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World's Indigenous Day in Peru


08-10-2012 11:54 BJT

Today is the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. The U.N. set the date back in 1994 and since then international legislation protecting the rights of indigenous people has flourished. In Latin America countries like Bolivia and Ecuador changed their constitutions to enshrine indigenous rights.

But there’s often a gap between what’s practiced and what’s preached. A riot of color and sound. This parade showpieces the myriad costumes and dances of Peru’s extraordinary mix of ethnicities.Acrobatics from the Andes Mountains, and rhythms from the Amazon rainforest.

Peru’s rich culture draws in millions of tourists every year.Something for which Peru’s culture minister paid tribute in a message to mark World Indigenous Day. The flip side of this vision of diversity is a tense stand-off between Peruvians living a traditional rural lifestyle and the rush on the country’s bountiful natural resources. One conflict over the multi-billion dollar Conga gold mine has come to symbolize this struggle.Farmers fear the project will pollute their water supply.

It’s one of more than 150 conflicts over natural resources in Peru. Ten people have been killed so far this year in anti-mining protests. Nonetheless, the award-winning activist for indigenous rights, Tarcila Rivera told CCTV that she was hopeful a compromise could be found.

Tarcila Rivera, Indigenous and Women’s Rights Activist, said, “The challenge for the government is to find a way of combining the rights of the indigenous peoples to decide what to eat, where and how to live with the economic development of the country which is based principally on exploiting its natural resources.”

After taking office last year, Peru’s president, Ollanta Humala, passed a law giving indigenous communities the right to be consulted about development on their lands.It was seen as a landmark move but the euphoria wasn’t to last as conflicts surged again, threatening 50 billion dollars of investment. Indigenous campaigners are now pushing Humala to bring in stronger environmental laws to regulate foreign mining activity. It will be a painful process, but there’s still hope for a harmonious solution.

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