Indigenous World 2020: Peru
According to the 2007 Census, there are more than four million Indigenous persons in Perú: 83.11% Quechuas, 10.92% Aymaras, 1.67% Asháninkas and 4.31% belonging to other Amazonian Indigenous Peoples. The Database of Indigenous or Native Peoples (BDPI) notes the existence of 55 Indigenous Peoples at present, who speak 47 Indigenous languages in the country.
On the other hand, 21% of the territory of Peru is covered by mining concessions, which are superimposed upon 47.8% of the territory of the peasant communities. Similarly, 75% of the Peruvian Amazonia is covered by hydrocarbon concessions. The granting of rights to outsiders over communal territories, the enormous pressure exerted by the extractive industries, the absence of territorial zoning and the failure to effectively implement prior consultation, aggravate territorial and social/ environmental conflicts in Peru, a country that has signed and ratified the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention No. 169 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and voted in favor of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in 2007.
In 2019, Peru again endured a year of political convulsion, continuing the trend that has characterised the country since the 2016 elections. The most decisive point occurred on 30 September, when President Martin Vizcarra dissolved the Congress of the Republic.1 The obstructionism of the Fujimori-aligned majority party and the fragmentation of the other political groups made this legislative period one of the most ineffective for the Peruvian parliament in modern history. One topic where debate was left pending in the legislature was the parliamentary ratification of the Escazú Agreement, an international treaty subscribed to by the Government of Peru, which requires Peru to implement a series of protocols for protection and conservation of the environment, with support from the United Nations (UN) and Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).2
Another regional phenomenon that had a national impact in Peru was the Amazon forest fire in mid 2019. Despite having its principal burn points in Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay, it also had a considerable impact on the Amazonian biomass in the Peruvian territory. As a result, issues related to protection and deforestation of the Amazonia resurfaced in the national debate. Illegal mining and illegal logging are two of the extractive activities that have spread most intensely in recent years in the rainforest. According to the National Forest Conservation Program of the Ministry of the Environment (MINAM), in the last two decades Peru has lost an average 123,000 hectares of forest per year, which not only has a direct influence on the propagation of forest fires, but has also impacted Indigenous territories and natural protected areas.
Framework Climate Change Act
The goal at the start of 2019 was to approve the regulation in order to fulfill implementation of the Framework Climate Change Act (LMCC). Peru committed to creating such a regulation after it signed the Paris Agreement in 2015. Nonetheless, the discussion over this issue started to face problems when the “peasant rounds” stated they were being left out by MINAM from the prior consultation process for development of the regulation.3 The explanation offered by MINAM at the time was that the rounds were not comprised of the group of Indigenous organisations registered by the Ministry of Culture. It was with such arbitrary exclusion of the peasant rounds that the discussions, debates and negotiations for the developing regulations under the Framework Climate Change Act commenced in February 2019.
MINAM was in charge of the prior decentralised consultation process with Indigenous organisations, which was not without its faults and logistic difficulties. In mid-July, agreements were reached regarding part of the Indigenous proposals, notably including the creation of the Indigenous Climate Platform (PCI).4 The PCI constitutes an avenue of recognition of the work of the Indigenous Peoples and of their ancestral knowledge in the conservation of biodiversity. It is also in keeping with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The PCI was one of the Indigenous Peoples’ demands in the discussions over the regulation to the Framework Climate Change Act, and its creation was an important victory for the native peoples and an acknowledgement of their role in the fight against climate change.5
With respect to this point, a work group was created in November by MINAM with the aim of setting the functions of the Indigenous Peoples Platform.6 The goals of this group, whose timeline is to work for six months, are to determine the functions and develop a roadmap regulating the participation of Indigenous Peoples in activities for the fight against climate change.
