancer in the US in men, and breast cancer in women. Rates of ADD and autism are increasingly on the rise. People do not have access to healthy food here. We’re buying canned foods and sodas.

Having lost the traditional diet, having lost much of the land to grow this sacred food, has created many problems. Reconnecting to the Taro plant is perhaps the spiritual and physical nourishment that people here in Hawai’i need so desperately. Access to land in Hawai’i is difficult. There are not many Taro farmers left in Hawai’i. Access to the mountains, access to gathering foods and medicines, are all being taken away very quickly. Here on our island, the average cost of a home is $600,000. The low-end of the price of agricultural land is approximately $80,000.

Public housing and homelessness is a big problem. With few places to farm and fish, there are many places to buy drugs. The land is for the wealthy, and many communities are being faced with this problem.

There needs to be an increased awareness to the entire community here in Hawai’i. We need to live and work together, to preserve resources for our children, Seven Generations to come.  Harvesting Taro brings about much healing. Not only can our children have the opportunity to work directly with the land, but nutritionally, you can eat the Taro plant from top to bottom. The leaf is high in calcium, and there are medicinal properties to the plant. Pharmaceutical companies are actually trying to capitalize on the Taro’s ability to aid in digestion. Taro is also a starch.

Hawai’i is an isolated island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Yes, 80% of our food is imported and we have little access to healthy food. There are health food stores in Hawai’i, but many are costly, and more few and far between. Education is needed around food production, and schools need to partner with this type of education too. When we make this reconnection to the land, it brings healing to ourselves and to our families.

Broken families are a big problem in Hawai’i. Ice (methamphetamine) is an epidemic problem here and it is tearing families apart. When we bring back traditional farming practices, we see the give and take. The ayni, as they say in Quechua. The land can heal, if we would only listen and give back what it asks of us.

Where I live in Hawai’i, houses sell over a million dollars. Houses along the ocean no longer give people the access to camp and fish. This blame is not being put on anyone in particular, but there clearly needs to be a change. Indigenous Knowledge is key, passed from generation to generation – and much can be learned from it. Yes, foreigners continue to come to these lands and are buying up the whole ahupua’a, turning them into million dollar homes, rather than farming on them like they were meant to be. We need to work together in restoring these places.

Many of the Native Hawaiian people have very few chances of living on their homeland. They live on reservations called Department of Hawaiian Homelands, these are the lands that nobody wanted. Here in Hawai’i, we are not only a human that walks with two feet. We are the wind, the rain, the clouds, the trees, the ocean, the animals, and the plants. All Indigenous Peoples understand this. Hawaiian chants talk about creation, the beginning of life, swirling, and the movement of the universe. There are chants about where water is found – and beauty thinking about people living with the land and water for thousands of years. You listen to the myths, the stories, the songs, the chants.

How do we go back to community building? We cannot let people use racism as a tool to divide the people. It is one world, one nation. How can communities organize to transform the lands, to achieve reforestation in the mountains, bring back the traditional foods, bring back cultural stories and wisdom, bring back a connection to youth, and furthermore, create programs in schools that help bring us closer to this vision?

Kanaka Maoli believe in self-mastery, to know how to survive, to help our families and communities and to self-correct. They are in touch with the cloud zones that bring moisture down to an elevation where food can be cultivated, and the kahakai, the shoreline, where there is so much life from the ponds to the deepest ocean. Every aspect of this has what it needs to sustain life. This is peace.

Before the monetary and colonial systems that were imposed on us, how did people on earth live for the past thousands of years? They related to the natural rhythms of life, the movement of the stars and the ability to see us all as inter-connected. This inter-related connection to all is an electromagnetic field of life around our entire planet, and brings healing to the alienation, contamination, destruction, greed, pollution and poverty that has been created by destroying our earth. This nature is within each and every one of us.

There are the three piko – where the piko at the top of our heads connects us with our ancestors and the cosmos, the abdomen piko connects us to our families and the earth, the genital piko connects us to creation which are our children, the future, and the generations to come. This kulueana, responsibility, is not only of present time – but also of past and future in one space and time continuum. The love of the land here in Hawai’i is so strong that there are the ancestors around us who we call upon, and their mana connects, protects and supports us.

