Peru tribal leaders vow to halt oil output unless indigenous rights respected
Amazon leaders accuse government of blocking consultation on 30-year contract with Canadian oil firm and have given ministers 20 days to apply law
Indigenous leaders from the area around Peru’s largest oil field have threatened to block the government from accessing their territories and halt oil production unless an indigenous rights law is applied within 20 days.
The tribal leaders, who hail from four Amazon river basins, accuse the government of refusing to carry out a consultation process even though it is negotiating a new 30-year contract for oil block 192 with Frontera Energy, a Canadian firm, whose current contract expires in early 2019.
The so-called prior consultation law, passed in 2011 in Peru, requires the government to seek free, prior and informed consent from indigenous people before approving any development plans that might affect them.
But officials from Peru’s energy ministry refused to confirm if a new consultation process would be undertaken, stating that a 2015 process was still valid. Indigenous leaders representing more than 100 communities in the Marañon, Pastaza, Corrientes and Tigre river basins said that process had been carried out in “bad faith”.
“We live in a state where our democratic rights are not respected,” said Carlos Sandi, the leader of the Corrientes river indigenous federation.
“If there is no consultation we will not allow the state or the oil companies in our territory for the next 30 years,” said Sandi, one of nearly 25 representatives of more than 40,000 people living in the four river basins in Peru’s northern Loreto region.
Angela Acevedo, director of indigenous peoples rights at Peru’s vice ministry of intercultural affairs, confirmed that the 2015 process had ended in disagreement between the government and the indigenous communities but said the “state takes the final decision”.
She said the indigenous groups had issued a formal appeal against the ministry’s decision to her agency which is responsible for overseeing the application of the prior consultation law, also known as the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 169.
But Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, the UN’s special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said: “Indigenous peoples have the right to be consulted about any project which is brought into their communities.”
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