In the weeks thereafter, the negotiation process proceeded to a second phase within the framework of the prior consultation process between the Indigenous organisations and MINAM. After marathon sessions to reach closure, in late August a commitments document was concluded, although not all of the Indigenous demands were incorporated into that document. Among the notable progress made was recognition of Indigenous mechanisms focused on reducing greenhouse gases produced by deforestation and degradation of forests, among them Amazon Indigenous REDD+ (RIA) and Andean-Coastal Indigenous REDD+ (RIAC) as part of the National Forests and Climate Change Strategy. Other commitments were undertaken to ensure legal certainty for lands and territories and other collective rights of the Indigenous or Native Peoples as an enabling condition and the commitment to support Indigenous Peoples’ access to national and international climate funds. A gender-based approach with cultural relevance was also reinforced within the national climate change strategy associated with the Indigenous Climate Platform.7
On January 1, 2020 the final text was published of the regulation to the Framework Climate Change Act, which is undergoing an evaluation by the Indigenous organisations. There are certain issues pending that the government has preferred to regulate once the regulation has been adopted and which will be undergoing negotiations for an agreement in 2020, for example the setting of sanctions related to forest carbon capture (REDD+).
Situation of the Amazonia
As mentioned in the introduction to this chapter, deforestation is one of the principal problems for the Peruvian Amazonia. In addition to forest fires that affected the entire Amazonian biomass in South America, mafias have propagated in recent years that are engaged in illegal mining and illegal logging in regions such as Madre de Dios and Ucayali. Added to that, a new problem arose in the Peruvian rainforest during 2019: The Amazon Waterway (Hidrovía Amazónica) project. This initiative of the Peruvian Government commenced in 2017, under the administration of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, and has continued under the Vizcarra administration. The environmental impact of developing this series of riverway alterations is one of the main concerns for the Indigenous population and civil society in general. According to the concession document that dates back to 2017, dredging activities would be taking place at more than 13 shallow points, which would directly impact the Marañón, Huallaga and Ucayali Rivers. This work, as has been pointed out by the Wildlife Conservation Society, would entail the removal, suction, transportation and unloading of earth and river bottom materials, jeopardising the Amazonian ecosystems.8 Controversy around the project further deepened when irregularities were found in the Environmental Impact Study, such as failure to take the legal framework into account that protects Indigenous communities, as well as a series of inconsistencies regarding cultural and environmental impact, in violation of the commitment signed by the Peruvian State when it subscribed to ILO Convention 169.9 Even the Ministry of Transportation and Communications itself issued observations matching those of the report of the National Service for Natural Areas Protected by the State (SERNANP). In fact, the ministry admitted that the dredging work would negatively impact the Amazonian ecosystem and Indigenous Peoples.10
The controversial Amazon Waterway is a project that the Government of Peru and Parliament sought to impose, with support from certain legislators of the Fujimori aligned party, such as Carlos Tubino, the former representative of Ucayali, who always promoted this project. But the project started to take a favourable turn for Indigenous demands in mid-December, when the consortium in charge of the project’s construction, Cohidro, notified the Ministry of Transportation and Communications that it would not go ahead with the project.11 According to the official version issued by the consortium, it decided to halt the work due to negligence on the part of the Peruvian State, although in reality and in parallel, Indigenous organisations at all times criticised the negative impact of constructing such a waterway system in the Amazonia. Even so, the Vizcarra government announced that it would persist with the project in 2020.
This was not the only problem that plagued the Peruvian rainforest in 2019. In February 2019, a Supreme Degree was issued with the objective of conducting an urgent intervention in the fight against illegal mining and human trafficking in the Madre de Dios region, near the border with Brazil, given that these crimes have propagated in the southern rainforest of Peru ever since the Interoceanic highway was built.12 Based on that decree, a series of police and military operations were conducted that broke up human trafficking bands, most of which involved encampments of illegal miners. The largest of these operations, Operation Mercurio 2019, targeted the illegal mining corridor known as La Pampa, which affected the buffer zone of the Tambopata National Reserve. Subsequent to these actions and the intervention by the military forces in the zone, it was reported in August 2019 that deforestation in La Pampa went down by 92% in comparison to 2018 rates.13 Nonetheless, the problems in Madre de Dios associated with illegal mining continue. In late 2019 many miner encampments dislodged under Operation Mercurio moved to Indigenous territories on the outskirts of the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve,14 an ancestral territory of the Harakbut people that was considered to be threatened by the arrival of the mining and human trafficking mafias as 2020 approached.
