On December 10th, International Human Rights Day, GJAE, Peruvian community members, and other activists for climate, trade, and environmental justice and human rights held a demonstration at the Peruvian consulate in solidarity with climate defenders from around the world gathered in Lima for the People's Climate Summit and a mass march to assert a people's climate agenda.
Rallying around the slogan CAMBIEMOS EL SISTEMA, NO EL CLIMA – CHANGE THE SYSTEM, NOT THE CLIMATE!, the New York activists rallied to tell Peruvian President Ollanta Humala to:
- END the repression, violence, killings, and criminal prosecutions of environmental activists and indigenous land defenders fighting logging, extraction, grazing, plantation agribusiness, and industrial pollution.
- grant indigenous communities titles to their lands, and provide the widows of murdered indigenous activists with pensions to support their families.
- stop corporations from destroying Peru's forest and other ecosystems and exacerbating climate change by plundering natural resources for profit.
-end Peru's participation in Trans-Pacific Partnership and Trade in Services Agreement negotiations and cancel free trade agreements already in effect that are threatening the environment and the lives of eco-defenders.
- instead of putting on a show for the world community in Lima, take substantive action to address Peru's role in driving climate change through deforestation and fossil fuel extraction.
Peru's endangered ecosystems continue to be ravaged by the mining, oil, gas, logging, grazing, and plantation agriculture industries and activists in Peru are being murdered as they resist these industries. When Peru hosted this year's U.N. Climate Change Conference, it faced international scrutiny after being ranked as the fourth most dangerous nation for environmental activists in a report by Global Witness, which has received extensive media coverage from the New York Times and other media outlets. From 2002-2013, at least 57 environmental activists were assassinated in Peru – activists opposing landgrabbing and pollution by the logging, mining, and fossil fuel extraction industries.
Communities in Peru are putting their lives on the line fighting ecologically devastating activities and extraction projects like the infamous Conga copper and gold mine in Cajamarca, the Camisea gas pipelines, the Pluspetrol oil field in Lorento, Freeeport McMoRan Copper & Gold’s Cerro Verde mine in Arequipa, Barrick Gold's Pierina mine in the Ancash region, and lawless logging near the Brazilian border – which noted indigenous environmental leader Edwin Chota and three other members of the Ashaninka community were murdered for opposing in September.
Despite new legislation to protect indigenous rights, the Peruvian government has failed take adequate action to curb illegal logging and the murder of anti-logging activists. And environmental activists continue to face violent repression at the hands of police.
To make matters worse, Peru's government recently passed legislation that rolls back forest protections in order to attract new investment – despite new research demonstrating the vital role of Peru's forests in carbon sequestration. According to The Guardian, citing the Carnegie Institute for Science, Peru “stores nearly seven billion metric tons of carbon stocks, mostly in its Amazon rainforest. That’s more than US annual carbon emissions for 2013 which were calculated at 5.38 billion tons.”
President Humala is committed to meeting Peru's energy needs through gas extraction and envisions Peru in a few years becoming a major energy exporter via gas-generated electricity. This is being facilitated by the construction of a new 3.6 billion dollar gas pipeline from the Camisea gas fields that will tear through forests and communities, threaten the spread of disease by bringing workers in proximity with uncontacted communities, and commit Peru to a fossil fuel economy for the long term.
The pipeline is already claiming lives. According to Peru This Week, “On September 2nd, residents of the Santa Teresa village in Cusco had been protesting the construction of a new gas duct that would cut through some of their lands. Tensions rose between protesters and authorities as the private land owners blocked the road leading to major tourist attraction, Machu Picchu. Jhapet Claysont Huilca Pereira, a 16 year-old protester, was shot and killed by the National Police.” Peru This Week reports that in response to the killing, “The United Nations Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination has issued a statement expressing “concern” about the “disproportionate use of force” against indigenous protesters in Peru.”
Ironically, as nations gather to address climate change in Lima, Peru, bureaucrats from Peru, the US, and 10 other nations are meeting secretly in Washington DC to continue negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive new trade agreement that will severely exacerbate climate change and further threaten Peru's environment and its defenders.
For Peru, the free trade agenda has already had deadly consequences. In 2007, Congressional Democrats led by Congressman Charlie Rangel collaborated with the Bush administration to pass the US-Peru Free Trade Agreement, despite warnings that the agreement would lead to an increase in human rights and environmental atrocities.
Under the pretext of implementing the agreement, former Peruvian President Garcia issued a legislative degree that would facilitate grabbing of indigenous people's lands by extractive industries. In response indigenous Peruvian communities launched a campaign of resistance, leading President Garcia to declare a state of emergency and send in the national police to crush the resisters, ,resulting in the infamous "BAGUAZO" – the Bagua Massacre, which resulted in the deaths of both indigenous land defenders and police. Currently, 53 indigenous people are being prosecuted in relation to the massacre, but no police have been charged.
The Bagua Massacre was only the beginning of the FTA's attack on Peru's people and environment. Using Peru FTA's investor rights chapter, US corporation Renco Group, owned by billionaire Ira Rennert, is suing the Peruvian government for $800 million for refusing to grant a third extension on remediation at a metal smelter site in La Oroya, Peru owned by Renco subsidiary Doe Run. The smelter has been classified as one of the ten most toxic sites in the world and is poisoning the surrounding community.
President Humala campaigned as an opponent of former President Garcia's push for controversial free trade agreements, but as president is now leading Peru's participation in negotiations for two massive new free trade deals with potentially devastating environmental consequences, the aforementioned TPP as well as the Trade In Services Agreement.
Leaked TPP texts from the secret TPP negotiations reveal the same investor rights provisions being used against Peru in the Doe Run case. However, unlike Peru FTA, TPP lacks even the minimal environmental safeguards built into Peru FTA as a condition for support for that agreement by House Democratic leadership. Environmental provisions in TPP have been described as toothless platitudes rather than enforceable commitments. This is particularly troubling consider that TPP contains both the home countries for many of the world's largest fossil fuel extraction and mining companies – the US, Canada, and Australia – as well as two of the three biggest fossil fuel importing nations - .Japan and the United States, with the world's largest fossil fuel importer, China, likely to join TPP down the line.
Less well known than TPP among US activists, TISA also threatens the environment. According to Public Services International, “The TISA will prevent governments from returning public services to public hands when privatisations fail, restrict domestic regulations on worker safety, limit environmental regulations and consumer protections and regulatory authority in areas such as licensing of health care facilities, power plants, waste disposal and university and school accreditation.”
Please join us in taking action to defend Peru's environment, its defenders, and the fate of our planet!