Peru's native Amazon Indians say they plan to launch their own political party and participate in next year's presidential election, possibly fielding as its candidate an indigenous protest leader facing rebellion charges.
The head of the Aidesep association representing 65 tribes across the Peruvian jungle, Alberto Pizango, said Wednesday the group is collecting signatures to register the new party. Pizango said if nominated, he would be willing to run as the party's candidate for the April 2011 presidential election once the group is formally established next month.
The new party will be called the Alternative Alliance for Humanity, or APHU, a play on the native Quechua word "apu," which means leader or traditional chief.
Pizango is on bail related to sedition charges after being accused of instigating violent protests last year against oil and gas exploration on indigenous ancestral lands in the Amazon. More than 30 people died, including 23 police officers, when security forces moved to break up a road blockade set up by Indian tribes.
Pizango fled to Nicaragua to escape arrest. In May he voluntarily returned to Peru, where he was detained, then freed pending trial. He told reporters Wednesday the tribes decided to enter electoral politics because the established parties are not paying attention to their demands.
Peru's indigenous minority has long had little representation in national politics. Official estimates say there are 400,000 native Indians in the country, but Pizango says they number more than a million.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.