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“We are Saweto”: Expressing solidarity with the indigenous community in Peru

December 4, 2014

This morning the trade union invited members of the Peruvian indigenous community to give a statement regarding the murder of four environmental activists in September earlier this year. The widows and daughter of Edwin Chota Valera, Leoncio, Quincima Melendez, Jorge Rios Pérez and Francisco Pinedo were present to express their struggles as the indigenous community continues to fight for their right to land use as well as basic human rights.

The bodies of two of the leaders were found earlier, but the government has terminated the search for the remaining two bodies. The women declared that they are fighting for justice for their husbands and father, but they have to continue to fight for their rights to land use as the forest is their home. “The government is not sorry. We are human beings taking care of our own land and no one cares. We need to support our kids. Without our husbands, we don’t know how to take care of them on our own.”

One member of the community says, “the government is not recognising our struggle for land rights. They are treating us like animals. They are selling our land to multinationals. We live there. Our grandparents lived and died there as well. I am so sad. People are here talking about climate and solutions for climate issues, but it’s the multinationals which are destroying our environment. We are fighting for land rights to protect our forests. The government is not giving us rights, not prioritising land to rights before giving land to multinationals.

The daughter of Jorge Rios Pérez also spoke up about wanting justice for his father and the importance of recognising that we are one common people, “I’m here to ask the government that they recognise we are the guardians of our forest. We are not being treated with respect. We care for the forests as they care for their houses. I want to be respected as the indigenous community. It’s important that we have support from others. Our men are dying. When I was a child, it wasn’t like this. We need support so that we can protect our forests not just for us but also for others. Please support us so that there is no more destruction. A dead tree is like a dead human. We care as much. My family from Brazil is also here as we are on both sides of the border. It’s thanks to my family that we are still on our feet. We are under threat from illegal loggers and drug traffickers. What is the purpose of being Peruvians and Brazilians if our governments don’t care about us? I will not go and kill the criminals. I just want justice. We are all human beings. We speak different languages but we have the same blood.”

Members of the Brazilian indigenous community also expressed their solidarity and emphasised that we are all inhabitants of the same planet. The indigenous people live in the forests as we live in the city. The indigenous people do not have borders. Similarly, environmental issues have no borders as well. The struggle for right to land is not merely an environmental issue, but more fundamentally, an issue of humanity.

The International Trade Union Confederation once again expresses their solidarity with the indigenous community and will be part of an action which will be taking place tomorrow 05 December 2014 at 11am in the open space between the Plenary meeting rooms and Pavilion C at the COP20 venue. A banner with the slogan “We are Saweto” will be held and all members of the international community are welcome to join in to express our solidarity.

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