Over the weekend, the Peruvian Government’s Vice-Minister for Interculturality, Iván Lanegra confirmed that he would resign after he appeared to lose an argument over who is considered “indigenous” and thus protected by a new law in Peru implementing the right to prior consultation.
The dispute emerged over the creation and dissemination of a database (base de datos) which will list all the indigenous communities in Peru covered by the consultation law. The Vice-Minister for Interculturality is the government official responsible for the elaboration of this document.
The Vice-Minister and the entire executive branch have already faced criticism for delays in the publication of the database, for the lack of participation of indigenous communities in the preparation of the document, and for imposing overly-restrictive criteria for what constitutes being “indigenous.”
In retrospect, however, such criticism represents mere brush stroke errors compared to the bucket of paint that the President of the Republic and the Minister for Energy and Mines have just dumped onto the canvas.
According to a recent Reuters article, President Ollanta Humala has adopted the position put forward by Jorge Merino, leader of the Ministry for Energy and Mines, that the only indigenous communities covered by the consultation law should be Amazonian ones, excluding entirely the campesino communities of the Andes. This decision is a thinly veiled effort to facilitate the implementation of resource extraction projects throughout the Andean region, home to vast mineral deposits, without having to go through the inconvenience of consulting the communities whose lives will undoubtedly be hugely affected in the process. Indeed, the Ministry of Energy and Mines has already indicated that 14 projects will be moving forward without prior consultation.
In an attempt to justify this remarkable position, Merino has argued that the Quechua-speaking Andean campesinos should not be considered indigenous because . . .