Peruvian natives occupy airfield, nation's largest oil production block

In the last hours Peruvian natives have occupied an airport at Andoas and an area known as Block 192 which is the nation's biggest crude oil production field as they demand President Ollanta Humala´s government restart dialogue over environmental damage and compensation.

Two Amazon native organizations representing 60 communities, each with 500 to 1,000 members, have occupied platforms for crude oil production, the airport and other operation areas of the country´s biggest crude oil production field.

Ismael Vega, who works for an institution that supports native rights, told Latin Business Daily by telephone on Tuesday afternoon that the occupation is the last resort of natives after Humala´s government declared on Aug. 25 that the legally required Previous Consultation process with natives was over. Vega represents the Amazon Center for Anthropology and Practical Application, which has worked for the past four decades to support native rights.

“What is happening in Block 192 is a set of actions by indigenous associations faced with the Peruvian government decision to declare the dialogue process over, in violation of their rights,” Vega said.

The government simply declared the process over because there were not any advances in the dialogue related to environmental remediation, to land titles and to compensation for native land use, Vega said.

Pacific E&P, which began working the land at the start of September under a two-year concession contract, said in an email sent to Latin Business Daily on Tuesday afternoon that the area was in a mode of "operation of deferred production." 

"Native communities of Block 192 have called a stoppage because they consider that there are issues in the Previous Consultation process that have not been closed. Taking into consideration that in Peru the process and realization of Previous Consultation is exclusive responsibiity of the government, Pacific is completely confident in the government´s efforts to solve this situation as soon as possible," the email said.

The area produces over 10,000 barrels per day of crude oil.

“There are serious environmental damages caused by more than 40 years of operations which have not only affected the rain forest but also people´s health,” Vega said, adding that natives were demanding a compensation fund for health care and environmental restoration be increased to about $62 million.

The government had also offered the communities 0.75 percent of the crude production as compensation, but that fell short of the demands of the groups, he said. The offer by the government of a percentage of production to compensate natives is unprecedented.

“The communities are making use of their right to a peaceful protest because the government is not respecting their rights to consultation,” Vega said. All advances in previous talks were lost, he added.

Humala´s government had approved the law of previous consultation early in his term. Peru had also long subscribed to international treaties that gave indigenous people in their territory rights to be consulted over projects in the lands where they have lived since ancient times.