Peru: regional strike paralyzes south over Camisea LNG project

Social movements in Peru’s Southern Macro-region held a general strike June 17 through 18, to demand a halt to the natural gas contract with the Camisea LNG consortium. Roads were blocked and businesses shut throughout the affected areas. Parts of Cuzco, Arequipa, and Tacna regions held a 24-hour paro, or protest campaign, while organizations in Puno, Madre de Dios and Apurimac extended the campaign to 48 hours, to press for cancellation of the Inambari hydro-power plant. Cuzco’s provinces of La Convenci├│n, Espinar and Canchis also extended the strike to 48 hours.

The strike was coordinated by highland campesino organizations and indigenous rainforest dwellers in an alliance of local “Defense Fronts.” It was widely supported by local authorities, who embraced the demand that the macro-region be prioritized to receive gas. “The gas is for internal consumption and it should be preserved for future generations,” said La Convenci├│n’s mayor Marco Chalco. “It is a contradiction what the government says… Our native brothers continue cooking with firewood and in the end we won’t make use of anything.”

Leaders are also threatening to extend the strike yet further. “We are going to wait for the government’s response during 48 hours, but if they ignore us we will go on an indefinite strike,” said Walter Toledo, general secretary of the Provincial Federation of Campesinos of La Convenci├│n, Yanatile and Lares (FEPCACYL).

In the central square of Puerto Maldonado, capital of Madre de Dios region, rainforest dwellers rallied in traditional feathers and face-paint, representing the native communities of Boca Inambari, Shiringayoc, Palma Real, Tres Islas, Barranco Chico, Monte Salvado, Puerto Nuevo and Tipishka. The Brazilian firm Odebrecht is poised to break ground on the Rio Inambari project, affecting these communities.

Peru’s government just inaugurated the liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant on the coast in Melchorita Pampa, Ca├▒ete province, Lima region. Slated to make Peru a net exporter of natural gas, the plant is the first in South America. It is owned by Peru LNG, which is 50% controlled by US-based Hunt Oil. SK Energy of Korea and Repsol of Spain both have a 20% interest in the consortium, with the remainder held by Marubeni Corp. of Japan. The consortium invested $3.8 billion, the largest spent on a single project in Peru’s history. Another consortium led by Hunt operates the rainforest gas-field at Camisea, Cuzco region, which is to supply the project. (La Primera, Lima, June 19; Peruvian Times, Living in Peru blog, June 16; Los Andes, June 14; Enlace Nacional, June 11)

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

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