Hundreds of Achuar indigenous protesters occupied 16 wells at Peru's biggest oil bloc Jan. 27, halting production to demand better compensation for use of native lands by Argentine firm Pluspetrol. Lot 1-AB, in Loreto region, includes 117 wells and produces some 15,000 barrels per day, nearly a quarter of Peru's output. Pluspetrol has operated the bloc since 2001, and has faced repeated protests from the local Achuar communities of Pampa Hermosa and Nuevo Jerusalen over contamination of lands and waters. The 16 wells and a Pluspetrol base camp at the community of Jibarito remain under occupation. On Feb. 4, the protesters said they would seize more wells if the company does not come to the dialogue table. "They have taken their measures of protest and are waiting for dialogue to resolve this as soon as possible," said Carlos Sandi of the Federation of Native Communities of Corrientes (FECONACO). He said demands include better compensation for the use of their lands, and installation of an industrial sawmill promised by the company. They also want a community-run company to provide services for the oil bloc. Pluspetrol says it has already paid nine communities, and the Achuar settlements are outside the bloc's area of influence.
Another indigenous organization, the Federative Assembly of Native Communities of the Río Tigre (FECONAT), meanwhile have launched a river blockade, impeding Pluspetrol boats from traveling on a stretch of the Río Tigre to Lot 1-AB. Pluspetrol maintains that the FECONAT communities are also unaffected by the company's operations. But FECONAT has for years been protesting contamination of the Río Tigre by Pluspetrol. The question has caused factionalism within the group; as the river blocakde began, former FECONAT president Emerson Sandy Tapuy (Hugo Cariajano Tapuy) was expelled from the organization and denounced as a traitor for his perceived willingness to compromise with Pluspetrol. The FECONAT statement charged that Tapuy's brother had taken a job with the company. (Reuters, Feb. 4; La Región, Iquitos, Feb. 2; Peru This Week, Jan. 30; Peru This Week, EFE, Jan. 28; Reuters, Jan. 27)