Dispatch from the Capital: Indigenous leaders meet with top government officials.

Last week, from September 12-16, indigenous leaders from the Peruvian Amazon (Loreto) met with high-level government officials to discuss problems with oil exploration and extraction in their region and to appeal for urgent attention in addressing their concerns.

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The indigenous leaders represented 4 ethnic groups from 4 river basins – Alfonso Lopez
Tejada, President of the Cocama Association of Development and Conservation San Pablo de Tipishca (ACODECOSPAT) represented 57 Cocama indigenous communities from the Maranon River Basin;  Adolfo Rengifo Hualinga, Vice-President of the Federation of Native Communities from Corrientes River (FECONACO) represented 36 Achuar communities from the Corrientes River Basin;  Aurelio Chino Dahua, President of the Federation of Quechua Indigenous Peoples from Pastaza (FEDIQUEP) represented 18 Quechua communities from the Pastaza River Basin; and Emerson Sandi Tapuy, President of the Federation of Native Communities from Tigre River (FECONAT) represented 18 Kichwa indigenous communities from the Tigre River Basin.

vice_minister_envtThese leaders presented an agenda of the Amazonian Indigenous Peoples United in Defense of the Territories (PUINAMUDT), developed by their organizations and an additional 5 indigenous federations in Iquitos in June of this year at a workshop held by Rainforest Foundation Norway for 5 federations and a forum sponsored by Alianza Arkana held in July for 13 federations.

At the top of the list of priorities of this indigenous agenda were the rejection of new extractive industry concessions (a call for a moratorium of new oil, mining, hydroelectric and forestry concessions that impact their territories and culture during the revision of the contracts);  demands for direct benefits from existing concessions, which according to them are not currently reaching the communities;  respect for indigenous organizations, and to stop the all too frequent activities to buy off leaders and divide their organizations; and the end of legal persecution of their leaders for defending their rights.

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Indigneous leaders with Vice-President of Peru

The indigenous delegation met with many top-level officials in their week in Lima to present the above concerns and positions, most notably:

  • Vice President of Peru:  Marisol Espinoza
  • Members of Congress:  Congressman Victor Isla;  Congresswoman Veronica Mendoza; and Congresswoman Maria Soledad Perez Tello (Secretary of the Committee of Andean, Amazonian and Afro-Peruvian Communities and the Environment)
  • Minister of the Environment:  Ricardo Giesecke; Vice-Minister of Strategic Development of Natural Resources and Vice-Minister of Environmental Management for the Ministry of the Environment
  • Vice-Minister of Energy for the Ministry of Energy and Mines:  Luis Espinoza Quiñones
  • General Director of Peru Petro:  Isabel Tafur Marin; Director of Environmental Protection and Community Relations for Peru Petro
  • Head of Production, Processing and Distribution of the Department of Oversight of Liquid Hydrocarbons of OSINERGMIN (Supervising Organism of Investments in Energy and Mines):  Jorge Humberto Villar Valladares
  • Head of INDEPA (National Institution of the Development of Andean, Amazonian and Afro-Peruvian Indigenous People): Vice-Ministry of Interculturality:  Raquel Yrigoyen Fajardo
  • Secretary General of SERNANP (National Service of Natural Areas Protected by the State):  Carlos Soria
  • Congressional Committees:  Presentations by the delegation at the Congressional Commission on Indigenous Peoples, and the Congressional Commission on Energy and Mines

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The indigenous leaders were well received at the meetings, and they received promises from many officials of change to come in this new administration.  Many officials, including the Vice-Minister of the Environment and Congresswoman Veronica Mendoza, expressed support of the call made by the indigenous delegation for a
multi-sectorial commission to investigate their concerns about oil exploration and extraction in the region and visit the affected zones.  Others went even further by suggesting additional initiatives, such as Congresswoman Perez Tello, who raised the possibility of having a decentralized session of the Congressional Committee of Indigenous Peoples in Loreto with them and other indigenous leaders, perhaps as early as November, and the head of INDEPA, who offered to organize an indigenous rights training for indigenous leaders and public functionaries in Loreto in November.  There is now increased momentum around this indigenous agenda and additional follow-up on the action items is anticipated for the coming months.

Here are some words from the indigenous leaders who attended:

alf_canal_7_interview_2Alfonso Lopez Tejada:  We have had 40 years of extraction in our territories – but if this is development we want you to show us even one community that is developed.  We have problems with education, with health care.  For us oil has not signified development – it has signified abuse, sickness and death.  (expressed in a meeting in the Ministry of Energy and Mines; 9-16)

Emerson Sandi Tapuy:  The company always comes trying to manipulate us.  The regional government of Loreto also manipulates us.  If we protest, we are quickly processed.  Otherwise the government is not there; we are totally abandoned.  (expressed in a meeting in the Ministry of the Environment; 9-15)


tele_sur_interview_with_adolfo-1Adolfo Rengifo Hualinga
:  There have been many recent oil spills [in the Corrientes river basin].  But when they are investigated what do they say?:  That the oil hasn’t affected the water.  But it filters down toward the water.  It is a big lie to say that it doesn’t reach the river.  To say that the area is not impacted is a big lie.  And for each spill they say that it is the fault of the indigenous people.  But we guard the environment.  Why would we do this?  (expressed in a meeting in Osingermin, 9-14)

IMG_0509-1Aurelio Chino Dahua:  We have come so far – we want to meet with President Humala, and want President Humala to come to the zone.  So many riches come from our region, yet there is not even 1 doctor for our communities [for 10,000 Quechua people in Pastaza river basin].  He needs to see for himself the impacts from 40 years of contamination.  (expressed in a meeting with Roger Rumrill, 9-11)

Deborah Rivett, Saturday, 24 September 2011

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