Thousands of years ago, people told stories, which offered knowledge and guidance through genuine connection. This is what connects and unites us, we are related to life of all forms as family.

The awakening that is occurring today is giving us an opening to a greater power. Although we are pushing the earth to her limits, we are also seeing the capacity of people to connect with each other collectively. We are here to consciously communicate with each other and the earth, to know how best to heal ourselves and our home.

“The very life of the land and all that nourishes life is protected by the right intentions, the right actions, and the right outcomes of the people.”

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Puerto Maldonado – Madre de Dios

Madre de Dios - Gold MiningIn light of what has been transpiring in the region, I’m writing about a particular area of the Peruvian Amazon which I visited in the month of October. Puerto Maldonado is a city in Southeastern Peru in the Amazon forest 55 kilometers west of the Bolivian border on the confluence of the Tambopata and Madre de Dios River, a tributary of the Amazon River. It is the capital of the Madre de Dios Region. Manú National Park, Tambopata National Reserve, and Bahuaja-Sonene National Park, which remain some of the most pristine primary rain forests in the world, are found in this region.

The main industries in Puerto Maldonado are logging, gold dredging, Brazil nut collecting, boat building and eco-tourism. This region is virtually logged out; where only one mill remains. There is no more rubber collection. Recent legislation in the European Union put hundreds of Brazil nut collectors out of work. Gold is the next target in the local resource boom where legal placer and dredge mining concessions operate on the region’s rivers. Illegal and highly destructive hydraulic mining also takes place in pirate operations. On November 11, 2009 – Living in Peru.com reported on the mercury poisoning which is also destroying the Madre de Dios jungle region in Peru. Flying over the region of Puno and Madre de Dios, one sees thousands of tonnes of missing soil and forest, after years of intensive and illegal gold mining that has occurred in this region.  Experts say that mercury is the cause of this damage, which is necessary for gold exploitation. It is also a poison that quietly goes unnoticed and damages progressively. Mercury is sold without any control on populations that are located around mining areas of Puno and Madre de Dios. In the last four years the imports of mercury doubled from 75,000 kilos to 132,000 last year.

There’s more. The Interoceanic Highway or Trans-oceanic highway, now under construction, is intended to link the river ports of Brazil with the Pacific coast ports of Peru. The highway is planned to pass through Puerto Maldonado, crossing the Rio Madre de Dios on a 722 meter viaduct. In the greater area around Puerto Maldonado the highway’s route cuts through primary rain forest. Some groups, including the Peruvian NGO Asociación Civil Labor, fear that the road will initiate illegal logging, hunting and settlement in areas not easily reached at present.

Madre de Dios has experienced tremendous challenges in the past two years. In early July 2008, regional government offices in Puerto Maldonado, the regional capital of Madre de Dios, were occupied for three days. Puerto Maldonado was completely paralyzed as FENAMAD, the indigenous Amazonian organization, joined the regional campesino union in launching a strike. Campesino demands for land titles partnered with indigenous demands for territorial rights, along with small miners, Brazil-nut harvesters, Puerto Maldonado moto-taxi drivers in an Alliance of Federations.

Almost the entire Madre de Dios region is divided into hydrocarbon exploration lots. Sapet, a Peruvian venture of China National Petroleum, has a license for Lots 113 and 111. Shell Oil explorations in the mid-1980s took a grave toll in disease on the Yaminahua people in the north of Madre de Dios, who now have a titled community in neighboring Ucuyali region. A decade later, ExxonMobil and Elf began exploration in Lot 78. In addition to hydrocarbons, timber is being massively exploited in Madre de Dios, mostly by Peruvian firms for export to the United States and China. A hydroelectric project is pending on the Río Inambari, with the Brazilian firm Odebrecht likely to get the contract. The Madre de Dios could be a very different place in the years to come, and the indigenous groups fear what all this development will bring to their lands. For more information, go to this article.

So what is transpiring at this moment? According to Peruanista, as of November 6, 2009, there has been an alert that there may be a repeat of Bagua with possible attacks against indigenous peoples in Peru as the Police forces prepare to protect the Hunt Oil project in Peru in the Madre de Dios region.

