Indigenous leaders in Peru’s Amazon region of Madre de Dios Sept. 13 issued a joint statement rejecting a Hunt Oil contract on their traditional territories. Antonio Iviche, president of the Native Federation of the Río Madre de Dios (FENAMAD), warned that if Hunt Oil doesn’t quit the territory within a week, indigenous communities will physically expel them. The statement was released following a meeting with Hunt representatives at FENAMAD’s offices in the regional capital, Puerto Maldonado. Hunt is currently opening trails in preparation seismic exploration within the local indigenous reserve, while FENAMAD has gone to court seeking an injunction to halt the work. The controversy comes as dialogue between Peru’s national government and Amazon indigenous leaders continues in Lima in the wake of a rainforest uprising that left several dead in June.
Iviche, a traditional Harakmbut leader, says the oil project threatens the forests and waters of the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve, established in 2002 for the use of local Harakmbut, Yine and Matsigenka communities. “The project will destroy the forest and affect animals we use for food,” Iviche says. “Instead of going to the supermarket for food or medicine, we go to the forest. We depend on it for our sustenance.”
Iviche also charges that—in violation of international standards and Peru’s constitution—Hunt is operating without the consent of the area’s native inhabitants. “They never have consulted with the communties,” he says, adding that residents are overwhelmingly opposed to the operations. “The directors are divided—the company has changed their discourse,” he says, refering to indigenous members of the reserve’s governing council. “But there is a firm position in all the communities against the oil activities.”
On Sept. 9, FENAMAD brought suit before the Madre de Dios Superior Court of Justice—the equivalent of a local district court—seeking an injunction against Hunt’s exploration work. Says FENAMAD secretary Jaime Corisepa: “We have to attack on every level—using the courts but ready to defend our territory physicaly.”
At the end of the meeting, Antonio Iviche announced that if Hunt doesn’t withdraw from the reserve, the communities are prepared to carry out a “desalojo”—eviction.
World War 4 Report on the scene in Puerto Maldonado