Peru: indigenous seize oil field

At least two people were killed and 12 wounded on March 22 in Peru’s northeastern Loreto department in clashes between police and mostly Achuar indigenous workers who had been occupying installations on the Pluspetrol Norte oil company’s lot 1AB since March 20 in a labor dispute. The clashes occurred after the workers attempted to take over the Andoas airport on March 22; they were then removed by police agents, who stayed to patrol the area.

According to a National Police communique, indigenous people firing shotguns killed police officer Jaime Armando Reyna Ruiz and wounded 11 other agents who were on patrol. Police colonel Armando Martinez said one worker was also killed. An indigenous leader, Cesar Garcia, said on the Radio Programas del Peru (RPP) radio network that in fact two indigenous people were killed, while Loreto departmental president Ivan Vasquez told the media that 27 people had been detained. Outside agitators were “detected…inciting the natives to attack the police,” according to Vasquez.

There have been a number of disputes between Pluspetrol and the Achuar communities. In October the Federation of Native Communities of the Corrientes River (Feconaco) threatened to occupy oil wells if the company failed to comply with agreements it signed in 2006 relating to environmental issues and social programs. Local communities occupied some facilities in January. In the current dispute the workers are demanding a 50% wage increase. Pluspetrol, which is largely owned by Argentines, said it was in negotiations with the communities before talks were broken off because of the March 20 occupation. The company said it was losing 23,000 barrels a day because of the occupation; the usual daily production is 47,000 barrels, according to Pluspetrol. (AFP, March 23; El Comercio, Ecuador, March 23 from EFE; La Republica, Lima, March 23)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 23

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