Bagua largely breezed under the radar of mass media, where in June 2009; Indigenous peoples in Peru went into strike for almost two months protesting free-trade policies that would allow multinational corporations to take over their territories. These decrees, granted to President García by Peru’s congress in 2008 opened the doors for a U.S. free trade agreement that would undo years of previous work in protecting indigenous territorial rights in the rainforest.  This free trade agreement would allow indigenous lands to be excavated for oil drilling, logging, and other forms of resource extraction as never previously seen before.

In June 2009, the government of Peru ordered the National Police to attack the Amazonian Indigenous peoples fighting to protect their land rights from the consequences of this free trade agreement. As a result, civilians were shot from buildings roofs and helicopters, and the casualties from this genocidal attack remain unclear. This protest brought together indigenous leaders from the rainforest, with the highland campesinos, and urban workers, who joined in the protest campaign.

The Peruvian Police is currently preparing to protect the interests of U.S. corporation Hunt Oil and Spain’s Repsol-YPF. The proposed (Camisea) project is to explore and extract oil and natural gas in the state-created Lot 76 concession which includes the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve, and other lands of the Yine, Matsigenka or Amarakaeri and Harakmbut Indigenous communities. Hunt Oil is working on several oil projects around the world. Hunt Oil initially obtained the lease for this project in Peru when former U.S. president George W. Bush visited Lima and met with former Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo. There is great concern of what the implications of this project will be in Peru.

Brazilian state-run energy giant Petrobras confirmed recently that the company has discovered natural gas at a field in the Cusco province. Petrobras has completed drilling the first well in Peru’s Block 58 (Urubamba 1X). There has been drilling to a depth of 4,000 meters. Petrobas holds 100% of this Block 58 concession. Peruvian President Alan Garcia announced recently that Petrobras had made a natural gas discovery containing approximately 5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The company plans on drilling second well at Block 58, (Picha 1X), in 2010, where the Urubamba region will be explored even further. President Alan Garcia also announced that more natural gas was found in the Camisea region, and that this discovery will benefit the people of Peru. Really?

All the while, Indigenous protests in Salvacion are currently being ignored in the same way they were ignored in Bagua before the massacre (which occurred on June 5, 2009) where hundreds of Indigenous people died, including Indigenous police officers. Peruvian labor and Indigenous groups are currently demanding the government to fire its minister of Environment Antonio Brack. Also, the Mining Federation of Peru (FEDEMIN) and the Federación Nativa de Madre de Dios (FENAMAD) have called for a 48 hour national strike on November 16-17, to demand that Minister Brack, who is a strong supporter of mining, oil and natural gas corporations, to step down.

Furthermore, President Garcia and the government tried unsuccessfully to dissolve AIDESEP, the biggest Indigenous organization of the Amazonian communities on Peru.  AIDESEP was the main organizer of the Bagua protests, and they recently made it clear that they would also support Indigenous protests in Salvacion.

We cannot allow what happened in June 2009 to take place again. We cannot allow these multinational corporations to devour these lands for their own benefit. We know what happened in Ecuador, and the public is becoming more and more aware of the consequences of decades of oil drilling in the Northern Ecuadorian Amazon (just watch the movie “Crude”). It is my hope that we can set a worldwide intention to support the people in this region in their efforts to protect their lands. Enough is enough. Too many people have suffered, too much land has been destroyed, too many people have been killed, too many indigenous groups have faced almost extinction, and too much pristine rainforest areas are now cesspools of toxic waste.

For more information on what can be done in taking action, please visit Peruanista’s blog. For a very comprehensive resource of articles relating to the Bagua massacre, please visit Ray Beckerman’s weblink. For information on how important it is that we keep the heart of the Earth (the Amazon) protected, please visit my previous blog post. Awareness and unity is important, and we need to spread the message that what is taking place is an unexamined assumption that must be examined.

The following are more related articles:

Survival International

Green Left Online

World War 4 Report

Living in Peru.com

It’s a Funny Old World

NACLA

Democracy Now – Video – Bagua Massacre

Video: Visiting Oil Contamination in Peru’s Amazon

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Death. Grief. Eternal Life. Dancing Song.

