Peruvian lawmakers suspend contested land laws

Peru's Congress has voted to suspend two land laws that eased restrictions on developing resources in the country's Amazon rainforest. The laws had triggered violent protests by indigenous people that left 60 dead in the past week.


Reuters - Peru’s Congress on Wednesday temporarily suspended two land laws that triggered violent clashes last week between protesters and police in a remote Amazon region, killing 60 people.


The laws, decreed by Peruvian President Alan Garcia under special powers Congress gave him to implement a free-trade pact with the United States, outline a broad plan for how to regulate investment in the Amazon.


Several other recent presidential decrees on foreign investment remain in place.


Indigenous tribes, worried they will lose control over natural resources, have been blocking roads and waterways since April in a bid to get the government to repeal laws encouraging energy and mining companies to invest billions of dollars developing projects in the rain forest.


The recent violence has exposed the division between elites in Lima and the rural poor, and threatened to derail the government’s push to further open Peru to foreign investment.


Wednesday’s congressional vote suspends two separate land-use laws and followed calls by opponents for their repeal.


Protesters say the first rule would free up some 111 million acres (45 million hectares), or roughly 60 percent of Peru’s jungles, for potential development.


The second rule would allow companies with concessions to get changes in zoning permits directly from Peru’s central government, potentially giving them a way to extract resources without having to win the approval of local communities.


It was not immediately clear for how long the suspension would last and Wednesday’s vote was seen as a stop-gap measure to give Congress more time to agree on a more permanent solution.


Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning