[JURIST] The government of Peru on Monday instituted a state of emergency [Peruvian Times report] in the northern region of the country, banning public gatherings, limiting travel, and increasing police presence for 30 days. The measure comes in response to large protests held by indigenous groups who oppose a new law reducing the majority by which a tribe must agree to sell communal land to oil and natural gas companies. Government officials said that the actions were necessary [Andina report, in Spanish] to protect the power generation stations which were the focus of the occasionally-violent protests, but an advocacy group for the Amazon natives [AIDESEP website] has defended their right to protest [press release] what they say is an encroachment on their decision making process. Earlier this month, the UN held a celebration [JURIST report] of the International Day of the Worlds Indigenous Peoples [official website], where UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed the UN's dedication [statement] to ending the "expropriation of [indigenous peoples'] traditional lands." AP has more. BBC News has additional coverage.
The controversial new law is part of a trade agreement negotiated during the administration of US President George W. Bush, who has tried to make it easier for energy companies to acquire land from US trading partners. Bush has made several other recent policy changes in an effort to increase the country's oil supply. In July, he issued a memorandum [presidential statement; JURIST report] lifting an executive ban on offshore oil drilling [JURIST news archive] which had been put in place in 1990 by his father, then-President George H. W. Bush. In June, Bush called on Congress, which is still preventing offshore drilling, to relax restrictions on oil exploration [statement text; JURIST report].