I’ve been thinking about death this past day, mostly spurred by the sudden passing of a beloved sister, friend, and devoted activist.  She touched the hearts of many and was a loving supporter of my work.  I still see her shining spirit as I log onto Facebook and Twitter, and am awed by the thousands of people with whom she offered her constant love.  And so I dedicate this to you, Dancing Song – may your spirit and vision live on through each of us.

♥ August 1948 – October 2009 ♥

On September 14, 2009, she posted a note that touched my heart.  She wrote about a dream she had been working on for over ten years, one that she was striving to bring to fruition. Her dream and passion was to service our indigenous at-risk youth. She had attempted this in several ways, and was still working on a more effective path to accomplishing this goal.  She dreamed of opening a school, but that would take our children away from their families and communities. The intention was pure, but not the most effective.  She dreamed of traveling to communities all over Great Turtle Island (North America), of meeting and talking to local elders and setting up intentional chapters in each community. This required travel which was difficult for her, and although the intention was pure, this was also not the most effective path. In September 2009, she decided to reach out to us via the Internet, to those who hold our communities dear, and to those who wished to heal from within.  This is how I met Dancing Song, how our spirits and intentions merged, and how I come here now on this day to share the message she left behind.

Her mission was to help our at-risk indigenous youth and their families, because, in her words, “healing only one member of a troubled family leaves the others simply twisting in the wind”. She wrote, “When we heal our youth and families we heal our communities …. when we heal our communities we heal our Nations …. when we heal our Nations we heal our Mother Earth”. She hoped to build a network so strong, that the good we do would continue long after anyone remembered her name. Personal glorification was not the goal, service to our fellow humanity and Earth is what mattered most. She spoke of this being an enormous goal, and quoted the Tao Te Ching: “The journey of a thousand steps begins with a single step”.

“Each person,” she wrote, “working from a foundation of love and dedication to our people and their own community ….. doing what they can within each community …. this is what creates miracles and how we make major changes for the good of all.” Elders from everywhere would unite to partner and create an overall plan of how best to serve our people. We would partner with counselors, cultural teachers, spiritual leaders, and administrators in each area to “keep the wheels greased and organize efforts”.  She reminded us that we should leave our egos behind in our efforts, because the good of our people is what continues to be most important.

She asked each of us to help, in any capacity we can – to spread the word, and to forward this message to others who may be interested.  In honor of her, I, too, ask that you continue to keep her vision alive and to share it on your profile pages and networking sites.  In my own personal work and commitment, I will strive to keep her vision alive. I welcome ideas from you all, on how we can come up with effective ways of bringing her vision to fruition.  I am happy to take this cause and commit to it in my own work  – I commit to keeping her spirit alive.

In thinking about the beautiful cycle of life – birth and death – I went back to the book “Broken Open” by Elizabeth Lesser.  She wrote, “..grief is also a tonic. It is a healing elixir, made of tears that lubricate the heart….When a friend or family member dies – or when the world loses one of its beloved citizens – we should not hold back our tears. Our tears, and the calm hands of grief that follow, are not signs of some tragic evil reality….Grief is the proof of our love, a demonstration of how deeply we have allowed another to touch us.”

“So, tell me,” she writes, “what is it we should do with our one wild and precious life? This, indeed, is the question. The answer can only be discovered by living life to its fullest. One day the sun and the earth will tilt out of balance, and the thin-skinned salamander and the furry bear – all of us – will dry up and turn to dust. On another planet, far away from here, on the same day, something mysterious will tip the scales of emptiness in the direction of life, and the story – with all of its magnificent diversity and colorful confusion – will begin anew. Will we meet there again, in some other form?”

We have put together a group in memory and honor of Dancing Song Woman. Please feel free to join if you are on Facebook.

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The jungle, a monkey and me.

The jungle, a monkey and me.Puerto Maldonado, Peru

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Simon and I

Alicia and SimonSimon and I – Kapawi, Achuar Territory, Ecuador

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In blessed unrest

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading. Take down the dulcimer. Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kiss the ground. ~Rumi

There are hundreds of ways to kiss the ground.

So much we can do to reduce our impact on our planet. So much we can do to be a change agent towards a socially just, environmentally sustainable, and spiritually fulfilling human presence here on earth. So many options and opportunities to look more deeply at our daily activities that destroy the rainforest and the environment. Share with friends please!

