MANAGUA – Nicaragua granted political exile to Peruvian Indian leader Alberto Pizango, Nicaraguan Ambassador to Peru Tomas Borge said Tuesday.
Pizango, who sought refuge Monday at the Nicaraguan Embassy in Lima, is accused by the Peruvian government of instigating the clashes in the Amazon that left at least 33 dead.
The case of Pizango “has all the characteristics of being a political matter” and is being analyzed by the Organization of American States and the Peruvian Congress, Borge told Managua’s 100 Por Ciento Noticias network.
“Our only choice, keeping in mind the spirit of solidarity that (Nicaraguan) President Daniel Ortega has for those thought to be politically persecuted, was to grant political asylum to Mr. Alberto Pizango,” Borge said.
Asked if the decision to give Pizango political shelter would harm relations with the government of Peruvian President Alan Garcia, Borge said, “We don’t know.”
“We have no other choice and no other alternative than to grant Pizango asylum since this is a strictly political case and this is a person being politically persecuted,” he said.
Borge, the only surviving founder of the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front, or FSLN, said that he asked Lima for “understanding” for the decision taken.
“Up to now there has been no negative reaction or particular signs of irritation from the government of Alan Garcia,” Borge said.
About the possibility of taking Pizango to Managua, the Nicaraguan diplomat said that it all depends on the speed with which the Peruvian government provides a safe conduct for the Peruvian Indian leader.
Aidesep, the main indigenous organization in the Peruvian Amazon, launched protests two months ago against Decree 1090, a law the Indians contend undermines their control over ancestral territories by giving the government in Lima the power to grant mining, logging and drilling concessions without consulting area residents.
Indians have blocked highway and river traffic and seized control of oil-industry installations, effectively shutting down a pipeline that carries crude oil from the Amazon interior to Peru’s northern coast.
The dispute turned violent last Friday when police forcibly evicted protesters from a key highway near Bagua. While authorities say the Indians fired on cops, indigenous leaders maintain the protesters were not armed and blame the bloodshed on police.
The Garcia administration says 24 police officers and nine Indians died in the protests, while Aidesep puts the death toll among the protesters at between 30 and 40.
Pizango, for whom an arrest warrant has been issued by prosecutors in Lima, is accused of sedition, homicide and attacking the armed forces, charges that could result in a prison sentence of up to 35 years. EFE