For the past weeks, independent media around the world have been warning of a possible violent clash, and here I'm posting information sent by reliable sources from the conflict area.
Peruvian police is protecting the interests of U.S. corporation Hunt Oil and Spain's Repsol-YPF, who are trying to explore / extract oil and natural gas in the state-created Lot 76 concession which includes the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve, and other lands of the Yine, Matsigenka or Amarakaeri and Harakmbut Indigenous communities.
For many, this could mean another Bagua massacre. Early on this week, I received this tip from a reader of this blog, but I had to confirm this information before posting it:
First I want to thank you on your great reporting of the massacre in Bagua. I cannot believe how many false/slanted reports were published [in Peru].
Sadly, I believe a similar situation will be happening very soon. This spring I worked [...] with Indigenous groups who wanted to draw attention to the escalating conflict between their community and the Texas [based] Hunt Oil Company who plans to extract billions of dollars of oil out of the Amakaeri Communal Reserve.
In a nutshell, Hunt Oil was given a concession for this land by the Peruvian government in a very hasty legal process which has alienated the local people from consultation. Furthermore, the project is being implemented on a massive communal nature reserve, the Amakaeri reserve, where uncontacted peoples are said to reside.
As of last Monday, the Harakmbut nation organized a massive protest against Hunt Oil and asked them to engage in a dialogue. This, however, left nothing resolved and the Hunt Oil project is going ahead as planned. Now the Harakmbut nation and their supporters feel they have exhausted all means of peaceful negotiations and have resolved to seek out violent means of resistance. This is very concerning. [...]
Below is an email sent out by one of our main contacts, [...] who was present for last week's meeting [in Peru]. Here she explains the position of the Harakmbut nation.
Willy Corisepa, a Harakmbut Indigenous leader. Photo by Fenamad
Dear friends, among the most important news is the following:Hunt Oil Company has a reputation of environment destruction and a corrupted history. Only last month, Hunt Oil was fined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for violating federal regulations outlined under the Clean Water Act, found at its oil production facility of Henderson County, Texas.
The meeting did take place in Salvación, but no ministers nor other requested authorities came, but only the same negotiators as usual. About a hundred people more, both natives and colonists, joined too. The three foreigners present were identified and intimidated by the district`s prosecutor and police officials who showed an aggressive attitude, besides there were heavily armed as if they were ready for a "second Bagua". No agreement was signed and Hunt Oil announced that it will continue its work. We also found out that:
a) The seismic lines have already been finished almost entirely without the communities knowing about it.
b) There are 1100 workers inside the Reserve.
c) There is a report of footprints of uncontacted Indigenous people made by an Indigenous worker from Shintuya.
After the meeting everybody opted for withdrawal from the place, the police followed us and settled down next to the "native camp", which made us "flee" to the Alto Madre de Dios river bank in order to travel downriver to Puerto Maldonado the next morning. The conclusion of the leaders is that at this point all possible peaceful means to stop the company`s activities and get the workers out of the Reserve "really" have been exhausted. Now they are thinking of violent measures as the last resource.
Hunt Oil has several oil projects around the world and strong ties to the U.S. Republican party, and to the Bush family. Hunt Oil obtained the lease for the Camisea gas project in Peru, after then U.S. president George W. Bush visited Lima and he met with then Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo, a naturalized U.S. citizen.
If Hunt Oil can't protect the environment within the U.S. one has to wonder what they will do in Peru, where a weak and corrupt government doesn't have the political willingness nor the resources to enforce environmental protection rules.
Meanwhile, manipulated press in Peru is widely ignoring the Indigenous protests in Salvacion, the same way they ignored the peaceful road blockades in Bagua, before the massacre of June 5, 2009 where hundreds of Indigenous people died, including Indigenous police officers.
In order to distract the attention from the Indigenous uprising and to lobby in favor of Hunt Oil, president Alan Garcia has announced yesterday that more natural gas have been found in the Camisea region. Unpopular president Garcia tells Peruvians that this discovery represents a benefit for Peru and its citizens, but the experience lived by Native communities around Camisea, show that the extraction of natural gas for exportation only brings them pollution, death, and destruction of their ways of life.
As an attempt to avoid violence and stop the oil explorations Hunt Oil and Repsol-YPF were sued by the Indigenous group FENAMAD the Native Federation of Madre de Dios by the end of September 2009, after dialogue with the local Native peoples failed.
Watch these videos (in Spanish and Harakmbut languages) of the Dialogue Rounds between Indigenous peoples and Hunt Oil authorities, videos posted first by the FENAMAD blog.
Also there are other issues in play here, as the area of Salvacion attracts many tourists coming to the worldwide famous Manu Natural Reserve, and it's also said to be an area used for cocaine production, sold mostly to Brazil consumers.
The current situation is described by Pablo, a anonymous Peruvian blogger who seems to know well the Madre de Dios region and warns of "another Bagua" attack in the region. Pablo describes the situation as very complex, and cites communities being bought up by Hunt Oil, others trying to protect their lands, and others trying to safeguard their individual interests. However, the blogger never mentions his sources of information.
Now Peruvian labor and Indigenous groups are demanding the government of Garcia to fire its minister of Environment. The Mining Federation of Peru (FEDEMIN) y la Federación Nativa de Madre de Dios (FENAMAD) have called for a 48-hour national strike on November 16 and 17, to demand for minister of Environment Antonio Brack to step down. Brack is a strong supporter of mining, oil and natural gas corporations but he attacks small mining producers, blaming them of polluting rivers and ecosystems.
After failed attempts of the Garcia government to dissolve AIDESEP, the biggest Indigenous organization of the Amazonian communities on Peru, and the main organizer behind the Bagua protests, that organization has expressed its support to the Indigenous protests in Salvacion.
More information is coming soon. For now please stay alert and spread the word about this current conflict, so we can find ways to avoid more bloodshed and violence against the Indigenous peoples in Peru.
TAKE ACTION Let Hunt Oil know...
Hunt Oil says on its website, that "the company's core values are: Commitment to excellence, Honesty, Integrity, Respect for the individual, Teamwork and Creativity. Let them know what you think about their actions in Peru and ask them to avoid violence and the killing of innocent people:
OPERATIONS - SOUTH AMERICA
President, Peru LNG
Carlos del Solar
Peru Hunt Oil Company
EXPLORATION - WORLDWIDE
GOVERNMENT & PUBLIC AFFAIRS
Ambassador Jeanne Phillips
Senior Vice President
Corporate Affairs and International Relations