Peru: Achuar leader on prison hunger strike

Achuar indigenous leader Segundo García Sandi began a hunger strike Jan. 7 to demand his freedom at Huayabamba prison in Iquitos, Peru. García Sandi was arrested Dec. 5, on charges of tampering with an oil pipeline run by Argentine company Pluspetrol through his people's territory in the remote north of Loreto department. He claims he is being held illegally without evidence, but a habeas corpus action filed by his supporters has met with no response by Peru's judicial authorities. García Sandi's organization, the Río Corrientes Federation of Native Communities (FECONACO), asserts the arrest is retaliation for his demands for environmental justice. FECONACO reports that five Achuar children died in December as a result of contamination related to oil operations in the area, and that a state of emergency announced by Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal in October for the Corrientes Valley, calling for special monitoring, is going unenforced. The Environment Ministry in November took the rare step of fining Pluspetrol $7 million for contamination to the Loreto rainforest. (Servindi, Jan. 11; La Región, Loreto, Jan. 8; Mariátegui blog, Jan. 7; La Región, Dec. 20; AP, Nov. 27)