Update from Loreto, Peru – 16th June 2011

With the newly-inked Pastaza Act under his arm, Quechua leader Aurelio Chino Dahua began the long journey home from Iquitos to his people on the Rio Pastaza this week, carrying hope that the regional government will fulfill its many promises and with a new resolve to resume his previous militancy if the government acts in bad faith.

A violent attack on Dahua earlier this week (He wasn’t hurt) after he left a meeting with Arkana Alliance staff at PDDI offices in Iquitos only seemed to boost his resolve and redouble his vigilance.

“I will never negotiate with the company,” he says, referring to Pluspetrol, the Argentinian oil company that has spilled and dumped oil and industrial toxins on the rios Tigre, Corrientes, Pastaza and Marañon. Dahua describes with disgust how company representatives have offered him cash bribes to give up his struggle – offers he says he is duty-bound to turn down.

Dahua has been instrumental in the ongoing unification of indigenous groups on the four watersheds who are directly affected by the contamination from Pluspetrol’s operations. In recent weeks he has met with leaders from the Kukama, and Achuar, as well as representatives from the nongovernmental groups such as Amazon Watch, Racimos and the Program for the Defense of Indigenous Rights (PDDI), who are helping The Arkana Alliance raise funds to support the growing alliance against Pluspetrol.

In attempts to facilitate this positive movement, The Arkana Alliance also helped Kukama leader Alfonso Lopez Tejada, president of the Kukama federation ACODECOSPAT, travel downriver on the Ucayali this week to visit a dozen communities there and complete the third leg of his mission to repair his federation after it was devastated by infighting following a series of Pluspetrol spills. Lopez says he expects to have the leaders of at least 45 of his 54 communities ready to file a civil lawsuit against Pluspetrol this summer.

In yet another related development, a number of leaders from Achuar communities along the Rio Tigre are expected to arrive in Iquitos to file their own criminal complaints against Pluspetrol in early July. Their legal action is timed to coincide with the planned Forum on Oil Exploitation in Loreto on July 5 in Iquitos.

All three trips by these key indigenous leaders are made possible by The Arkana Alliance, which provided emergency funding to meet their immediate travel needs. Please join us in supporting this important movement and its leaders as they stand together against oil contamination on the Amazon (link to donations page in Arkana Alliance site).

Deborah Rivett, Friday, 17 June 2011