May 27, 2010 / 10:58 PM / 8 years ago

Peru indigenous leader released before trial

* Pizango had been granted asylum in Nicaragua

* Says indigenous groups fighting multinationals

LIMA, May 27 (Reuters) - A Peruvian indigenous leader accused of fueling protests against foreign investment in which more than 30 people died was released on Thursday pending his trial on charges of fomenting violence.

Police arrested Alberto Pizango on Wednesday after he returned from a self-imposed exile in Nicaragua, where leftist President Daniel Ortega had granted him political asylum.

Amazon tribes, guided by an organization headed by Pizango that represents Indian groups in the Amazon, staged protests in June last year to force Congress to repeal laws designed to encourage foreign mining and energy companies to invest billions of dollars in the rainforest.

Violence broke out when police tried to break a roadblock that had been in place for weeks. A clash between protesters and police left scores of people killed or injured in the worst violence of President Alan Garcia’s term, prompting him to shuffle his Cabinet.

“As indigenous groups, we don’t just fight for our rights, but for the defense of life, humanity and mother earth, which is being damaged by voracious multinational companies,” Pizango told reporters on Thursday.

Pizango, who was wanted in Lima on charges he contributed to the violence, fled to Nicaragua soon after the unrest.

The bloodshed underscored divisions in Peru between wealthy urban elites and poor indigenous groups in the countryside.

Garcia lacks support in rural areas, especially the Amazon, and his critics say his free-market policies benefit mainly the urban middle class.

Peru’s Congress suspended several land-use laws two weeks after the violence. But indigenous people still want Garcia to sign a bill that would give them the right to be consulted about major natural resource projects on their ancestral lands. (Reporting by Patricia Velez and Terry Wade; Editing by Xavier Briand)

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