Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Indigenous Peruvians Occupy Airport, Demand Accountability for Pollution

Hundreds of protesters from Peru’s indigenous community occupied a small airport in the country’s largest oil-producing territory on Monday night in response to unheeded demands that an oil producer clean up pollution that has been seeping into their drinking water, Reuters reports. 

Protesters took over the airport, which is situated in the Andoas district in the north of the country in the Amazon rainforest, in connection with a dispute between Argentinian energy company Pluspetrol and the Peruvian government over pollution and resource use.

Tedy Guerra, a protest leader and Chief of the Neuvo Andoas  community, told Reuters that the protest involves about 500 local natives, and that all flights in and out of the airport have been stopped. The airport services mostly planes used by Pluspetrol.

Guerra said that local police have not taken any action against the protesters.
Aurelio Chino, another representative of the protesters and the president of a local indigenous federation, said that the government’s classification of three Amazonian river basins as “environmental emergencies” due to dangerous levels of oil pollution has had little effect on cleanup efforts. “Neither the government nor the company are cleaning up the spills,” Chino told Reuters, adding that “these problems are building up.”

Pluspetrol operates oil block 1-AB, which produces about 15,000 to 17,000 barrels of oil a day, which comprises about a quarter of Peru’s modest output. The protesters are considering seizing wells and valves as well if the company does not agree to cleanup negotiations and compensation efforts.

Representatives of the company have said that they are “making every effort to reestablish a dialogue with the community,” and that they had already signed an agreement with indigenous leaders in September on the use of a local quarry.

Local indigenous communities have already used similar protest tactics in April of this year, taking control of production facilities for about a week. At that time, protesters had complained that Pluspetrol was not complying with a 2006 agreement to clean up decades-worth of pollution, which was causing sickness among the local population due oil seeping into their drinking water.

In the earlier protest, protest leader Carlos Sandi told the Guardian that his protesters weren’t “against oil exploitation or development,” but were only “calling for our rights to be respected in accordance with international laws.”
(RIA Novosti)

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