Finally, one of the greatest concerns for Indigenous communities of the Amazonia in Peru and throughout Latin America is the murder of community leaders and defenders, which, in recent years, is on the rise. In 2019 one of the most emblematic cases in Peru was the murder of 22-year old Cristian Java, who was killed in the area of the La Petrolera native community in Loreto. The crime, which has yet to be solved, occurred in April in the midst of a series of confrontations between the Indigenous communities of Loreto and a number of invader groups engaged in illegal logging. Specifically, Java, who belonged to the Kukama and Urarina ethnic groups, was murdered while conducting his environmental monitoring work in the zone.15 A few days after this crime occurred, the Ministry of Justice adopted a protection protocol for human rights defenders, which includes protection for Indigenous leaders and environmental defenders.16 Yet the protection of activists continues to be one of the great pending issues in the Amazonia.
The Mountains, mining and protests
The Peruvian mountains became the scene of a mining conflict in 2019 that resulted in several levels of talks. The controversy revolved around the Las Bambas mining project, located in the peasant community of Fuerabamba, in the Apurímac region. Following the regional paro (extended protest mobilisation) and the trial against the community leaders of Fuerabamba in 2018, talks tensely resumed in March 2019, although the impasse remained the same: prior consultation. Since Fuerabamba was not included in the database of Indigenous Peoples of the Vice Ministry of Interculturality, the consortium led by the MMG Group, the administrators of the Las Bambas project, claimed there was no need for a prior consultation process in order to expand the project and use the roads that, in multiple spans, run through the communal territory.17 This conflict once again unveiled the fragility of the Prior Consultation Act and its implementation.
Another of the demands that refuelled this conflict throughout 2019 was the demand by community members that the MMG Group accepts responsibility for the environmental liabilities generated by the extractive activities of the Las Bambas project, whose operations commenced in 2015. Discrepancies noted by the Fuerabamba community in the environmental report of the Environmental Evaluation and Oversight Entity (OEFA) created the possibility of a new regional paro in October 2019.18 Two other problems evidenced in the course of the conflict in Fuerabamba were the criminalisation of protest and privatisation of the police service.
The first confrontation over the Las Bambas project occurred in 2015, when the MMG Group unilaterally modified the concession’s Environmental Impact Study. Police intervened harshly in the protest and confrontation and arrested 21 community members. Nineteen of the arrested community members were prosecuted in the Cotabambas provincial court, which was interpreted as a clear act of criminalising protest given that the community members were protesting in defence of the use of their territory. After four years of administrative proceedings, the oral trial against the 19 community members commenced in May 2019 in a court case whose irregularities have been criticised within Peru and abroad.19 The criminalisation of protest continues to be a pending issue at a national level and will be one more challenge for the new Congress in 2020. In reaction to the trial against the community members, the Nuevo Peru delegation of the dissolved legislature introduced two bills in May.20 The first sought to create a legal framework of protection in favour of rights defenders and to prevent the criminalisation of protest. The second had the specific objective of granting amnesty to the Fuerabamba community members who are being prosecuted in Apurímac and of counteracting MMG Group personnel who are calling for restitution to be ordered under civil law.
Another major problem involving this case involves the agreements signed between the mining company and the National Police of Peru. In the past 25 years, more than 150 agreements have been signed between extractive companies and the police, which has created a growing scenario of privatisation and police repression. The case of the Las Bambas project, where there was also such an agreement, is another clear example. Due to that, the Legal Defence Institute, alongside other human rights defence organisations, have filed a series of lawsuits against this type of agreement.21 In mid-2019 at least three of these lawsuits had already reached the Constitutional Court, where the constitutionality of this type of agreement has to be decided. These cases, however, have yet to be processed. After the Congress was dissolved, and in the midst of a controversy over the reinstatement of the members of the Constitutional Court, that court’s caseload has focused, among other things, on determining the constitutionality of President Vizcarra’s shutdown of Congress.
