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Peruvian bishops urge negotiation with indigenous groups

LIMA, Peru -- Catholic bishops in Peru's jungle dioceses have thrown their support behind indigenous organizations, calling on the government to negotiate with native peoples before passing laws that affect their lives and livelihoods.

In an open letter released Sept. 2, bishops from six dioceses called on the government "to foster effective participation of the interested parties in the design and implementation of the country's development policies. If this is not the case, we warn that the physical and sociocultural survival of indigenous people will be threatened."

The bishops expressed support of indigenous peoples in their fight against laws that change the way native or peasant community lands can be sold or leased, as well as a series of other decrees dealing with farmland, protected areas and water rights. The decrees form part of a package of 99 laws the government passed between March and June as part of its process to implement the free-trade agreement signed last year with the United States.