The jungle massacre: Peru's tribal chief flees country

Amazon leader seeks refuge at Nicaraguan embassy after followers killed in clashes over oil and logging laws

The leader of Peru's Amazon Indians will be flown to exile in Nicaragua after seeking asylum following violent demonstrations that killed scores of police and protesters.

Alberto Pizango, the head of Aidesep, which represents 56 tribes, spent yesterday at the Nicaraguan embassy in Lima. Dozens of his followers died during protests against new laws that will leave swathes of their ancestral homelands open to oil and gas exploration. He has been charged by his own government with "sedition, conspiracy and rebellion".

The London-based pressure group, Survival International, called on oil firms to withdraw from Peru, describing the incident as "The Amazon's Tiananmen" and accusing security forces, who have since imposed a curfew over the region, of burying and burning corpses to hide the scale of the killing.

"Peruvian Indians are being driven to desperate measures to try to save their lands which have been stolen from them for five centuries," said Survival's director, Stephen Corry. "This is the Amazon's Tiananmen. If it finishes the same way, it will also end Peru's international reputation."

Violence broke out on Friday when 2,000 Aguaruna and Wampi Indians, many carrying spears and machetes, clashed with heavily armed police officers following a highway stand-off near the rural town of Bagua Grande, roughly 870 miles north of the capital.

Human rights lawyers have since accused the President Alan Garcia's regime of an orchestrated cover-up. Official figures put the death toll at just 32, including 23 policemen. News reports say the number of deaths is closer to 60, and vast numbers of missing people have yet to be accounted for.

Trade unions are organising a strike across the country today, hoping to fan public outrage over the incident, which began when police fired tear gas and automatic weapons into noisy crowds of protesters. A delegation of human rights lawyers, who visited the scene yesterday, told the BBC hundreds of demonstrators were still missing. "I say to the authorities they should take care because sooner or later the facts of what happened will come to light," said one of the lawyers, Ernesto de la Jara, from the Institute for Legal Defence. "Dead bodies may be covered up for now but, little by little, the truth will come out and they will have to respond."

The crisis follows months of escalating controversy over Mr Garcia's attempts to implement a free trade agreement with the US. New laws, brought in to increase the number of oil and logging concessions in the country's 67 million hectares of rainforest, appear to allow for the sale of tribespeople's ancestral territories.

In April, Aidesep supporters began blocking roads and rivers in rural areas of the country. A crucial oil pipeline across northern Peru has been shut down since the end of the month, costing the state oil company an estimated US $ 120,000 (£75,000) a day.

Mr Garcia has long talked of turning Peru into an oil superpower by opening its forests to exploration from firms like France's Perenco, Spain's Repsol and the US company, ConocoPhillips. However his plans are being tested by protesters blocking remote parts of the country's road network. "We don't get anything from this huge exploitation, which also poisons us," Mateo Inti, a leader of a group of Aguaruna Indians , told the Associated Press. "We've never seen any development and my community lives in poverty."

Indigenous people, who account for almost half of Peru's 28 million inhabitants, have for years had a tense relationship with the ruling class, who are largely descended from Europeans. Mr Garcia's has attempted to dismiss his Amazonian opponents as brutal savages, accusing them of "elemental ignorance".

The crisis is eating into the presidential power-base. Last night, Peru's parliament voted to suspend the controversial land laws for 90 days, until public order is restored. On Monday, Carmen Vildoso, a populist minister often described as Peru's Margaret Thatcher, had quit the cabinet in protest at Mr Garcia's handling of recent events.

Sport
The sun rises over St Andrews golf course, but will it be a new dawn for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club?
sportAnd it's Yes to women (at the R&A)
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
footballToure's lack of defensive work is big problem for City
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer your expertise as Trustee for The Society of Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...

Email Designer

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Psychology Teacher

£110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...

Food Technology Teacher

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week