Recent reports indicate as many as 84 people killed and 150 arrested in clashes stemming from an early morning violent raid by police on unarmed protesters on June 5. Police are reported to be burning the bodies of the dead and dumping them into the river.

Astonishingly — but not surprisingly — the government is accusing the protesters of using tactics reminiscent of the 1980s internal conflict. Deploying racist imagery painting indigenous protesters as spear-wielding savages, President Alan Garcia has vowed a tough “response.”

Peruvian police attacking indigenous protesters jun 5 2009Following the early-morning massacre, protesters took 38 police hostage at a pumping station for the national oil company, PetroPeru. A police raid to free the officers resulted in the deaths of nine of them. An Argentinian oil company, Pluspetrol, has halted oil pumping in one unit and will soon halt pumping in another due to the unrest.

The government has since issued an arrest warrant for indigenous leader Alberto Pizango (who was elected to represent the indigenous coalition by the leaders of 1,200 communities), charging him with “sedition.” Pizango has gone into hiding.

Please take action and urge the Peruvian government to halt the violence and repeal the controversial free trade laws that would open up indigenous land in the Amazon to increased development. Contact the US government and international agencies as well, and encourage them to place pressure on Peru. The Peruvian government is in a serious position of weakness right now and trying to cover it up with violence, and this is one of those rare cases where international pressure could deal a major setback to infrastructure expansion plans.

Read the full Root Force action alert on this issue here.

UPDATE (June 8 2009): Some of the stories linked above are in Spanish. Here’s an English link with the same info.