Peru repeals tribal land laws

Peruvian Indians celebrate after controversial land laws are scrapped.

    The repeal is a blow to Garcia, who passed the laws under powers granted to him by congress [AFP]

    Economists estimate around $3.5bn worth of timber, mineral and oil products are locked in a 92,000-square km region of the Amazon basin.

    Protesters feared the laws, which made it easier for mining and energy companies to buy communally owned land, would lead to a land grab, especially in the Amazon rain forest.

    Indigenous leaders said they were never consulted about the laws and that they were intended only to benefit a free trade agreement Peru has signed with the United States.

    'Historic mistake'

    Friday's vote was a major defeat for Garcia, who decreed the laws under powers congress awarded him to bring Peruvian law in line with the free-trade pact.

    Around 12,000 Peruvians from 65 indigenous tribes had occupied oil and electricity plants in the Amazon basin from August 9, before agreeing to suspend their protests late on Wednesday after the head of Peru's legislature agreed to hold a vote on the laws.

    Garcia's administration insists the development laws were aimed at improving the livelihood of indigenous communities by developing their farming, livestock and mining activities, and integrating the tribes into the country's economy.

    He said on Wednesday that it would be "a very serious, historic mistake" to revoke the laws.

    "If that were to happen out of fear of protesters, fear of unrest, Peru would someday remember it as the moment when change came to a halt and hundreds of thousands of people were condemned to poverty, exclusion and marginalisation," he said.

    The president now has 15 days to sign the laws' repeal or amend them and send them back to congress, which can then override his vote.


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