Sunteți pe pagina 1din 9


AIDESEP: The main indigenous movement of Peru

Peru is the The
with the second
largest indigenous
population inof
America, constituted by Andean Indians and Amazonian Indians. It is difficult

Isabel Granados Hidalgo

to know exactly what the percentage of Indigenous people in Peru is. For


example according to CIA The world Factbook (2011), they constitute the
majority of the population, whereas for the United Nations Comisin
Econmica para Amrica Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL), the Indigenous
population represents 25% of the total population (6.489.109).
The majority of indigenous peoples, 70,1% (4.547.486), reside in the Andean
region, whereas the Amazon region hosts only 4,1% (266.287). According to
Van Cott (2005: 143), there are 72 distinct ethnic groups and 16 linguistic
families in Peru. Indigenous people have less educational and work
opportunities, especially when their mother tongue is not Spanish, the official
language of Peru, and have difficulties in participating in the political and
administrative life of the country (Lewis, 2009).

Contrary to the cases of Ecuador and Bolivia, where indigenous population

has managed to constitute
successful ethnic movements
and political
ja yhteiskunnallinen
indigenous peoples in Peru have not been able to organize a permanent
of movement
Helsinki or to form ethnic parties, which could create and
promote their own agendas (Van Cott, 2005: 104). A factor that could have

caused this is the lack of a democratic environment during the government of

Alberto Fujimori, when the sphere of action for all social movements was
severely restricted, especially during the internal conflict against the Marxist
guerrilla of Shining Path, which allowed Fujimori to label all dissenting voices
as terrorism. The conflict against the Shining Path took place precisely in the
regions where the majority of population is indigenous so it further hindered
social and political organizations. Most of the victims of this civil war were
Amazonian and Andeans indigenous people, who were scared to get involved
in social movements due to fear of retaliation of Shining Path, who

systematically eliminated any rival organization (Van Cott, 2005: 140-141;

Garca, 2003: 73).
The relationship between indigenous movements and the state in Peru is
mostly marked by tensions and conflicts, though at times we can find
collaboration and strategic alliances. Through these movements, the
indigenous peoples of the Amazon have been made more visible and enabled
to act in various public spaces. Furthermore, Amazonian Indigenous people,
through many historical events -e.g. Internal war and the War against
Ecuador, have discovered how the media are fond of displaying exotic issues.
So they have learned how to attract media attention exaggerating certain
exotic features as typical outfits and mystical rituals. However, a greater
presence of indigenous people in the television has not solved their problems.
(Espinosa, 1998: 91-97.)
The rise of indigenous movements
From the 1960s, the State promoted agricultural activities, cattle industry, oil
exploration and felling in the Amazonian forest. This unexpected intervention
pushed indigenous to self-organize and demand rights of land and autonomy
opposing neoliberal policies. Amazonian organizations have unified their
demands under the flag of Land rights; but land does not only mean territory,
it is also autonomy and acceptance of their own authorities and customary
laws. The clashing between Liberal policies and customary collective
traditions has created a negative attitude towards the state as the culprit and
the enemy, from which to get retribution, justices and guarantees. (Yashar,
1998: 35)
The first Amazonian indigenous movements appeared in the 1960s,
indigenous peoples from the Central Forest conformed the Amuesha
Congress with the help of US Peace Corps workers. During the 1970s, the
major Indigenous ethnic groupsAguaruna, Huambisa, Shipibo-Conibo,
Ashninka and Cocama-Cocamillaestablished their own ethnic local
federations, with the help of the Linguistics Summer Institute in many cases.

