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Indigenous activists have long risen up against Big Oil in the Amazon. (Photo: LaRepublica.pe)

Seizing Wells and Going on Strike, Peruvian Protesters Stand Up to Big Oil

The Indigenous activists want clean water, compensation for oil pollution, and more pay for the use of native land

Deirdre Fulton

Demanding reparations for industrial pollution and adequate compensation for use of native lands, Indigenous activists in Peru shut down 11 wells in an Amazonian oil block on Tuesday.

According to the Spanish EFE news agency, native protesters led by the Federation of the Achuar and Urarina Indigenous Peoples of the Corrientes River (FECONACO) occupied 11 oil installations and seized control of the Trompeteros airport and three storage tanks in Lot 8, which is operated by Argentine energy firm Pluspetrol.

The protesters want clean water, compensation for oil pollution, and more pay for the use of native land, said Carlos Sandi, FECONACO chief.

Reporting in February for Fusion, journalist Manuel Rueda wrote:

Over the past 15 years, dozens of villages located near oil wells in the Northwest of Peru have had to deal with similar oil spills that have poisoned rivers with dangerous levels of cadmium, lead and other toxic materials.

Pollution along the Marañon, Tigre, Corrientes and Pastaza rivers has reached such levels of toxicity that Peru’s Environment Ministry has declared all of them environmental emergency zones over the past two years.

"Many of our brothers have already died from poisoning," Carlos Sandi, a leader of the Achuar tribe said during a recent visit to the capital city to meet with government officials. "In the 21st century, we cannot allow the Peruvian state to condemn indigenous people to death."

Lot 8 is located in Peru's northern region of Loreto, near Lot 192—the nation's largest oil block.

Sandi told Reuters that the Achuar in and around Lot 192 would soon seize wells there following a dispute with the government over a failure to provide sufficient proceeds for communities in a new contract awarded to Canada's Pacific Exploration and Production Corporation.

Furthermore, an assembly of social organizations in Loreto voted last week to carry out another 48-hour strike starting Friday to protest the government's move to privatizate Lot 192 for two years instead of allocating it to the country's state-owned company.

According to TeleSUR, Indigenous activists are calling for the creation of a fund to compensate for 40 years of exploitation of this oil block and an increase on the 0.75 percent of profits currently offered by the government to tribal members. 

As Miguel Lévano Muñoz, Oxfam's Peru-based program officer for extractive industries, explained last month: "For more than 40 years, Indigenous peoples in this region of northern Peru have lived on territories where petroleum is being extracted—resulting in serious environmental, health, social, economic, and cultural consequences. The Kichwas, Quechuas, Achuar and Urarinas, whose community territories overlap with the boundaries of Block 192 have already decided to allow oil exploitation on their land, but what they’re calling for now is the right to benefit from what is being taken."

For more on how Peru's Indigenous people are fighting Big Oil, watch this six-minute documentary from filmmaker Gregory Kershaw:


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