Bagua: Six Years On
8 June 2015
Six years have now passed since the so-called Baguazo on 5 June 2009, but no-one has been brought to justice. On that day, at a place known as the Curva del Diablo just north of Bagua, the capital of Amazonas region, 33 people lost their lives in a confrontation between locals and the police force, 23 of the them members of the police force.
The Baguazo has become an emblematic event in the conflictive history of relations between the state and indigenous groups opposed to the indiscriminate use of their territories for the extraction of oil and gas. Both policemen’s families and indigenous groupings demand that justice be done, not just those immediately responsible but those politicians whose actions provoked the conflict in the first place.
Those in the firing line include former president Alan García and two of his ministers, Mercedes Cabanillas (interior minister at the time) and Mercedes Aráoz. Also criticised is the prime minister at the time, Yehude Simón. Families of the policemen killed have now lodged charges against García, Cabanillas and Araoz with the public prosecutor’s office (Fiscalía de la Nación). A parliamentary commission also argued that these figures were criminally liable for what happed at the Curva del Diablo.
According to Augusto Alvarez Rodrich, an influential journalist, the Baguazo and the failure to attribute responsibility typifies the lack of understanding in official circles of the realities of Peruvians living far from the capital. “Six years later”, he writes “the distrust of people in the area continues, especially the feeling among citizens [there] that norms are issued from Lima with regard to their territories that modify their way of life without them being consulted or taken into account”.
The confrontation near Bagua followed close on the heels of attempts by the García government to make it easier for investors in the oil and gas industry to appropriate indigenous lands. García later vetoed legislation that attempted to make consultation mandatory. He argued that indigenous peoples were standing in the way of national progress.