Another mining project over which conflicts have dragged on for several years is Tia María, located in the southern mountainous zone of Peru. Subsequent to a series of confrontations between the farmers of Valle del Tambo in Arequipa, who are the principal stakeholders adversely affected by this mining project, the Mining Council of the Ministry of Energy and Mines granted a license in October for construction of the mining project’s installations.22 Opposition to the project was immediate and led to conflict. In the midst of this conflict, soon after it became acute, President Vizcarra had to intervene to halt the project once more in November 2019. He announced that the project would not be executed unless it received the social approval license from local residents.23 For now the project license has been suspended. Yet in 2020 uncertainty will continue, since the Southern Copper Corporation is insisting upon the project’s viability.
Coast and sea
For the Peruvian coastal region, the El Niño climate pattern is a recurring threat, though it did not manifest itself as drastically in 2019 as it had in 2017. However, a suitable territorial governance response and the handling of farmer debt due to weather continue to be the main pending issues. In February 2019 the National Meteorology and Hydrography Service (SENAMHI) announced that a “mild” El Niño had occurred.24 During the South Pacific Ocean summer only a few areas of the Peruvian coast were affected by rain, particularly, Chiclayo, the capital of the Lambayeque region, which was affected the harshest by flooding, though without loss of life. Nonetheless, the then Prime Minister Cesar Villanueva recognised that Peru was not prepared to handle a more severe El Niño,25 thus evidencing the lack of preventive work.
In relation to the 2017 El Niño, reconstruction works continue in the cities of the Peruvian north. The city most affected at the time was Piura, which still has many projects pending. In late-2019, President Vizcarra visited this zone and offered to continue this work,26 but in late December there were floods in parts of the Piura province, which foretells complications for the region’s summer.27 Such news throughout 2019 serves as a reminder that much remains to be done for the adoption of a National Territorial Zoning Act. This is a historical debt of the Congress of the Republic undertaken to fulfill the goals of the multi-sectoral commission in charge of the National Study of the “El Niño” Phenomenon,28 which was in charge of producing the scientific documents in support of territorial zoning and preventing natural disasters associated with El Niño.
Finally, one zone that has received the least attention when it comes to developing environmental legislation, but that has been the most affected by extractive activities, is the national waters of the Peruvian coast. The most significant announcement made in 2019 regarding this issue was that of Minister of the Environment Fabiola Muñoz who called for the creation of the “Grau Tropical Sea” National Reserve.29 Although this designation has yet to become official, if it does, then the marine areas of Tumbes and Piura would be protected, not only against illegal fishing, but also against hydrocarbon extractive activities that harm marine ecosystems in the Pacific Ocean. The creation of another protected area – El Dorsal de Nazca, on the coast of the Ica region – has likewise been announced, with a planned implementation somewhere between 2020 and 2021.30 The creation of these protected areas would turn these zones into areas protected against extractive activities and earmarked for the conservation of biodiversity and research.
Notes and references
- Video: El Presidente Vizcarra anuncia disolución constitucional del Congreso. September 30, 2019: https://andina.pe/agencia/video-presidente-vizcarra- anuncia-disolucion-constitucional-del-congreso-48535.aspx
- Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) “Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation, Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the ” Consulted on 14 February 2020: https://www.cepal.org/es/acuerdodeescazu [Available in English at: https://repositorio.cepal.org/bitstream/handle/11362/43583/1/ S1800428_en.pdf.
