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Peru congress suspends controversial indigenous land laws

[JURIST] The Peruvian Congress [official website, in Spanish] voted Wednesday to suspend controversial land laws [press release, in Spanish] for 90 days, in an effort to quell indigenous protests that led to a violent clash [NACLA backgrounder; El Pais report, in Spanish] last week when police attempted to disperse groups blocking access routes. Peruvian Prime Minister Yehude Simon [official profile, in Spanish] announced [press release, in Spanish] Thursday that negotiations with indigenous groups over the controversial land usage laws pertaining to the Amazon region will continue without the largest indigenous organization. Simon said that the Dialogue Committee will proceed instead with only local indigenous leaders to review legislative decree 1090, the Forest and Wild Fauna Law [text, PDF, in Spanish] and legislative decree 1064, establishing the legal framework for agricultural land usage [text, PDF, in Spanish]. The organization excluded from negotiations, the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Jungle (AIDESEP) [advocacy website], represents more than 60 tribes and more than 1300 communities of indigenous people. AIDESEP charges that the laws violate the International Labor Organization Convention No. 169, to which Peru is subscribed, and which stipulates in Article 6 that governments must, "[c]onsult the peoples concerned, through appropriate procedures and in particular through their representative institutions, whenever consideration is being given to legislative or administrative measures which may affect them directly." AIDESEP leader Alberto Pizango faces an order of arrest [Reuters report] for charges accusing him of responsibility for the violent protests, and is currently awaiting safe transfer at the Nicaraguan embassy as he has been granted asylum by the Nicaraguan government. The Office of the Public Defender has challenged the constitutionality [press release, PDF, in Spanish] of legislative decree 1064 in the Constitutional Court [official website, in Spanish], and has published its own report [text, PDF, in Spanish] on the Bagua incident.

Peruvian President Alan Garcia [official website, in Spanish] decreed the controversial laws under powers to implement a free trade agreement with the US. The laws would open Amazon land to development by international companies. In November 2008, Simon declared a state of emergency [JURIST news report] when violence broke out amidst indigenous protests over a new law reducing revenue to the province from local mining operations. In August 2008, protests over a controversial law [JURIST report] that reduced the majority by which a tribe must agree to sell communal land to oil and natural gas companies led the Peruvian government to declare a state of emergency over widespread indigenous protests.

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