Open Letter to President Castillo from the Inter-Ethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (AIDESEP)

Peru’s indigenous peoples have sent a strong public letter to Peru’s President, Pedro Castillo, protesting the appointment of the new president of the cabinet, Hector Valer, who has a public trajectory of attacking, insulting and criminalizing indigenous peoples.

In its letter, the Inter-Ethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (AIDESEP) refers to Valer’s recent media interviews, accusing indigenous peoples of intentionally drilling the oil pipelines that cross over the Amazon with no evidence, when, in fact, official Peruvian Government studies document that hundreds of breaks had ocurred due to corrosion, costing hundreds of millions of dollars in repair.

Valer has also accused indigenous peoples of hoarding Amazon land and “blocking development”, ignoring the role that indigenous communities in the world — and in particular in the Amazon — have played for centuries to protect the natural forests for the benefit of the whole humanity. He has therefore proposed to eliminate “communal property”, which is the base for the survival of indigenous communities and indigenous cultures, and turn it into individual property. These views bring us back to the infamous interpretation of the indigenous peoples promoted by Peru’s former president Alan Garcia “Perro del Hortelano” (which could be translated as “The Shepherd’s dog”: a dog who neither eats, nor lets the sheep be eaten) and that ended up in the horrible massacre of the Peruvian town of Bagua in 2009.

In its letter, AIDESEP clarifies that they do not accept this discrimination from the Executive branch, but at the same time reject the ongoing discrimination from Congress. It is important to add that the criticism from AIDESEP against the president of the cabinet — echoed by EIA — joins similar protests from other sectors of Peru’s civil society, since Valer has a broad negative background, including accusation from his deceased wife and from his daughter for domestic physical violence, as well as investigations for corruption.

García’s government, taking as their point of departure the “Perro del Hortelano” approach, passed a number of laws — justified as adapting the Peruvian legislation to the commitments of the trade agreement between Peru and the US — in violation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and of Peruvian laws. Peru’s indigenous peoples tried to approach the government in many ways to solve these issues, but were ignored. Eventually they started a national strike, blocking roads, and the situation of violence with the police escalated to what has been known as the Bagua Massacre, where dozens of people died.

After this, García’s government tried to criminalize the protest by the indigenous peoples and Valer tried to create out of thin air a parallel organization to replace the largest indigenous organization of Peru, AIDESEP.

EIA stands by the indigenous peoples of the world, respect and promote respect to their cultures and their rights and profoundly value their role to protect the remaining forests of the world. We reject all forms of discrimination, violation of indigenous rights, attacks against environmental defenders and criminalization of indigenous actors and their protests.

You can read the letter in English or Spanish

Julia Urrunaga

Environmental Investigation Agency – EIA

Director, Perú Programs