- “Desconocen a rondas como indígenas y les niegan derecho a la consulta.” Servindi, 11 February 2019: https://www.servindi.org/actualidad- noticias/11/02/2019/minam-niega-cunarc-p-participar-del-proceso-de- consulta-previa-del
- “Perú será el primer país del mundo en contar con una Plataforma Climática Indígena.” Andina, 12 July 2019: https://andina.pe/agencia/noticia-peru-sera- primer-pais-del-mundo-contar-una-plataforma-climatica-indigena-758475. aspx
- “¡Triunfo indígena!: Aprueban PCI, pero faltan aprobar más ” Servindi, 13 July 2019: https://www.servindi.org/13/07/2019/aprueban- plataforma-climatica-pero-faltan-aprobar-mas-propuestas-indigenas
- “Crean grupo de trabajo sobre Plataforma Climática Indígena.” Servindi, 23 November 2019: https://www.servindi.org/actualidad-noticias/22/11/2019/ conforman-grupo-de-trabajo-para-disenar-la-conformacion-de-la
- “Pueblos Indígenas Logran la Incorporación de Propuestas Claves para la Acción Climática.” Interethnic Association for Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (AIDESEP), 24 August 2019: http://www.aidesep.org.pe/noticias/ pueblos-indigenas-logran-la-incorporacion-de-propuestas-claves-para-la- accion-climatica
- Alonso, J. “Hidrovía Amazónica, una amenaza para Perú y el planeta.” Deutsche Welle, 15 December 2019: https://www.dw.com/es/hidrov%C3%ADa- amaz%C3%B3nica-una-amenaza-para-per%C3%BA-y-el-planeta/a-51679653
- “EIA de Hidrovía incumple estándares jurídicos obligatorios.” Servindi, 11 November 2019: https://www.serveei.org/actualidad-noticias/11/11/2019/eia-de- hidrovia-incumple-estandares-de-la-corte-idh-y-convenio-169
- “Hasta el MTC encuentra fallas en proyecto Hidrovía Amazónica.” Servindi, 20 September 2019: https://www.servindi.org/20/09/2019/hasta-el-mtc- encuentra-fallas-en-proyecto-hidrovia-amazonica
- “Cae Hidrovía: Cohidro desiste por falta de estudios toxicológicos.” Servindi, 21 December Archived on December 22, 2019: https://web.archive.org/web/20191222013257/https://www.servindi.org/actualidad-noticias/21/12/2019/ hidrovia-amazonica-cohidro-desiste-del-proyecto-ante-senace
- Supreme Decree Declaration of State of Consulted on 14 February 2020 at: https://busquedas.elperuano.pe/normaslegales/declaracion-de- estado-de-emergencia-en-los-distritos-de-madr-decreto-supremo-n-079- 2019-pcm-1762048-4/
- “La deforestación por minería ilegal en La Pampa se redujo en 92%.” Servindi, 6 August 2019: https://www.servindi.org/actualidad-noticias/06/08/2019/la- deforestacion-por-mineria-ilegal-en-la-pampa-se-redujo-en-92
- Reaño, G “Perú: vigilantes comunales enfrentan la minería ilegal en Amarakaeri.” Mongabat Latam, December 4, 2019: https://es.mongabay. com/2019/12/mineria-ilegal-amarakaeri-camanti-amazonia/
- “Loreto: Invasores asesinan joven monitor ” Servindi, 18 April 2019: https://www.servindi.org/actualidad-noticias/18/04/2019/asesinan-joven- monitor-kukama
- Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, Government of Peru. “MINJUSDH aprueba Protocolo para garantizar la protección de personas defensoras de derechos humanos.” 29 April 2019: https://www.gob.pe/institucion/minjus/ noticias/27931-minjusdh-aprueba-protocolo-para-garantizar-la-proteccion- de-personas-defensoras-de-derechos-humanos
- “Comunidades de Chumbivilcas piden consulta previa de vías utilizadas por Las Bambas.” Legal Defense Institute, 18 November 2019: https://idl.org.pe/ comunidades-de-chumbivilcas-piden-consulta-previa-de-vias-utilizadas-por- las-bambas/
- “¿Se aproxima un paro interprovincial en el corredor minero?” Servindi, 9 October 2019: https://www.servindi.org/actualidad-noticias/08/10/2019/se- aproxima-un-paro-interprovincial-en-el-corredor-minero
- “Perú: No a la criminalización de defensores por protestar contra proyecto minero Las Bambas.” International Federation for Human Rights. 25 May 2019: https://www.fidh.org/es/temas/defensores-de-derechos-humanos/ peru-no-a-la-criminalizacion-de-defensores-territoriales-por?var_mode=cal cul&fbclid=IwAR0gA0UjHGWdINwQAdNgJVC8PmkG7h_0Ap22mVYEiIMYhh OVR16-kmvo5PM. [Available in English: “Peru: Stop Criminalizing Land Rights Defenders for Protesting against the Las Bambas Mining Project.” https://www. fidh.org/en/issues/human-rights-defenders/peru-stop-criminalizing-land- rights-defenders-for-protesting-against].
