Peru: indigenous peoples block Amazon tributary to resist oil operations

A large number of Kichua and Arabela indigenous people have for two weeks blockaded one of the Amazon’s main tributaries, the Río Napo, in response to the violation of their rights by oil companies and Peru’s government. The protesters have blocked the Napo with canoes and a cable to stop oil company vessels getting upriver at Santa Clotilde, Napo district, Maynas province, Loreto region. According to Survival International, two boats, including one from the Anglo-French company Perenco, have managed to break through the blockade. Three shots were allegedly fired at the Indians who chased after them.

The blockade of the Napo is just one of many protests currently taking place across the Peruvian Amazon. Coordinated by Peru’s Amazon indigenous organisation, AIDESEP, the protests are in response to government policies that threaten communal land rights. AIDESEP is demanding more democratic consultation with indigenous peoples over local development, and the creation of new reserves for uncontacted tribes. Perenco is working in a part of the Amazon inhabited by two of the world’s last uncontacted indigenous peoples. The company does not acknowledge the tribes exist.

The government has responded by sending police and soldiers to areas where protests are taking place. AIDESEP has criticized these measures, calling them “intimidation” and saying that the protests are peaceful.

Survival International’s director Stephen Corry said: “All over the world tribal peoples are being forced to resort to blockades to try and protect their remaining land. We’re seeing this in India and Malaysia as well as South America. We can expect this kind of action to escalate until the international law and UN declaration are actually applied. Using force against indigenous peoples trying to protect their land is colonialism and should not be tolerated.” (Survival International, London, La Republica, Lima, April 24)

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