Something big is happening in Peru

During the ongoing political crisis in Iran, another less noticed “revolution” has been going on in Peru with relatively little international attention, but potentially with lasting consequences for both the country and its role in the global economy. Over the past two weeks, indigenous protesters have successfully forced the Peruvian protesters have successfully forced the ...

584415_090625_peru2.jpg
584415_090625_peru2.jpg
Natives armed with spears mantaon their road blocage near Yurimaguas, northern Amazonian Peru, June 11, 2009. Peruvian lawmakers Wednesday suspended a controversial law that eased restrictions on lumber harvesting in the Amazon rain forest, days after it sparked clashes between police and indigenous protesters, killing dozens of people. The Amazon protest peaked Friday and Saturday when some 400 police officers moved in to clear protesters blocking a highway near the northern city of Bagua. Protesters fought back, then retaliated by killing police hostages. According to the government, 25 police officers and nine Indian protesters died in the clashes. Protest leaders and media reports however insist the death toll is much higher. AFP PHOTO/Ernesto Benavides (Photo credit should read ERNESTO BENAVIDES/AFP/Getty Images)

During the ongoing political crisis in Iran, another less noticed "revolution" has been going on in Peru with relatively little international attention, but potentially with lasting consequences for both the country and its role in the global economy.

Over the past two weeks, indigenous protesters have successfully forced the Peruvian protesters have successfully forced the government to reverse planned land reforms that would have opened their traditional land to investment and exploration by international energy companies. 

During the ongoing political crisis in Iran, another less noticed “revolution” has been going on in Peru with relatively little international attention, but potentially with lasting consequences for both the country and its role in the global economy.

Over the past two weeks, indigenous protesters have successfully forced the Peruvian protesters have successfully forced the government to reverse planned land reforms that would have opened their traditional land to investment and exploration by international energy companies. 

The demonstrations against the reform turned violent earlier this month in a confrontation that left 50 dead, including 23 police officers. Peru’s prime minister offered to resign over the controversy after the government caved to the Indians demands. The leader of the protest movement has fled into exile in Nicaragua after being charged with inciting the violence. 

President Alan Garcia has come under fire for his insensitivity to the violence and for comparing the protesters to “garden watchdogs” protecting their food. Garcia had framed the new development as both an economic opportunity for the region, a way of clamping down on illegal logging, and a way to combat drug trafficking by increasing government presence. 

Granted, the news has been dominated by Iran this month for good reason, but protests leading to the killing of 23 police officers, the reversal of a major government decisions affecting multinational corporations, and the resignation of a head of government, seems like a pretty big deal. I think it’s safe to say that if this had happened in Asia or the Middle East it would have been front page news in the United States.

Consider how intertwined it is with U.S. foreign policy, it’s always surprising how little discussion Latin American affairs (unless Hugo or Fidel are talking) merits in the United States. Peru’s largely ignored situation is a perect example. Since when are race, money, violence, and drugs not interesting topics? 

AFP/Getty Images 

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy  Twitter: @joshuakeating

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