Portland Has Ties to Massacre in the Amazon

July 22, 2009

Area College Student’s Relatives Shot for Opposing Free Trade Agreement
Relatives of Local Student Killed in Massacre of Indigenous Protesters in Peru’s Amazon; Portland Congressman Asked to Intervene to Help Prevent Further Bloodshed

PORTLAND — Two Peruvian exchange students who lost family and community members in a massacre of indigenous protesters resisting implementation of the U.S.-Peru Free Trade Agreement in the Amazon last month today called on Portland Congressman Earl Blumenauer to publicly renounce violence conducted in the name of free trade.

Mount Hood Community College student Ronal Huaje Wampuch delivered a letter to Blumenauer’s office on behalf of his community and his classmate Wilmer Dalmace Timias Chup, who lost his father and uncle in the attack. The letter urged the Congressman to ask the Obama Administration to contact the Peruvian government to put an end to the killing.

“For indigenous people, our natural resources are everything. If they take away our natural resources, they will kill our people and our communities,” said Huaje Wampuch. “I hope that Mr. Blumenauer will acknowledge the widespread damage caused by the trade agreement, and that he will ask the Obama Administration to contact the Peruvian government and urge them to stop the killing — and stop this form of economic development that is killing my people.”

Wilmer Dalmace Timias Chup’s father and uncle were two of approximately 2,000 Wampi and Aguaruna indigenous people who had been peacefully blockading a road for weeks near the town of Bagua, Peru to protest controversial decrees by Peruvian President Alan Garcia that would have implemented the U.S.-Peru Free Trade Agreement by opening 45 million hectares of Amazon rainforest to new foreign development.

The Peruvian government attacked the demonstration with tear gas and gunfire in the predawn hours of June 5th, killing over 50 demonstrators. Indigenous groups accuse the police of dumping bodies in a river to hide the true number dead, and say that hundreds of demonstrators are still missing.

“While the violence in Peru seems to have subsided for the moment, the issues behind that violence have not. The Obama administration needs to communicate to the Peruvian government that killing in the name of increased trade will not be tolerated,” said Shizuko Hashimoto, coordinator of the Portland Central America Solidarity Committee, whose members signed the letter that Huaje Wampuch delivered. “One lesson that should be taken from this tragedy is that the Peru trade deal is an inappropriate and insufficient model for future trade agreements.”

Blumenauer was one of the architects of a deal that allowed the Bush-negotiated Peru Free Trade Agreement to pass a Democratically-controlled Congress in late 2007.

In exchange for adding some basic labor and environmental provisions to the pact, Blumenauer and a minority of other House Democrats joined with the Republicans to approve the trade agreement over the objections of many in the Democratic Caucus. At the time, Blumenauer said, “The U.S.-Peru FTA marks a new threshold for international labor and environmental standards, setting the standard for all future trade deals.”

“‘Free trade’ in Peru has meant nothing but rip-and-ship resource extraction that runs roughshod over communities, democracy and the environment. Congressman Blumenauer is known as a champion of sustainable development, but in supporting the Peru Free Trade Agreement and trade deals like it, he is promoting a type of development that is destroying some of the most biodiverse and ecologically-critical places left on Earth,” said Arthur Stamoulis, director of the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign. “I hope the Congressman will recognize that you can support increased trade without advocating for the failed trade model of the past.”

Jose Angel Pena Nivia, as representative of Colombia’s General Confederation of Work (Confederation General del Trabajo – CGT) and president of SINTRAUNIONBRA Bogota, joined Huaje Wampuch in delivering the letter to Blumenauer. Pena is currently visiting Portland as part of a program designed to educate American union members about the violence being committee against Colombian labor leaders and the reasons why human rights advocates oppose the Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

“I am glad that Mr. Blumenauer has opposed the pending U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement on human rights grounds — especially in Colombia, where there is a high number of labor leaders assassinated, and what is worst, the destruction of the union organizations,” said Pena. “What the Congressman and others need to understand is that the basic model of trade represented in these free trade deals violates workers’ rights everywhere.”

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