Clashes with government forces left more than 30 dead last week, sparking concerns about a full-scale revolt. Protesters are fighting laws that would open their rainforest home to energy and agribusiness development.
In a low-slung concrete building packed with poor, angry, indigenous Peruvians, protester Carlos Collado speaks in hard, revolutionary terms. "We are not the assassins the government makes us out to be," he says. "But we will not let our brothers die. This meeting is illegal. But we are here. This shows that we are ready."
One by one, amid the sullen faces, they stood to speak, some in Spanish, others in their ethnic language. Each spewed hatred at the Peruvian government, which they say orchestrated a deadly clash that killed more than 30 and injured more than 150 last week in Bagua, an area in the northern Peruvian Amazon.
"Bagua" has become shorthand for an indigenous resistance boiling over throughout remote swaths of the country, as poor Amazonian Indians engage in strikes and blockades to protest laws that would open their rainforest home to energy and agribusiness development. For two months, they have blocked roads, strung cable across rivers, and taken over jungle oil facilities with spears and arrows. The protests had been peaceful until Bagua – the country's worst political violence since the Shining Path guerrillas were quelled in the mid-1990s – but now it is starting to feel like a revolt.
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