A Mohawk in Peru: RPM Correspondent reports on Indigenous uprising

First Indigenous President of Peru jailed, 60+ dead, hundreds detained as protests rock Peru.

By Anonymous in Peru

What’s happening in Peru should concern the rest of the world, especially Indigenous people in Canada and the US. On December 7th, 2022, Pedro Castillo, the first Indigenous President in Peru’s history, was removed from office in a political coup led by the elite, wealthy corporate interests dominating Peru’s Congress supported by the Canadian and US governments. 

President Castillo is now jailed, and over 60 people – primarily Indigenous – have been killed by police and military forces as protests shake the country. Hundreds of people have been arbitrarily detained or have gone missing at the hands of Dina Boluarte’s security forces. Dina Boluarte was Castillo’s vice-president who was chosen to replace Castillo by Congress in December. Due to the oppressive actions of her government, she is now nicknamed, “Dina Asesina” in Spanish, or “Dina the Murderer” in English by Peruvians.

This turmoil has a lot to do with Canada, as large Canadian mining interests operate in Peru. But that’s not apparent from the mainstream media coverage of events. Peru is the world’s second-largest producer of copper, silver and zinc as well as South America’s largest producer of gold, zinc, lead, boron, indium and selenium. Peru is the fifth ranked country in the world in terms of Canadian mining investments abroad. Foreign-owned companies operating in Peru pay little if any tax. They were strongly opposed to President Castillo’s intention to tax them to assist in the building of hospitals and schools for the poverty-stricken Peruvian Indigenous people in the countryside. 

From what I can see on the ground in Peru, little to no revenue is being redistributed to the rural Indigenous people by the mining operations on their lands. I have been on the front-lines with Castillo’s supporters, many of whom have traveled 15-20 hours by bus from southern Peru’s poorest Indigenous communities.

The Canadian government, for its part, has had a unified front with the United States in supporting this new murderous regime.

The people were initially calling to have the democratically-elected Castillo reinstated as President. The protest movement has shifted to calling for Boluarte’s resignation, the closure of Congress, and the holding of new elections. These are all reasonable demands, but Lima’s colonial elite has dug in, and instead of negotiating, they have labeled the Peruvian Indigenous electorate as “terrorists” in their own land. 

As a Mohawk, I feel compelled to stand with my Quechua and Aymara brothers and sisters against the injustices they are facing. Many of the issues that Peruvian Indigenous people are fighting for are the same we Mohawk people face back home – equitable distribution of wealth, the building of schools, hospitals, and infrastructure, and control over our lands and resources. 

I have met people who will give their life in this struggle against colonialism and the exploitation of the resources of their country – rural Indigenous poor, grandmothers and grandfathers, children, university professors, lawyers, labor leaders, etc., all united together. The police violence I have witnessed in these protests has been horrifying and should be a major issue of world concern. I have seen people beaten, shot at and ridiculed for just trying to have a voice.

I have been tear-gassed twice and a young man protesting next to me was shot in the leg by the military. He appeared to be about 15 years old and was with his mother. Police have indiscriminately kidnapped student protestors for weeks, and left parents to fear for the fate of their children. The police even raided the oldest university in the Americas, San Marcos University, in Lima, and beat and arrested students and hauled them away to jails. All this for allowing rural Indigenous supporters of Castillo to sleep in their dorm rooms. Volunteer lawyers for the students have also been detained. 

The state violence I am witnessing in Peru is similar as to what Indigenous people continue to experience in Canada. I have been 10 feet from soldiers who have had their machine guns pointed at me with fingers on their triggers and hatred in their eyes. I am fortunate that they didn’t shoot as they have full discretion and authority to do so. It has been reported that 60 protestors have been killed, 600 injured and over 500 arrested since December 7th. From what I have witnessed, the real numbers are higher.

Today I will join with the people and I will continue to provide reports and front line coverage about what’s happening in Peru with Canadian and American led violence against the Peruvian Indigenous rural people. 

I don’t know the fate of these Indigenous people and this beautiful country. I do know that the people have spoken and that they will not give up this fight before their demands are met. A civil war could now be on the horizon.

Let’s consider why Canadian interests are backing the elites instead of standing with the people. Could it be that the racism towards Indigenous people in corporate Canada is spilling over into Peruvian politics? Is the reason that they’re not standing with the people because they’re behind the coup against President Castillo? What’s at the heart of Indigenous struggles in both Canada and Peru is the racist extraction industries and the willingness of the corporate elite to influence and lobby governments, disregard the will of the people, and to support the use of private and public mercenaries to murder Indigenous people standing up for their rights and lands. 

The name of our correspondent who produced this article has been withheld for security concerns.

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