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Peru Pursues Criminal Charges Against Greenpeace For Desecrating Sacred Sites

Greenpeace’s environmental activism has gotten them into trouble once again — this time from the Peruvian government for desecrating a world heritage site considered sacred to the people of Peru.

Peruvian officials have condemned Greenpeace for displaying anti-fossil fuel banners at sacred sites around the country, including the Machu Picchu and the sacred Nazca lines. But what Greenpeace thought would be a way to sound the alarm on global warming while United Nations delegates meet in Lima has only angered Peruvians.

“It’s a true slap in the face at everything Peruvians consider sacred,” exclaimed Peru’s Deputy Culture Minister Luis Jaime Castillo.

Peruvian officials said they would pursue criminal charges against the group, preventing activists from leaving the country while prosecutors “file charges of attacking archaeological monuments, a crime punishable by up to six years in prison,” reports The Guardian.

The Nazca lines are ancient geoglyphs depicting hundreds of figures from monkeys to spiders to lizards in southern Peru. Nazca has been declared a world heritage site by Unesco and Peruvians consider the lines to be a sacred site.

Greenpeace activists unfurled giant banners next to one of Nazca’s massive geoglyphs saying “Time For Change! The Future Is Renewable.” Officials say Greenpeace activists damaged the historical site with their banners. Needless to say, Peruvians were not pleased.

“This has been done without any respect for our laws. It was done in the middle of the night. They went ahead and stepped on our hummingbird, and looking at the pictures we can see there’s very severe damage,” said Castillo. “Nobody can go on these lines without permission – not even the president of Peru!”

That’s not all. Greenpeace activists were also criticized for projecting a sign saying “Act For The Climate! Go Solar!” over Machu Picchu, the ancient stronghold of the Incan empire. The ancient city is also a Unesco world heritage site and carries a deep historical significance for Peruvians.

“No it’s wrong, you cannot use Machu Picchu for that kind of thing,” a Peruvian woman told the free-market group CFACT in a video interview.

“They don’t respect what our ancestors left us,” echoed another Peruvian woman. “These ruins were left to us by our Incan ancestors and they should respect that.”

Greenpeace has apologized for their actions, but Peruvian officials don’t seem to be accepting the apologies.

“We took every care we could to try and avoid any damage. We have 40 years of experience of doing peaceful protests,” Greenpeace spokesman Kyle Ash told The Guardian. “The surprise to us was that this resulted in some kind of moral offense. We definitely regret that and we want to figure out a way to resolve it. We are very remorseful for any offense that we’ve caused and we’re very remorseful for that.”

“Disrespecting humanity’s cultural heritage – I don’t think that’s the message this summit or Greenpeace is trying to spread to the world! Most of us in the cultural sector agree with the message. But the means don’t justify the ends,” Castillo countered.

Greenpeace is currently working with the Peruvian government to right any wrongs and said it takes “full responsibility” for any damage done to the historical sites. But critics are saying that irreparable damage has already been done to the sites.

“It’s not a matter of money. The destruction is irreparable,” Ana Maria Cogorno, president of the Maria Reiche Association, told the Guardian.

Greenpeace’s publicity stunt was done while UN delegates met in Lima to further discuss a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol. Already the conference looks as if delegates will once again walk away without making any real progress, according to observers.

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