1. In the U.S., we spend 8 months of life opening junk mail. 90 million trees are used each year to provide paper for unwanted mailings. 340,000 garbage trucks are needed to throw out all the junk! Go to http://www.newdream.org/junkmail/grassroots.php

2. Take the clean car pledge and reduce our emissions. http://www.cleancarcampaign.org/

3. Tone it down with the TV! Spend a little more time exploring the outdoors and creating a space to pass the time in a way you never could have imagined.

4. Many household products we use can be harmful for the environment. Learn where you can dispose of household, automotive, kitchen and bathroom products at http://www.cleanup.org.

5. Oil consumption affects the survival of our indigenous partners and the rainforest. Explore alternatives to driving. There are commuting options. http://www.commuterchoice.com/ and a movement for car free cities around the world http://www.carfree.com/

6. Consider some eco-friendly gift ideas for the holidays. http://www.newdream.org/holiday/index.php

7. Simplify your life! Creating a simplicity circle may lessen our carbon footprint. http://www.simplicitycircles.com

8. Eat sustainably and purchase whole foods from family farmers who care about our lands and farm with sustainability. Let’s not support the dominant movement towards genetically modified foods. Buy locally produced food. http://www.biodynamics.com/csa/html

9. Buy fruits and veggies that are in season. Out-of-season produce is costly and requires transportation that uses energy. Buy organic. “100% certified organic” is a little more costly, but cannot contain genetically engineered ingredients and encourages an agriculture that promotes rotating crops, conserving and renewing soil, and protecting water sources.

10. Eat less animals! Animal products (including seafood) can contain hormones, antibiotics, chemicals (like dioxin), DDT, pesticides, PCBs or mercury. Not to mention the horrible things we do to get them on our plate.

11. When you buy paper, consider suppliers that provide Tree-Free, Recycled and Certified paper. http://www.ran.org/ran_campaigns/old_growth/alt_paper.html

12. What are your aspirations? What makes you come alive? Any little step can be one that generates positive change. Need to forgive someone? Need to ask forgiveness? Want to begin a new project or learn something new? Whatever it is that makes you come alive, go do it.

13. Dialogue can be an effective means for initiating change. http://www.turningtooneanother.net/world.html

14. Connect with the earth, the Pachamama. Garden, plant a tree and get your hands dirty. http://www.tree-planting.com/ or http://www.communitygarden.org/links.php

15. Stop listening to all that negative news in the media. Take the time to read about amazing people doing extraordinary things in the world. http://www.yesmagazine.org and http://www.utne.com

16. Use this tool to choose sustainable seafood http://www.environmentaldefense.org/article.cfm?contentid=1822

17. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Take your own bag to the store. Use rechargeable batteries. Reuse bags, jars and containers. Cut down on bottled water and keep your own water bottle handy. When you go to throw something away, think about where “away” is and ask yourself if you can recycle instead.

18. Go solar! http://www.solarbuzz.com

19. Hmmmm….composting is a great way to turn leftovers and waste into rich soil for your plants. http://www.vegweb.com/composting/

20. Support renewable energy! http://www.epa.gov/greenpower/

21. What REALLY goes into all the stuff we buy. Not only do many of us consume more than we need – we also tend to live on the assumption that “if I want it, I need it.” Examine some of those unexamined assumptions and buy environmentally and socially responsible products. Become a conscious consumer. http://www.newdream.org/consumer

22. Turn off your phone.  There is beauty in solitude and silence. It takes courage to meet yourself. Take a walk. If it’s close, don’t drive. Take a break from the media. Regularly create  space in your life that is empty. Feel the power of life being lived around and within. Solitude does not necessarily mean isolation. Find those moments where we come home to ourselves and the very planet on which we live. Become conscious of your individual vitality and your place in the world.

