Peru: Humala makes demands on Camisea consortium

Peru’s new minister of energy and mines, Carlos Herrera Descalzi, said Aug. 31 that the Camisea consortium has been given two years to find new natural gas reserves to meet its export contracts, and that all gas from Lot 88, already under development in the rainforest of Cuzco region, would after that time be used to meet domestic demand. Herrera said the government was taking the move in response to “the just demand of the country.” But he added: “All the contracts have been signed under the belief that there is more gas in Peru, that we were going to find more. What we are saying is that there is a two-year term to find more gas, a reasonable time frame for them to find more gas or to find another guarantee that isn’t Block 88.” President Ollanta Humala Tasso added after a meeting with leaders of the General Confederation of Workers of Peru (CGTP): “We have work to do on the issue of energy. We have failed to resolve the problem, and we want to do so in good faith, and without the necessity to resort to other methods.” The previous administration of Alan GarcĂ­a had started talks on changing the contract with the Camisea consortium, but those efforts stalled. (La Republica, Andina, Andina, Aug. 31)

Humala warned that contracted gas exports to Mexico would be cancelled if the consortium does not find alternatives to Lot 88. But Aurelio Ochoa, president of PeruPetro, the agency that approves oil concessions, said the government seeks to triple oil production in the country during Humala’s term in office. He warned that in the past three years, 16 exploratory wells had been drilled in Peru, compared to 281 in Colombia in the same period. “We need a more aggressive investment program,” Ochoa said. (Pueblo y Sociedad Noticias, Bloomberg, Aug. 31)

Indigenous leaders have expressed disappointment in the Humala government’s announced intention to attract $20 billion in petroleum and gas investment over his five-year term—more than the $6.2 billion the sector attracted under GarcĂ­a. “The communities had entrusted this government to oversee a real, profound change,” said Alberto Pizango, head of Peru’s Amazonian indigenous alliance, AIDESEP. “But Humala has altered his discourse, leading the people to say this government will just be more of the same.”

Pizango acknowledged that Peru’s new law mandating indigenous peoples be consulted on development projects on their land represents progress—but said it was insufficient. “I feel the people are increasingly convinced that the only way to be heard is through their protests,” Pizango said. “They want an end to traditional politics…not just dialogue.”

Concerns were also raised about the government’s commitment to protect reserves that have been established for “uncontacted” rainforest peoples—some of which overlap with the Camisea gas fields. “I’m not convinced Humala’s going to stand up for people who don’t have any power,” said Gregor MacLennan of the group Amazon Watch. “I’m concerned about what’s happening to the whole region. It’s going to reach a tipping point.”

Ochoa has said that reserves will be treated with “total respect”—but also plans to aggressively promote exploratory drilling in Peru, which he considers a “semi-explored” petroleum landscape. “Remember that there are different types of reserves,” he said. “There are some that are untouched and virgin, but others can see some extraction.” (Reuters, Aug. 17)

Reality TV colonizes rainforest
Indigenous leaders are also protesting a “reality television” series filmed in communities of the Machiguenga—one of the groups impacted by the Camisea fields. The “Mark & Olly’s World’s Lost Tribes” series, broadcast in 2009 on the Travel Channel in the United States, shows two self-styled modern-day explorers supposedly visiting a mysterious, remote tribe. Anthropologist Glenn Shepard said stars Mark Anstice and Olly Steeds “want to live out their fantasy of going native. They have this shtick that they impose on people.” In an article published in the May issue of Anthropology News, Shepard cites various parts of the shows in which he says the subtitles are unrelated to the Machiguenga speakers’ words.

“The sound bites had nothing to do with what was in the subtitles, often,” Shepard told Indian Country Today, saying the series “reproduces a completely outdated idea of indigenous Peoples.” (ICT, Aug. 19)

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

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