Peru: indigenous people face off with Hunt Oil in rainforest

The Native Federation of the Rio Madre de Dios (FENAMAD) reports that at least 200 indigenous people have gathered at the settlement of Salvaci贸n, the local base for Texas-based Hunt Oil in the rainforest region of southeast Peru, in an ongoing occupation to halt the company’s operations. After a meeting at Salvaci贸n between company representatives, local indigenous leaders and high-ranking government ministers Oct. 28, FENAMAD announced it was breaking off dialogue and announced an open-ended plant贸n (protest vigil). Fifty National Police officers have been mobilized to Salvaci贸n, where the stand-off continues.

Media reports said the meeting at Salvaci贸n, in Manu province of Madre de Dios region, was attended by Prime Minister Javier Vel谩squez Quesqu茅n, Environment Mnister Antonio Brack, Mines and Energy Minister Pedro S谩nchez, and Hunt Oil high executives. But an e-mail account from FENAMAD denies that the ministers actually showed up, as had been demanded. In any case, indigenous leaders were not appeased. “We will not permit the presence of the oil company, despite the fact that the state has united with the transnational, turning over to it our territories,” FENAMAD’s Jaime Corisepa told the Coordinadora Nacional de Radio.

FENAMAD says local residents have not given Hunt consent to work on their lands, and they are willing to put their “lives on the line” to stop them from doing so. The organization has repeatedly threatened to physically evict the company if it continues to violate their territorial rights.

Hunt, in a joint venture with Repsol-YPF, holds exploration rights on lands titled to indigenous Harakmbut, Yine and Matsigenka communities. At the heart of the exploration area is the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve, used by many indigenous villages for hunting and fishing and the source of six rivers that are the only fresh water supply for an estimated ten thousand people. (Survival International, FENAMAD e-mail, Oct. 30; El Comercio, Lima, Oct. 28; CNR, Peru, Oct. 27)

In an open letter to CEO Ray Hunt, FENAMAD reiterates its demand that the company withdraw from their territory, calling their operations in violation of the International Labor Organization’s Convention 169, protecting the right of indigenous peoples to be consulted in development decisions concerning their territories, and Peru’s Supreme Decree No. 012-2008-EM of Feb. 20, 2008, which guarantees the right of citizen participation in questions concerning hydrocrabon activities . (Noticias Fenamad, Nov, 6)

The Campesino Federation of Kos帽ipata, made up of peasant settlers near the southern border of the Amarakaeri reserve in Cusco region, on Oct. 28 issued a statement in solidarity with FENAMAD’s demands. The statement asserted that nearly 7,000 campesinos in the zone would be negatively affected by Hunt’s operations within the reserve. (Punto de Encuentro, Lima, Nov. 4)

A report on the “environmental news service” Inforegion took a skeptical view of the stand-off at Salvaci贸n, asserting that few of the participants from FENAMAD were actually indigenous. The report claimed those maintaining the protest camp were mostly peasant settlers鈥攚hile acknowledging that they carried spears and bows and arrows and wore face-paint in the style of Amazonian natives. The report offered no source for the claim. It also charged, similarly without citation, that FENAMAD leader Antonio Iviche is involved in illegal gold mining and land sales in the nearby Tambopata National Reserve. (Inforegion, Oct. 28)

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

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