Peru: first ‘prior consultations’ on Amazon oil development

Peru’s official human rights ombudsman, Defender of the People Eduardo Vega, is set to convene the first “prior consultation” with Amazonian indigenous peoples on oil development in their territory, under terms of a new law passed earlier this year establishing protocols for the process. The consultation concerns a planned new round of oil contracts planned for Bloc 1AB, currently held by Argentine firm Pluspetrol, in the watersheds of the Pastaza, Corrientes and Tigre rivers in the northeast of Loreto region. The Regional Organization of Indigenous Peoples of the East (ORPIO), with an office in the city of Iquitos, it to represent the impacted indigenous peoples. Vega pledged the process will be executed “with the utmost clarity so that rights of the indigenous peoples will be respected and the same process can serve for other consultations that will subsequently be carried out.”

But after years of conflict over resource extraction in the region and accusations of broken promises by the government, many indigenous residents remain skeptical about the process. “The government has ignored us and has not obliged the companies to comply with their commitments,” David Chino, vice president of the Quechua Indigenous Federation of Pastaza, in Lima for a meeting of indigenous apus (traditional chiefs) with cabinet ministers last month to agree on opening the consultation process, told Inter-Press Service. “If a parent abandons its child, who has to pay for these damages? The parent, the government. And in second place, the company.” (IPS, Sept. 5; RPP, Aug. 29)

  1. Peru’s Achuar people score win over oil interest

    Talisman Energy announced Sept. 13 its decision to cease oil exploration activities in the Peruvian Amazon and to leave the country. “We have fought long and hard against Talisman’s drilling in our territory because of the negative environmental and social impacts we have seen from oil drilling around the world,” said Peas Peas Ayui, President of the National Achuar Federation of Peru (FENAP). “Now that Talisman is leaving we can focus on achieving our own vision for development and leave a healthy territory for future generations.”

    Talisman is the fifth oil company to withdraw from controversial Bloc 64, located in the heart of indigenous Achuar territory in a remote and bio diverse area of the Amazon rainforest (in northern Loreto region). Talisman has been exploring in the area since 2004, despite growing pressure by human rights groups and shareholders for operating without Achuar consent.

    “Talisman has had to face up to what the Achuar told them when they first invested in Block 64: The company cannot drill without the consent of the Achuar people,” said Gregor MacLennan, Peru program coordinator at Amazon Watch. “Talisman’s exit sends a clear message to the oil industry: Trampling indigenous rights in the rush to exploit marginal oil reserves in the Amazon rainforest is not an option.”

    Despite Talisman’s claim of attaining local support from communities and signing “good neighbor” agreements with 66 communities downriver from their operations, the company never had the consent of the majority of communities living within Bloc 64. Talisman first invested in Peru one year after leaving Sudan. (Amazon Watch, Sept. 14 via UDW)

    Talisman’s operations in Achuar territory were blockaded by protesters during the 2010 indigenous uprising in Peru’s Amazon rainforest. The company’s Sudan operations were linked to genocide, resulting in international litigation which has been cited in subsequent cases concerning corporate complicity with human rights abuses in Colombia and in Iraq.