Peru sets important precedent for native inhabitants

The English newspaper the Guardian reports that Peru enacted a new law that protects the land rights of Peru’s indigenous peoples, and that Peru now leads the way for Latin America’s indigenous communities.

The paper also reports that in February, indigenous communities in Ecuador’s Amazon region won a multi-billion dollar landmark ruling against the oil giant Chevron after a legal battle lasting nearly two decades.

Chevron was accused of polluting a large part of the Amazon basin by dumping billions of liters of chemical-laden materials, which allegedly destroyed crops, killed livestock, and increased cancer rates.

The paper stated that it is rare for indigenous people in Latin America to be awarded compensation for damage to their ancestral lands, and most often commercial interests get their own way when it comes to development projects.

Against this backdrop, Peru’s new law on the rights of indigenous people to prior consultation may set a regional precedent in avoiding lengthy legal battles and, more importantly, in the prevention and reduction of social conflicts.

The law was signed on Tuesday. President Humala dismissed the reasoning behind his predecessor’s veto of this same law. Former president Alan García argued that foreign investment in indigenous land was needed for Peru’s economic growth.

All Latin American countries with considerable indigenous populations are signatories of International Labour Organisation Convention 169, which recognises tribal people’s land ownership rights and envisages the right to prior consultation.

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