Peru: students protest at land takeover threat

 Around 100 students from a partner of CIIR (Catholic Institute for International Relations) marched through the streets of Iquitos, the largest town in the Peruvian Amazon, to protest at a plan to take over land belonging to their college. The Corporacion Hotelera del Amazonas SA, a business run by the powerful local Acosta family, is suing the college, claiming they own three hectares of the institute's land. The Acostas want to expand their upmarket Zungarococha Amazon Lodge, which offers tourists 'a mystical Amazonian experience'. The students from FORMABIAP, (Intercultural and Bilingual Teacher Training Programme for the Peruvian Amazon) use the land to study sustainable agricultural methods and compare techniques from different regions of the Amazon. The college bought the 19 hectare plot at Zungarococha, outside Iquitos, 13 years ago. The students said in a statement ahead of the court hearing, that their rights would be violated if the court ruled against FORMABIAP. They called on the judiciary not to follow the 'age old tradition of ruling in favour of the greater economic power '. They added: 'More than 1,000 times and in more than 1,000 ways we have told them that the Earth is our mother. For that reason we are not able, nor are we willing to let go of her. This, the white man does not seem to be able to understand.' FORMABIAP aims to preserve the rich cultural, linguistic and biological diversity of the region. Teachers return to their communities to ensure that traditional and sustainable practices survive. The institute emphasises the importance of raising children's awareness of their collective rights as indigenous peoples and of their rights to autonomy and self-determination. To find out more about FORMABIAP's work in the Peruvian Amazon, visit their new website at Source: CIIR press officer Matthew Heard

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