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Indian leader calls for end to Peru protests

/ Source: The Associated Press

A top Indian leader said Thursday that she would call for an end to protests in Peru's Amazon after Congress revoked two disputed decrees that indigenous groups believe would spur oil and gas development on their lands.

Daysi Zapata, vice president of the Amazon Indian confederation that led the protests, asked activists to lift blockades of jungle rivers and roads set up beginning in April.

"This is a historic day for indigenous people because it demonstrates that our demands and struggle were just," Zapata said in a press conference. She added that confederation members will be called immediately and asked to end the protests.

The protests turned bloody on June 5 when authorities moved in to break up a road blockade manned by activists in Peru's remote northern jungle. Twenty-three police were killed and, by Indian count, at least 30 civilians died.

Zapata made the announcement after lawmakers voted 82 to 14 to revoke the decrees. The Indians have opposed 11 pro-investment decrees enacted by President Alan Garcia so a free trade agreement with the U.S. could take effect.

"The lesson for the government is that before imposing decrees it should consult so that the historical tragedy that happened in the city of Bagua is never repeated," said opposition congresswoman Marisol Espinoza of the Nationalist Party.

Following the violent clash in Bagua, Peru's government said it would ask Congress to revoke the decrees, meaning Thursday's vote result had been expected.

On Wednesday, Garcia apologized to Indians for not consulting prior to issuing the decrees.

The violence has had major political ramifications in Peru, with Cabinet chief Yehude Simon saying he will resign after settling the dispute and protest leader Alberto Pizango being granted political asylum in Nicaragua.