The Institute is a U.S.-based worldwide Christian non-profit organization, with

worked in Peru since 1950s promoting bilingual education. (Greene, 2006:
339; Van Cott, 2005: 157.)
In 1978, the indigenous organizations wanted to separate themselves from
the institutions and intellectuals who were advising them so they decided to
form autonomous organizations. Five different ethnic federations decided to
found the Coordinator of Native Communities of the Central Rain-forest
(COCONASEP) in 1980, which later became the Interethnic Association for
the Development of the Peruvian Forest (AIDESEP). From the beginning,
there were internal conflicts inside AIDESEP because of rivalries and different
approaches to resolve problems among the ethnic groups and the
participation of NGOs and political parties. (Greene, 2006: 341.)
AIDESEP leaded the process of forming the transnational organization
Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazonian Basin (COICA),
which represents ethnic groups in eight countries and the French Guyana
(Van Cott, 2005: 158). Between the 1980s and the 1990s, AIDESEP
developed quite fast as the result of obtaining financial support from national
and international NGOs as well as international aid from European
governments and the US. From then on, the leaders of AIDESEP could work
exclusively on the organization, and office staff could be hired (Van Cott,
2005: 158). Thus, the indigenous communities started to demand economic
and infrastructure development support from AIDESEP, and its leaders were
more focused on keeping good relations with the international funders than
with the Indigenous organizations (Greene, 2006: 342).
During that time, a group of communities decided to leave AIDESEP and to
form their own association. So the Confederation of Amazonian Nationalities
of Peru (CONAP) was formed in 1987 by the Amuesha Congress and
yanesha, shipibo and aguaruna activists. AIDESEP and CONAP both aspire
to be the legitimate representative of the interests of Perus Amazonian
peoples. Both organizations have succeeded in obtaining collective land titles,
protecting indigenous people from enslavement and forced labour and fighting

bio-piracy but AIDESEP is still bigger in terms of amount of nations

represented and the historical influence. (Greene, 2006: 341; Van Cott, 2005:
During the 90s, new neo-liberal policies were implemented and a new
constitution abolished the protection of indigenous collective land property
and of indigenous languages. Consequently, from then on the state and
private companies could effortlessly privatize collective lands. The Amazonian
movement leaders gathered 55,000 signatures to propose modifications and
succeeded in preserving the acknowledgement of ethnic and cultural diversity
of the Peruvian nation, the protection of indigenous communities and
languages, as well as the right to practice traditional laws. The decade also
marked a milestone for AIDESEP with the Declaration of Iquitos, where
relevant environmental NGOs such as Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace,
Oxfam and World Wide Fund declared to have a common goal with COICA in
the struggle for sustainable development policies. (Greene, 2006: 342; Van
Cott, 2005: 158)
AIDESEP as the main indigenous movement actor
AIDESEP has arranged several general strikes and road blockades, and
supported other associations initiatives during the last years (Chartock, 2011:
309). One of the most far-reaching general strikes took place on July 2008,
when representatives of regional labour unions, such as mining workers,
campesinos, and indigenous movements set up a coordinated general strike
in order to protest against laws related to free trade agreement that
encourage private investments in indigenous communities, as well as land
and forest concessions to foreign companies. The government mobilized the
military to help the police control crowds and dissuade protesters from taking
to the streets. Groups ranging from farmers to workers to provincial governors
held rallies. After the strike, 30 indigenous people in Madre de Dios,
Amazonian region, were accused of fire, destruction and theft in the regional
government headquarters, and were violently arrested by the police.

According to Van Cott (2005: 174), in 1997, the Permanent Conference of the
Indigenous Peoples of Peru (COPPIP) was founded in order to congregate
Andean peasants campesinos and Amazonian population into a single
organization leaded by AIDESEP and CONACAMI (National Coordinator of
Communities Affected by Mining). This Conference has obtained some
triumphs through agreements with government ministries and proposing
constitutional reforms but it has not attained a high status as a coherent
national movement (Van Cott, 2005: 175). COPPIPs members are highly
autonomous and only use the COPPIP as a platform where they can develop
common strategies (Van Cott, 2005: 176). Nowadays, AIDESEP gathers 65
ethnic federations, who represent 1500 indigenous communities with a total
population of 650,000 people, whose mother tongue belongs to 16 different
linguistic families. AIDESEP is divided in 9 regional offices, 12 leaders and a
secretary of Women affairs (AIDESEP, 2014).
In the case of Amazonian indigenous peoples, it is extremely difficult to
overview all the different approaches and proposes for development present
in the area without risking to misrepresent the plurality of ethnic groups.
Nonetheless, it is possible to revise the projects and agendas of AIDESEP as
the most representative organization. Guevara (2011: 170-171) points out
AIDESEPs Amazonian indigenous Agenda (AIDESEP, 2007) goals are to
ensure the capacity of indigenous populations to meet their needs, the
protection of natural resources and territories, the respect to their legal system
and constitutional rights, the strengthening of traditional knowledge and social
organization, and the availability of academic and scientific bilingual
These precepts reflect the desire of AIDESEP and indigenous movements in
general to reach an alternative version of development, denouncing at the
same time the prevailing development and neo-liberal approach of humane
and nature exploitation (Guevara, 2011: 170). The demand of more political
and social autonomy and participation in decision-making process is also
relevant in the agenda without frontally rejecting the modernization view of the
state (Ibid, 171). It is clear from the Agenda that AIDESEP has taken some

