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Peru marchers back Indians

Associated Press

Riot police used tear gas Thursday to turn student protesters away from Peru’s Congress as thousands nationwide marched in support of Amazon Indians resisting oil and natural gas exploration on their land.

At least 20,000 students, labor union members and indigenous Peruvians from the country’s Andean highlands to its jungle lowlands joined mostly peaceful protests.

In Lima, riot police fended off several hundred students, some of whom threw rocks and Molotov cocktails. No injuries were immediately reported. Associated Press journalists witnessed several people being detained, but police did not issue arrest figures.

Marchers chanted, “The jungle isn’t for sale,” during the protests, which were organized in response to a bloody confrontation at an Indian roadblock June 5 in the northern state of Amazonas. It was Peru’s worst political violence in more than a decade, with 23 police officers killed, many with spears. Indian leaders reported that at least 30 civilians died.

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Peru’s Amazon-based indigenous peoples have been resisting since last year a campaign by President Alan Garcia to open their traditional lands to greater development of oil and natural gas, as well as logging and biofuel crops.

In a bid to reopen negotiations with the Indians, Congress on Wednesday suspended two legislative decrees that they say would let the government privatize communal lands.

Large-scale exploration for oil and gas has yet to begin, and Peru remains a net importer of oil.


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