Peruvian Indian Leader Given Political Asylum by Nicaragua

The Latin American Herald Tribune is reporting that Nicaragua has granted political exile to Peruvian Indian leader Alberto Pizango, Nicaraguan ambassador to Peru Tomás Borge told the press earlier this week.

Pizango is accused by the Peruvian government of starting and fueling the clashes in the Amazon that left at least 30 people dead last week. The tensions started when national Peruvian police attacked a roadblock in the Amazonian part of Northwestern Peru, where about 2,500 indigenous people were blocking the main road to protest measures the government has taken to sell land to energy companies and other businesses. Natives of the area say that it is their land even though they don't have formal property titles.

The number of deaths after this event is also still hotly debated. Peruvian government officials place the death toll at a total of 33, with 24 police officers and nine Amazonian natives losing their lives. Amnesty International, however, said more than 30 demonstrators and 22 police have been killed since Friday, reports Indian rights advocates put the number of dead and missing as much higher. The Amazon Watch advocacy group accused the government of ditching bodies in rivers and the jungle to keep the death count lower.

As for Pizango, Borge said, “Our only choice, keeping in mind the spirit of solidarity that (Nicaraguan) President Daniel Ortega has for those thought to be politically persecuted, was to grant political asylum to Mr. Alberto Pizango. We have no other choice and no other alternative … since this is a strictly political case and this is a person being politically persecuted.”

An arrest warrant has been issued by prosecutors in Lima for Pizango, with charges that could result in a prison sentence of up to 35 years