characteristics of mainstream but without renouncing to their world view, ways

of living and environmental policies; for example, fish farming with native
species and high degree bilingual education.
Indigenous movements challenge the Eurocentric model of society and
economy, forcing to rethink traditional notions of development in a way that
would include the perspectives of those, who were always excluded from
political decision-making and, who have suffered the consequences of the
imposition of the traditional model. Furthermore, indigenous organizations
have proved that they are not only challenging the status quo, but they are
also proposing new concrete solutions, and are willing to take part in the
decision-making process of plans of development and modernity. (Fano,
2009: 497.)
According to Green (2006: 330-331), the Amazonian indigenous organizations
have been the leaders in creating, promoting and utilizing eco-ethnic policies
in Latin America. Although, the arrival of the market economy usually causes
negative effects on indigenous populations, they can counteract them by
constituting their own organizations and structuring a plan of activities. In this
way, the indigenous movements become the only tool and weapon available
to indigenous peoples to survive the process of globalization and, at the same
time, to preserve their ethnic and cultural identity, in the absence of a
multicultural state policy.
Amazonian indigenous movements in Peru, as in other parts of the world, still
need to develop and expand their political activity in order to become a
national social movement, which can participate actively in the formation of
the state and the government, as in the case of Pachakutik in Ecuador and
Tupac Qatar in Bolivia. Although AIDESEP has become the most relevant
indigenous organization in Peru, it mainly functions as a regional intermediary
between the indigenous peoples and the state in the defence of Amazonian
inhabitants economic interests (Chartock, 2011: 309-310; Garca et Chirif,

2009: 111). There is a still a long way to go before the association could also
protect the cultural, social and political rights of its members and could
constitute a national indigenous movement that could participate in the public
sphere and the decision-making process of development strategies and
AIDESEP (2007). Agenda indigena amaznica. Retrieved March 3,
2015 from:
Chartock, Sarah (2011). How Movement Strength Matters: Social
Movement Strength and the Implementation of
Ethnodevelopment Policy in Ecuador and Peru. Studies in
Comparative International Development. 46 (3): 298320.
Espinosa, Oscar (1998). Los pueblos indgenas de la Amazona
peruana y el uso politico de los medios de comunicacin.
Amrica Latina Hoy 19: 91 100.
Fano Morrissey, Laura (2009). The Rise of Ethnic Politics:
Indigenous movements in the Andean region Development.
Society for International Development. 52 (4): 95499.
Garca, Pedro y Chirif, Alberto (2007). Marcando territorio: Progresos
y limitaciones de la titulacin de territorios indgenas en la
Amazona. Copenhague: IWGIA.
Greene, Shane (2006). Getting over the Andes: The Geo-EcoPolitics of Indigenous Movements in Peru's Twenty- First Century
Inca Empire. Journal of Latin American Studies. 38 (2): 327
Greene, Shane (2009). Customizing Indigeneity: Paths to a Visionary
Politics in Peru. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press.
Guevara Florindez, Victor (2011). Le conflit de Bagua: les
problmes du development et les revendications des populations
indignes en Amazonie pruvienne. Droit et cultures 62: 163
Lewis, M. Paul (ed.) (2009). Ethnologue: Languages of the World,
Sixteenth edition. SIL International: Dallas. Retrieved Apr 10,
2011, from:

Van Cott, Donna Lee (2005). From Movements to Parties in Latin

America: The Evolution of Ethnic Politics. Cambridge: New York.
Yashar, Deborah J. (1998). Contesting Citizenship: Indigenous
Movements and Democracy in Latin America. Comparative
Politics 31 (1): 2342.