23. Practice the capacity to be solid, calm and without fear. Keep an open mind and listen to others. Let go of resentments and resistance and allow yourself to be who you are without judgment. Keep peace in your heart. Let go of judgments and assumptions. Allow others to have problems with you, and allow others to have problems with each other. Think twice when gossiping and live with love. Be clear about your intentions and take the time to examine your own assumptions. Many of our assumptions are unexamined and have created what we see in our lives and in our world. We are alive at this very moment in time for a specific reason and our potential is enormous. Find like-minded people who share your visions and build community with them. Tell your loved ones how much you love them.  Let go of the petty things in life – this too shall pass, and life is so transient and ephemeral. Connect with the beauty of the cycle of life – with birth, comes death. When you find yourself getting stuck in your head, take a breath and practice going back into your heart. Now is the time to reach out and lend a helping hand, to build community, trust, sharing and openness. And when you think that you alone can’t possibly make a difference, remember, it only takes one fool to create a standing ovation.

In blessed unrest.

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Peru and Blood in the Amazon

Note: This comes via  Maximilian Forte (http://zeroanthropology.net/2009/06/12/the-peruvian-massacre-and-a-socialist-fig-leaf-for-world-capitalism/) and I also really needed to “reproduce” it.

James Petras, in an essay that is being widely reproduced across the web (as it will be here as well), articulates a series of critical points regarding the nature of the Peruvian regime, the political history of President Alan García (profile) and his APRA party (which continues to use grand revolutionary symbols), and its service to the local Euro-Peruvian elites and international capital. As a Latin Americanist with a research records that spans numerous decades, it is worth paying close attention to Dr. Petras’ analysis.

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Peru: Blood Flows in the Amazon

James Petras | June 12th 2009

In early June, Peruvian President Alan García, an ally of US President Barack Obama, ordered armored personnel carriers, helicopter gun-ships and hundreds of heavily armed troops to assault and disperse a peaceful, legal protest organized by members of Peru’s Amazonian indigenous communities protesting the entry of foreign multinational mining companies on their traditional homelands. Dozens of Indians were killed or are missing, scores have been injured and arrested and a number of Peruvian police, held hostage by the indigenous protestors were killed in the assault. President García declared martial law in the region in order to enforce his unilateral and unconstitutional fiat granting of mining exploitation rights to foreign companies, which infringed on the integrity of traditional Amazonian indigenous communal lands.

Alan García is no stranger to government-sponsored massacres. In June 1986, he ordered the military to bomb and shell prisons in the capital holding many hundreds of political prisoners protesting prison conditions – resulting in over 400 known victims. Later obscure mass graves revealed dozens more. This notorious massacre took place while García was hosting a gathering of the so-called ‘Socialist’ International in Lima. His political party, APRA (American Popular Revolutionary Alliance) a member of the ‘International’, was embarrassed by the public display of its ‘national-socialist’ proclivities, before hundreds of European Social Democrat functionaries. Charged with misappropriation of government funds and leaving office with an inflation rate of almost 8,000% in 1990, he agreed to support Presidential candidate Alberto Fujimori in exchange for amnesty. When Fujimori imposed a dictatorship in 1992, García went into self-imposed exile in Colombia and later, France. He returned in 2001 when the statute of limitations on his corruption charges had expired and Fujimori was forced to resign amidst charges of running death squads and spying on his critics. García won the 2006 Presidential elections in a run-off against the pro-Indian nationalist candidate and former Army officer, Ollanta Humala, thanks to financial and media backing by Lima’s rightwing, ethnic European oligarchs and US overseas ‘AID’ agencies.

Back in power, García left no doubt about his political and economic agenda. In October 2007 he announced his strategy of placing foreign multi-national mining companies at the center of his economic ‘development’ program, while justifying the brutal displacement of small producers from communal lands and indigenous villages in the name of ‘modernization’.

García pushed through congressional legislation in line with the US-promoted ‘Free Trade Agreement of the Americas’ or ALCA. Peru was one of only three Latin American nations to support the US proposal. He opened Peru to the unprecedented plunder of its resources, labor, land and markets by the multinationals. In late 2007, García began to award huge tracts of traditional indigenous lands in the Amazon region for exploitation by foreign mining and energy multinationals. This was in violation of a 1969 International Labor Organization-brokered agreement obligating the Peruvian government to consult and negotiate with the indigenous inhabitants over exploitation of their lands and rivers. Under his ‘open door’ policy, the mining sector of the economy expanded rapidly and made huge profits from the record-high world commodity prices and the growing Asian (Chinese) demand for raw materials. The multinational corporations were attracted by Peru’s low corporate taxes and royalty payments and virtually free access to water and cheap government-subsidized electricity rates. The enforcement of environmental regulations was suspended in these ecologically fragile regions, leading to wide-spread contamination of the rivers, ground water, air and soil in the surrounding indigenous communities. Poisons from mining operations led to massive fish kills and rendered the water unfit for drinking. The operations decimated the tropical forests, undermining the livelihood of tens of thousands of villagers engaged in traditional artisan work and subsistence forest gathering and agricultural activities.

