President Obama met with Peruvian President Alan García at the White House on Tuesday amidst growing unrest in Peru over the Alan García government’s free market policies that open up indigenous lands to resource extraction. Outside the White House, Hollywood actor Q’orianka Kilcher chained herself to a fence, her body covered in black paint to represent oil. She was forcibly removed, and the police had to use a saw to cut through her chains. [includes rush transcript]
JUAN GONZALEZ: President Obama met with Peruvian President Alan García at the White House on Tuesday. Obama praised García for transforming Peru into, quote, “an extraordinary economic success story.” García said his policies stood in contrast to the declining forces of what he termed “socialist capitalism” on the continent.
The meeting came amidst growing unrest in Peru over the Alan García government’s free market policies that open up indigenous lands to resource extraction. And outside the White House, demonstrators tried to draw attention to García’s disregard for indigenous and environmental rights and accused him of trying to sell the Amazon rainforest. The meeting between García and Obama took place one year after violent clashes in Bagua, Peru, where dozens were killed when the García government sent military police to suppress indigenous protesters.
AMY GOODMAN: Among the protesters outside the White House Tuesday was Hollywood actress Q’orianka Kilcher. She’s best known for her role as Pocahontas in the Oscar-nominated 2005 film The New World
. Q’orianka, whose father is an indigenous Peruvian, chained herself to the fence of the White House, her body covered in black paint to represent oil. She was forcibly removed. The police had to use a saw to cut through her chains. Both Q’orianka and her mother, Saskia Kilcher, were arrested. Q’orianka was charged with disorderly conduct, her mother charged with defacing government property. We welcome them both to Democracy Now! Q’orianka and Saskia Kilcher were released last night. This is their first interview.
Q’orianka, tell us why you chained yourself to the fence at the White House.
Q’ORIANKA KILCHER: Well, I chained myself to the White House because I really hope — I really hoped that this message would get out, because Alan García needs to start involving its indigenous peoples in decision-making process, which directly or indirectly affects their livelihood, because the indigenous movement in Peru is very strong and the indigenous leaders there are more than capable in being involved in decision-making process. And he’s illegally auctioning off land without free, prior and informed consent to its indigenous peoples.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And the irony of the President meeting with Alan García almost a year to the date of the massacre that occurred in Bagua, could you talk about that?
Q’ORIANKA KILCHER: I was shocked by Obama’s celebration of a political leader who calls his indigenous peoples second-class citizens and barbaric savages that stand in the way of progress. And being that I voted for Obama, I also feel a responsibility for urging my president to take a deeper look at García and truly investigate García’s past as well as current doings. And I trust that when they do a proper further investigation, they would find Alan García rather unethical and corrupt and maybe even criminal, but in any case, most certainly not in line with what Americans who voted for him would like to support. And as a young person who voted for Obama, I hold my president accountable to be the man that I voted for. And I have to say that development is not destruction, and human rights abuses are not extraordinary. And we cannot let the environment and people suffer any more because of politics and greed.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to a clip of the Peruvian indigenous leader Alberto Pizango. He just returned to Peru after almost a year in exile in Nicaragua. Upon his return, he was immediately detained for twenty-four hours, although he’s been released, the charges against him related to protests he had led last year that have still not been dropped.
ALBERTO PIZANGO: [translated] I have returned to my fatherland, to Peru, to demonstrate my innocence of the charges against me and to contribute necessary reconciliation of all Peruvians.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Alberto Pizango. Q’orianka Kilcher, can you talk about him and what he faces in Peru?
Q’ORIANKA KILCHER: I actually flew to Panama. I was requested by Alberto Pizango to come and accompany him back to Peru. I had not seen him in a long time, so it was really good to see an old friend. He was immediately arrested once we arrived in Peru. But on the plane, we did have a conversation, and he told me that he comes back with love for his country, with love for his people, with love for his community, and with love for where he grew up. And he comes back to prove his innocence.
When he was arrested, we held a vigil outside of the jail. And I had two cameras from my Youth 4 Truth/on-Q Initiative organization, and we were filming. And I went and sat on the steps, and the police tried to remove me, but they didn’t. And then, the next day, we were standing outside of the courthouse, and we were rallying out there. And the youth in Peru and the organization of the indigenous peoples there was amazing. And they love their leader, Alberto Pizango. And it was a wonderful moment when he was released, and it was actually as well as the thirtieth anniversary of AIDESEP. And it just was an amazing moment, and it was good to have one of our leaders back.
However, there are still nine indigenous leaders that have charges against them, and I urge President Obama to urge Alan García to drop the charges against the other leaders, and urge Obama to urge President Alan García to involve indigenous peoples in decision-making process and to have the free, prior and informed consent. And yeah, so that’s what the situation is. Although Alberto Pizango was released, there is still major charges against him, and they can still take him back into jail, so it’s very crucial that the world watches and that Alan García and the government of Peru knows that we are watching.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Q’orianka, you were arrested along with your mother, Saskia Kilcher. I’d like to ask her, first of all, the decision of both of you to get arrested, especially in the light of all of the petroleum damage that we’re seeing in the Gulf. If your mother could talk about the petroleum damage that’s occurring in Peru?
SASKIA KILCHER: Well, when Q’orianka came up with a decision of wanting to, you know, make a strong statement, her youth organization, Youth 4 Truth in Los Angeles, they went through several scenarios. They decided to take a PVC pipe, as well as a heavy-duty chain, and do multiple tying-downs to the fence. And then, actually, a couple of the really young members of her organization came up with this wonderful mix of finger paint, vegetable oil and shampoo, which really looked like what we’re seeing in the Gulf.
And so, Q’orianka was aware that she is going to have some pretty heavy charges, which, by the way, have been upgraded. She does not have the minor charge, which you mentioned earlier. It is now illegal entry. And there were actually — we heard that they were trying to make both of our charges federal. I don’t think it’s going to happen. But still, they had us separated for a while. They were switching the charges around. But right now I believe that Q’orianka’s charged actually with illegal entry onto the White House property.
And the Secret Service and the Hazmat and a lot of odd agencies are — seem to be very involved in this whole thing, which, of course, being that it was finger paint, we just hope that the charges are going to be proportionate to what BP shall receive for what they’re doing in the Gulf. So we’re good with whatever we are receiving. We believe in the US justice system to give us what finger paint should get on the sidewalk and give BP what the millions and millions of gallons in the Gulf Coast shall get. So, as long as it’s proportionate, we’re good with it.
AMY GOODMAN: We just have fifteen seconds. Q’orianka, you are part-Quechua, is that right?
Q’ORIANKA KILCHER: Yes, I’m proud to be indigenous. I’m half-Quechua-Huachipaeri from Peru.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you both for being with us, Q’orianka and Saskia Kilcher.
Q’ORIANKA KILCHER: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Q’orianka Kilcher, Hollywood actress, outspoken activist on environmental and indigenous issues. Saskia Kilcher, her mother. They both just came out of jail after protesting outside the White House.