By: Robert Collier, as published on Amazon Watch, May 4, 2012
John Manzoni’s mouth was frozen in an outraged pout, as if he were undergoing some unspeakably undignified surgery. He waved his gold-rimmed glasses slowly in the air, hovered just above the tabletop. For the CEO of Talisman Energy, his meeting with the face-painted Achuar leaders was not going well at all.
Manzoni and other Talisman executives were meeting in their Calgary headquarters this week with a delegation of Achuar leaders who were partway through a 17-day journey across Canada.
Manzoni was doing his best to sell the company’s PR line about why it insisted on drilling for oil in ancestral Achuar territory.
“As we have said before, Talisman will not work in Peru in areas in which it does not have an agreement with the community. We are sure a solution can come about through continued dialogue,” he said. Talisman CEO John Manzoni (left) found that despite the best efforts of his Spanish translator (right) his PR spin did not go over well with the Achuar.
The Achuar were having none of it.
“This is the fourth time we have come here to tell you to leave our territory,” said Peas Peas Ayui, president of the National Achuar Federation of Peru. “We have been fighting oil companies in our lands for 17 years – first Arco, then Occidental, now Talisman. We don’t want more dialogue, more dialogue, more dialogue. We want you to leave us free.
“That was the word on the streets and in the media in Calgary. “Talisman out of Peru!” shouted hundreds of Canadian protesters outside of the convention center where Talisman held its annual shareholders’ meeting. Inside the convention hall, the Achuar kept up their drumbeat of stern demands that Talisman leave their homeland.
“You keep saying that you do not operate in our territory, but I am here to say that I live in the lands where Talisman is drilling,” said Ampush Ayui Chayat, a representative of the Achuar organization ATI. “You are drilling in our lands without our permission.”
Manzoni repeated his talking points about the company’s desire for dialogue. But afterward, at a press conference with Canadian and international media, he revealed that the years of Achuar criticism might finally be breaking down the company’s confident bluster. Talisman is considering selling or shuttering its operations in Achuar territory and abandoning Peru altogether, he announced.
“For us to be in a country, we want to make it material,” Manzoni told reporters. He tried to downplay the importance of the Achuar oil, noting that one major drilling site in Achuar territory had come up dry, and another, named Situche Central, held only moderate promise. “It’s not, frankly, completely obvious yet how we can make that existing discovery of sufficient size to be material for Talisman, so we have to consider what our options are.”
When asked how the Achuar people’s opposition would factor into any decision to pull out of Peru, Manzoni said: “I’m not saying it’s a major factor, but it’s something that obviously has to be taken into account.”
Talisman officials said the decision whether to withdraw from Achuar territory will be made in the next few months. Many details remain unclear, and the pressures of the oil industry on the Achuar are unlikely to end altogether. But after so many years of struggle, a north wind of hope is blowing from Canada down to the Amazon.
Please find more information about the Achuar´s struggle with Talisman Energy at www.amazonwatch.org
Monday, 07 May 2012