The profits of the mining bonanza go primarily to the overseas companies. The García regime distributes state revenues to his supporters among the financial and real estate speculators, luxury goods importers and political cronies in Lima’s enclosed upscale, heavily guarded neighborhoods and exclusive country-clubs. As the profit margins of the multinationals reached an incredible 50% and government revenues exceeded $1 billion US dollars, the indigenous communities lacked paved roads, safe water, basic health services and schools. Worse still, they experienced a rapid deterioration of their everyday lives as the influx of mining capital led to increased prices for basic food and medicine. Even the World Bank in its Annual Report for 2008 and the editors of the Financial Times of London urged the García regime to address the growing discontent and crisis among the indigenous communities. Delegations from the indigenous communities had traveled to Lima to try to establish a dialogue with the President in order to address the degradation of their lands and communities. The delegates were met with closed doors. García maintained that ‘progress and modernity come from the big investments by the multinationals…,(rather than) the poor peasants who haven’t a centavo to invest.’ He interpreted the appeals for peaceful dialogue as a sign of weakness among the indigenous inhabitants of the Amazon and increased his grants of exploitation concessions to foreign MNCs even deeper into the Amazon. He cut off virtually all possibility for dialogue and compromise with the Indian communities.

The Amazonian Indian communities responded by forming the Inter-Ethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (AIDESEP). They held public protests for over 7 weeks culminating in the blocking of two transnational highways. This enraged García, who referred to the protestors as ‘savages and barbarians’ and sent police and military units to suppress the mass action. What García failed to consider was the fact that a significant proportion of indigenous men in these villages had served as rmy conscripts, who fought in the 1995 war against Ecuador while others had been trained in local self-defense community organizations. These combat veterans were not intimidated by state terror and their resistance to the initial police attacks resulted in both police and Indian casualties. García then declared ‘war on the savages’ sending a heavy military force with helicopters and armored troops with orders to ‘shoot to kill’. AIDESEP activists report over one hundred deaths among the indigenous protestors and their families: Indians were murdered in the streets, in their homes and workplaces. The remains of many victims are believed to have been dumped in the ravines and rivers.

Conclusion

The Obama regime has predictably not issued a single word of concern or protest in the face of one of the worst massacres of Peruvian civilians in this decade – perpetrated by one of America’s closest remaining allies in Latin America. García, taking his talking points from the US Ambassador, accused Venezuela and Bolivia of having instigated the Indian ‘uprising’, quoting a letter of support from Bolivia’s President Evo Morales sent to an intercontinental conference of Indian communities held in Lima in May as ‘proof’. Martial law was declared and the entire Amazon region of Peru is being militarized. Meetings are banned and family members are forbidden from searching for their missing relatives.

Throughout Latin America, all the major Indian organizations have expressed their solidarity with the Peruvian indigenous movements. Within Peru, mass social movements, trade unions and human rights groups have organized a general strike on June 11. Fearing the spread of mass protests, El Commercio, the conservative Lima daily, cautioned García to adopt some conciliatory measures to avoid a generalized urban uprising. A one-day truce was declared on June 10, but the Indian organizations refused to end their blockade of the highways unless the García Government rescinds its illegal land grant decrees.

In the meantime, a strange silence hangs over the White House. Our usually garrulous President Obama, so adept at reciting platitudes about diversity and tolerance and praising peace and justice, cannot find a single phrase in his prepared script condemning the massacre of scores of indigenous inhabitants of the Peruvian Amazon. When egregious violations of human rights are committed in Latin America by a US backed client-President following Washington’s formula of ‘free trade’, deregulation of environmental protections and hostility toward anti-imperialist countries (Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador), Obama favors complicity over condemnation.

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