Ben Powless, Mohawk from Six Nations, is a member of the Indigenous Environmental Network speaking his experiences working with the Indigenous peoples in Peru during the mass mobilizations to protect the Amazon from exploitation (mining, oil and gas extraction, logging) in June 2009.

The Peruvian government considers the profits made from exploiting logging, mining, oil and agroindustry more important than the lives of protesters and indigenous peoples.

It is essential to understand that this is not an “indigenous issue” or a “Peruvian” issue; this is a global issue; this is “our” issue in the north. Since the 1980s and 1990s, the governments of the USA and Canada — along with our “development” institutions (from the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and Inter-American Development Bank, to our “aid” agencies [US-AID, CIDA]) — have been pushing for and insisting on the “free trade” trade model of development / exploitation, on the signing of “free trade” agreements. Canada signed a “free trade” agreement with Peru on May 29, 2008, and on June 3, 2009, Bill C-24 was passed in the House of Commons to implement this agreement. The Peruvian government has also signed “free trade” agreements with the United States , the European Union, Chile , and China , all of which endanger indigenous territorial rights and Amazonian biodiversity.

As a result of the signed "free trade" agreements, the Amazon would be opened up to logging, mining, oil and agroindustry, which directly endanger its bio-cultural diversity and the lives of the indigenous peoples in the Amazon.

The fight to protect the Amazon continues today.

Check in depth analysis of the situation in Peru, by Gerardo Rénique: nacla.org/node/5879

This talk was a part of Indigenous Sovereignty Week 2009 held in Ottawa on Algonquin Territory.

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