Doubts on Peru Death Toll

Doubts on the death toll in the recent violent incidents in the Peruvian Amazonian region persist on Tuesday, amid insistent versions, holding that there are many more civilians dead than the number announced.

Prime Minister Yehude Simon ratified the official figure of 24 dead police agents and nine civilians, and said the different versions are just speculation, because they have been verified by the Ombusdman's Office and no other corpses have been found.

"We wish there are no more deaths," said Simon, and accepted the possibility that other victims could be found.

Foreign Minister Garcia Belaunde is said to have ordered that Peruvian embassies and consulates report properly on the incidents, because versions about a large number of deaths have been published by the international media.

Television Chanel 2 published on Monday testimonies by citizens of the northern Bagua jungle area, saying they had seen dozens of corpses after the disturbances unleashed on Friday, when the police cleared a road blockage.

The television station visited several indigenous villages, in which it said to have verified that most the town's males had not returned, although it was possible that they had hidden in the jungle.

Radio Nizkor de Bagua station agreed with that version and published testimonies by Ricardina Ramos, a religious woman who works with the indigenous communities, who says that the death toll is at least 60.

"A number of corpses have been thrown to the river and others burned. Many corpses lie in the closest hills. The indigenous people have been shot and chased," held the mentioned radio station.

The Peruvian Junge Inter-Ethnic Association (AIDESEP), which is in charge of the protest started two months ago, accused the government of exacerbating the tension, highlighting the death of police agents, including some of them who were executed, and concealing information about dead indigenous people, which is in the dozens.

The Peruvian Team of Forensic Anthropology (EPAF) demanded that the government creates an independent investigative commission to clarify the violent incidents and the real number of dead and wounded people.

The AIDESEP had previously demanded the creation of an impartial commission, led by institutions of civil society, with foreign observers and the same objective.

Expert in Amazonia, Roger Rumrril, proposed the creation of a Commission of the Truth to investigate what happened, faced with a media offensive that is trying to release the government from any guilt, and blame it on the indigenous people.

[Fuente: Prensa Latina, Lima, 09Jun09]

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