- “Presentan proyecto de ley contra criminalización de la protesta social” Servindi, 6 May 2019: https://www.servindi.org/actualidad-noticias/07/05/2019/ en-edicionpresentan-proyecto-de-ley-contra-la-criminalizacion-de-la
- “¿En qué va el litigio constitucional contra la criminalización de la protesta?” Legal Defense Institute, 18 June 2019: https://idl.org.pe/en-que-va-el-litigio- constitucional-contra-la-criminalizacion-de-la-protesta/?fbclid=IwAR2CwfHg 7bzeaGQf0odnCG478Ibhj-_GaYeKJoB45fJGtb7_U62gvxFPqhM
- “Consejo de Minería confirmó licencia de construcción de Tía María.” Servindi, 30 October 2019: https://www.servindi.org/actualidad-noticias/30/10/2019/ consejo-de-mineria-confirmo-licencia-de-construccion-de-tia-maria
- “Martín Vizcarra: “Mientras no haya condiciones sociales no podrá ejecutarse el proyecto Tía María.” RPP Noticias, 2 November 2019: https://rpp.pe/politica/ gobierno/tia-maria-martin-vizcarra-mientras-no-haya-condiciones-sociales- no-podra-ejecutarse-el-proyecto-minero-noticia-1227832
- “Senamhi: ‘Estamos en un evento de El Niño de nivel ligero,’” RPP Noticias, 15 February 2019: https://rpp.pe/lima/actualidad/senamhi-estamos-en-un- evento-de-el-nino-de-nivel-ligero-noticia-1181076
- “Villanueva: El Perú no está preparado para un fenómeno El Niño como el ocurrido el 2017.” RPP Noticias, 17 February 2019: https://rpp.pe/politica/ gobierno/cesar-villanueva-el-peru-no-esta-preparado-para-un-fenomeno-el- nino-como-el-ocurrido-el-2017-noticia-1181283
- “Presidente Vizcarra: no vamos a parar de trabajar hasta concluir reconstrucción del norte.” Andina, 19 December 2019: https://andina.pe/ agencia/noticia-presidente-vizcarra-no-vamos-a-parar-trabajar-hasta- concluir-reconstruccion-del-norte-778828.aspx
- “Piura: Gobierno anuncia plan de contingencia para hacer frente a ”América TV, 30 December 2019: https://www.americatv.com.pe/noticias/ actualidad/piura-gobierno-anuncia-plan-contingencia-hacer-frente- lluvias-n400948
- National Study on the “El Niño” Phenomenon (ENFEN). Accessed on 14 February2020: http://enfen.gob.pe/
- National Service for Natural Areas Protected by the State (SERNANP, Peru). “Proposal for a Grau Tropical Sea National Reserve.” Accessed in February 2020: https://www.sernanp.gob.pe/reserva-nacional-mar-tropical-de-grau
- “Al Bicentenario se espera contar con dos nuevas áreas protegidas marinas.” Andina, 15 October 2019: https://andina.pe/agencia/noticia-al-bicentenario-se- espera-contar-dos-nuevas-areas-protegidas-marinas-769849.aspx
José Carlos Díaz Zanelli is a journalist, a Servindi collaborator and a PhD Student of Cultural Studies at Rutgers University (New Jersey).
This article is part of the 34th edition of the The Indigenous World, a yearly overview produced by IWGIA that serves to document and report on the developments Indigenous Peoples have experienced. Find The Indigenous World 2020 in full here