Peru: government fires new indigenous affairs official after she blocks gas project

Raquel Yrigoyen Fajardo, fired last week as head of Peru’s indigenous affair agency INDEPA, is publicly accusing the government of removing her because she annulled the agency’s approval of an environmental impact study for expansion of the Camisea gas-fields in the Amazon rainforest. The proposed expansion of the Pluspetrol-led consortium’s exploration in Lot 88 would impact the Kugapakori Nahua Nanti Territorial Reserve, where “uncontacted” indigenous groups are believed to live. Her move to withdraw approval for the expansion came one day before she was suddenly replaced Oct. 19. She charged that the approval, granted under the previous administration before her appointment by newly elected President Ollanta Humala, was illegal. (Survival International, Oct. 27; Servindi, Oct. 25)

Peru’s Amazonian indigenous alliance AIDESEP has called on Vice Minister for Interculturality Iván Lanegra to “define as soon as possible the situation that has office has determined concerning Lot 88, where Pluspetrol intends to explore for hydrocarbons in the Kugapakori Nahua Nanti Territorial Reserve, and where roam the autonomous brothers, also called in voluntary isolation.” (AIDESEP, Oct. 25)

In an interview with Lima’s La Republica, Yrigoyen Fajardo said she was informed of her firing directly by the new Culture Minister Susana Baca, a famed Afro-Peruvian singer. She spoke cynically of Humala’s campaign promise to protect indigenous rights. “Beyond political intentions, there is the necessity to translate them into actions,” she said. “While there does not exist an indigenous institutionality in the State, the government will maintain the previous model.” (La Republica, Oct. 22)

INDEPA’s new head is Arturo Zambrano Gustavo Chávez, described as an attorney with experience in “business ethics.” Yrigoyen urged her successors to adhere to international laws that protect tribal peoples’ rights, especially ILO 169. (Survival International, Oct. 27; RPP, Oct. 20)

See our last posts on Peru and the struggle for the Amazon.

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