Benjamin Bratt Speaks Out Against the Killing of Indigenous People in Peru

Benjamin Bratt Speaks Out Against the Killing of Indigenous People in Peru

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE    2009-06-16
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Benjamin Bratt Speaks Out Against the Killing of Indigenous People in Peru
The actor and his brother, filmmaker Peter Bratt, urge people to support the struggle of Indian people to protect the Amazon in their mother's homeland


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Actor Benjamin Bratt and filmmaker Peter Bratt join Amazon Watch in calling for the Garcia government of Peru to immediately cease its violent repression of Native Amazonian peoples, drop criminal charges against AIDESEP's leaders, and suspend the State of Emergency. 

Benjamin Bratt said, "In 2009, it is shocking and unacceptable that indigenous people are still being killed for their land. The Amazonian Native Americans of Peru are fighting to protect their territories and their way of life. Sadly, their struggle is historically familiar, and it is incumbent upon the Garcia government to find a peaceful way to engage their just concerns." 

Peter Bratt continued, "As we enter the Obama age of 'change', it is vital that we address our relationship with the First Peoples of the Americas by finally recognizing their human rights and fundamental freedoms." 

On today's news that decrees 1090 and 1064 may be repealed, Benjamin Bratt stated: "We commend the Peruvian government for agreeing to repeal two of the 10 laws that indigenous peoples have opposed. This is a positive first step in honoring the rights of native peoples of the Amazon. We continue to urge the Government to drop criminal charges against their leaders so that meaningful dialogue can continue on the remaining decrees." 

AIDESEP is the national Amazonian indigenous organization and their leader, Alberto Pizango along with many others are being charged with sedition and rebellion for organizing the blockades. "It is challenging for indigenous people to have meaningful dialogue with the government, while there are warrants issued for their capture and many are in hiding," said Benjamin Bratt. 

Indigenous communities throughout the Peruvian Amazon are protesting recently passed laws which permit multi-national corporations to lease and exploit 73 percent of the Amazon rainforest, without regard to the needs and well-being of the Native people who have been living in the area for centuries. President Alan Garcia's government promulgated these laws under "fast track" authority to facilitate the Peru-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. 

Over 30,000 indigenous people have taken to blockading roads, rivers, and railways to demand the repeal of these new laws that allow oil, mining and logging companies to enter indigenous territories without seeking prior consultation or consent. The protests have led to disruptions of transport as well as the interruption of oil production. 

On June 5, Peruvian military police staged a violent raid on a group of Native protestors at a peaceful blockade on a road outside of Bagua, in a remote area of the northern Peruvian Amazon. Several thousand indigenous people were forcibly dispersed by tear gas and live ammunition. Initial reports of fatalities in Bagua and a hostage incident the next day at PetroPeru Station 6, some 5 hours away include at least 40 indigenous people, along with 24 police officers. Benjamin and Peter offer their condolences and prayers to the families of both the indigenous peoples and the police officers who lost their lives. 

The Bratt brothers are urging all people to immediately TAKE ACTION to help stop the violence and killing in the Peruvian Amazon. They call for an independent investigation of the Bagua incident with participation of the United Nations and the Organization of American States. They believe a non-violent and just solution is possible. People interested in supporting the indigenous struggle should send a letter today to the Garcia Administration demanding an end to the violent repression and a return to diplomatic talks over the concerns of indigenous people. As recognized by a United Nations Declaration, Indigenous people have rights, and these rights must be respected and honored. To send a letter, go to: http://www.amazonwatch.org/peru-action-alert.php 

Familial ties bind Benjamin and Peter Bratt to the region. Their mother is from Peru, and they have indigenous relatives who live in the Northern Amazon. Their family participated in the American Indian occupation of Alcatraz Island in 1969, an event that brought the world's attention to the plight of Native Americans here in the United States. Additionally, Benjamin and Peter serve on the advisory board of AMAZON WATCH, a non-profit organization that works to protect the rainforest and advance the rights of indigenous people everywhere.