Peru Indigenous vs Amazon OIL selloff
It may not be happening here, but the issues are exactly the same for Indigenous Peoples throughout Canada and the world: Governments seek to maximize corporate profits via FREE extraction of natural resources, violating the rights of the Indigenous Peoples on their traditional lands everywhere, and putting lives in jeopardy via conflict and environmental destruction.
If two thirds of the Amazon jungle, the 'lungs' of the world, is to be denuded, made toxic and destroyed, HOW ARE THE REST OF US GOING TO BREATHE?
Peru Indian tribes join forces to fight off Amazon sale to oil companies
October 9, 2009
Achuar elders in Washintsa, Peru.
The Government plans to auction off 75 per cent of the Amazon to [oil] companies
Ramita Navai in Washintsa, Peru
They emerged from the thick, green jungle clenching their spears: a long file of barefoot chiefs and elders, their faces painted with their tribal markings and crowns of red, blue and yellow parrot feathers.
They had been summoned by the chief of Washintsa village for a meeting to discuss an oil company’s efforts to buy the rights to their land. Most had travelled for hours, padding silently through the dark undergrowth.
They came from Achuar Indian communities scattered along the Pastaza River, one of the most remote parts of the Peruvian Amazon near the border with Ecuador.
These men are part of a growing resistance movement crystallising deep in the jungles of Peru. For the first time isolated indigenous groups are uniting to fight the Government’s plans to auction off 75 per cent of the Amazon — which accounts for nearly two thirds of the country’s territory — to oil, gas and mining companies.
They oppose 11 decrees issued by President García, under special legislative powers granted to him by the Peruvian Congress, to enact a free trade agreement with the US. These would allow companies to bypass indigenous communities to obtain permits for exploration and extraction of natural resources, logging and the building of hydroelectric dams.
Indigenous leaders say that the laws will affect more than 50 Amazonian nations representing hundreds of thousands of Indians.
One by one the men step forward and deliver angry, defiant messages. “If an oil company tries to come here, we will block its path and block the rivers. We will not let them in and we will take strong action,” Jempe Wasum Kukush, a local leader, said. Another, Tayajin Shuwi Peas, warns: “We are not scared and we will fight to the death over this.”
Some groups have already begun the battle. Protests have turned deadly, with scores of clashes and rallies erupting across the country this year. Oil operations and airports were besieged and shut down, culminating in a mass demonstration of more than 3,000 Indians, mainly from the Awajun tribe, blockading a road in the sweltering jungle town of Bagua in June. More than 30 people were killed, including 20 policemen, after special forces, airlifted to the scene, opened fire on the protesters.
Fearing more violence and faced with public outrage, the Government was forced to revoke two of the most contentious decrees. The Prime Minster resigned and President García also admitted to a series of errors in the handling of the incident.
The Government has also called the protesters extremists and terrorists, and has charged an indigenous leader, who has since fled to Nicaragua, with sedition and rebellion. More than 100 men face criminal charges and many of them live in hiding.
Francisco Shikiu Ukuncham was shot through the back and saw three of his friends killed. He says that the fighting has served to strengthen ties between tribes. “All we want is for our home, the jungle, to be respected. We were demonstrating peacefully and they shot at us like we were dogs,” he said. “But the Government doesn’t listen to us. And if it doesn’t listen, the situation is going to get worse.”
Some of the tribes communicate with each other via a web of radios. The network has enabled disparate indigenous groups — often located hundreds of miles apart — to form alliances, co-ordinate protests and exchange information.
According to Ambrosio Uwak, the president of an indigenous rights organisation and one of the leaders of the movement, his group can mobilise more than 15,000 people through the radio system. “We want every single one of these decrees revoked. But if not, we won’t hesitate to call on our people to rise up again,” he said.
Unreported World, Peru: Blood and Oil. Friday, October 9. 7.30pm. Channel 4