Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Human Rights for Indigenous Peruvian Communities

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Should you ask an American what they know about Peru, you will most likely get the following common responses: Cusco, Incas, llamas, Cuy and the Amazon. Not many can go into detail about any one of the topics mentioned. Yet, tourism is a huge economic gain for Peru, if not specifically for the cities and communities that receive the tourist. With that said, it is the Andean and Amazonian culture that intrigues and fascinates tourists from all around the world. As a result they travel to Peru. However, within Peru there are a lot of paradoxes surrounding those communities. How is it that outside of the country they are sort of glorified and marveled for their traditions, yet within the country there is a lack of equal representation and ridicule? This question brings up the topic of ‘Human Rights’.

By very definition “human rights” is a right belonging to every justifiable person. There is an international human rights day celebrated every year on December 10th. Yet, that definition seems a bit vague . So let’s break down those two powerful words. As human beings, we have the right to live in a safe environment, to have freedom, to be protected by the law, and so on. So if we all have these rights, why is it that Indigenous groups in the Amazon (for instance) struggle to have them recognized?

Image result for indigenous resistance in peruNews outlets such as The Guardian and TeleSur both have written articles detailing the recent events concerning Indigenous People vowing to block the oil agreement with Canada in the Amazon unless their Indigenous rights are respected. Their struggle for justice and proper legal representation is nothing new to the Peruvian government nor Human Rights activist around the world. Be it environmental issues or oil, to name a few, Peruvian Indigenous groups have faced discrimination and a slew of human rights abuses. Perhaps this treatment is due to location and/or historic relations, but that does not excuse the mistreatment by the state. Now they have had enough.

Tribal leaders from around the area of Peru’s largest oil field and coming from the four major river basins are fighting back. They want justice. According to The Guardian, “The [...]consultation law, passed in 2011 in Peru, requires the government to seek free, prior and informed consent from indigenous people before approving any development plans that might affect them.” This is an important document that the Indigenous groups desire because it allows their perspectives and maybe knowledge of the land to be taken into account concerning their living environment. Sandi, one of the representatives living in the four river basins says that without the consultation they will not allow oil companies to enter their territory for the following 30 years. Their fight for representation, proper use of their environment, and recognition of their human rights is an admirable one. Unfortunately, the state did not give the Indigenous communities exactly what they asked.
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Though they have not yet received their ask, their fight and courage to speak out against the injustice has made news everywhere. In other words, the stand for human rights continues. We all can learn from this case just by recognizing the persistence and diligence showed by Indigenous leaders and representatives of the Amazon. In today’s society, we hear more stories of human rights violations compared to citizens and communities fighting to uphold their rights. These Amazonian Indigenous groups are prime examples that to obtain justice may not be easy but it is a human right and should never be overlooked.

Written by Selena Mitchell, Incarnate Word Missionary 

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