After a trial lasting over ten years, 53 indigenous and non-indigenous activists and human rights defenders have been absolved for their role in the ‘Baguazo’ massacre of June 2009. At the same time, it has been shown that state ministries have expropriated indigenous lands illegally, while attempts to kick-start consultations over the Block 192 contract are so far inconclusive.
In late January, Judge Susana Castañeda broke the deadlock in the Supreme Court regarding the remaining charges from the verdict ruled in September 2016 by absolving those accused of the remaining charges in the Baguazo case. This brings to an end a trial that has had Awajún and Wampis and their mestizo supporters tied up in court for over a decade.
In the first week of February, anthropologist Alberto Chirif reminded us that one of the consequences of the Baguazo was the repeal of a number of legal norms unfavourable to indigenous peoples, including Legislative Decree 1064. This sought to modify the 1993 constitution which, among other rights, declared indigenous lands and territories imprescriptible (inalienable).
But, according to Chirif, unscrupulous government officials have employed the repealed law to induce community leaders to ‘donate’ community lands to the state for the construction of medical and educational facilities, using the false argument that if they do not agree the infrastructure will not be built. The correct application of the law would involve the communities ceding land to the state in usufruct (the right to enjoy the use and advantages of another’s property short of the destruction or waste of its substance), thus maintaining their right to the land and territory as traditional owners.
Then, on 22 and 23 January, a meeting in the José Olaya community between the representatives of 16 indigenous communities in Block 192 and officials from Perupetro, the ministries of Energy and Mines, Culture and the Environment, and the Prime Minister’s Office was intended to kick-start the consultation process prior to the renewal of the concession to extract oil. This had to be suspended due to the non-attendance of the vice-minister responsible for hydrocarbons.
The presidents of four indigenous federations from the Pastaza, Marañón, Tigre and Corrientes river valleys were to travel to Lima during the second week of February to meet with representatives of a number of ministries and state entities. Among the numerous issues to be raised was the implications of a decree, published 24 January, which specifies that the National Environmental Fund (FONAM) will be absorbed into PROFONANPE. PROFONANPE is a not-for-profit private entity of public interest specialising in raising and managing financial resources to implement programmes and projects that contribute to biodiversity conservation, mitigation and adaptation to climate change.
The environmental remediation trust fund, in which indigenous groups participate and which administers through FONAM the funds to remedy the environmental damages on Block 192 caused by oil exploration and exploitation, will be affected by this measure. It may involve less monitoring of remediation activities by indigenous peoples and civil society.