Because of the formal duality between native peoples and peasants, the state continues to orient its
outreach programs toward the Amazonian lowlands. (Interview with Javier Aroca, Human Rights
Omsbudman for Native Peoples). The process is slow and painstaking. Peasant and native communities
can formally register as communities and these, in turn, have begun to forge in some regions a role
within the political arena at the local level. The state has created a few agencies within the central
government to facilitate the recognition of indigenous peoples and communities.
Yet, there are only
minimal resources and, beyond these programs, there is even less political will.
Both the state and communities themselves are pressing for change. The state has begun to formally
demarcate and grant title to indigenous territory in the Amazonian region, and to recognize traditional
legal systems and political organizations. In visits to San Martin, the team learned that of the 180
Quechua speaking communities comprising 30,000 people in the Department, only 15 had been
The Ombudsman has recently begun a program that will recognize three indigenous judges
in San Martin to resolve disputes using customary law. The communities will elect these judges.
Local communities are beginning to assert their interests and authority. They have received some support
from the central government, their own organizations, and some NGOs. Yet they report that they are
excluded or marginalized from the local power structure, and that elected local officials rarely take their
needs and interests into account and only minimally consult with them. They also demand input into the
economic development of their regions, which in the lowlands are fragile, bio diverse areas with little
capacity for mono crop development. Indigenous groups claim that political incorporation is both a
moral and political necessity and the key to sustainable development.
Local Government in Coca growing Zones
During the last 10 years, there have been extraordinary transformations in the Peruvian lowlands east of
the Andes. Ten years ago, the region was the center of guerrilla activities and drug trafficking. The
absence of state presence made the rise of Sendero Luminoso and a boom in illicit coca production
possible. Over the last 10 years, there has been a steady expansion of state presence, bringing electricity
to most inhabitants of the region, as well as roads and schools. In addition, the state has worked with the
coca growers to provide alternative crops and access to credit and markets.
USAID has worked in the region since 1992 as part of its anti narcotics assistance. One major activity
assists AMRESAM, Regional Association of Mayors of San Martin, the association of municipalities of
the region. AMRESAM has achieved legitimacy as a non partisan association that provides technical
assistance and training and has become one of, if not the most, successful regional associations of
municipalities in Peru. It has reasonably good relations with the central government and has learned to
pool its collective weight as a bargaining tool. One hundred municipalities can jointly go to the regional
or central government and make a case for specific needs, such as roads, electrification, schools, and
These are principally the Special Program for Indigenous Peoples of the Ombudsman, and special sections for
Indigenous Affairs within the Ministry for the Promotion of Women and Human Development and the Ministry of
Interview with Toribio Amasifuen Sangama.
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