Napo River Indigenous Groups Reaffirm Identity, Demand Rights in Face of Oil Invasion

This week, two seldom-heard-from indigenous federations from the far reaches of Peru’s Northeastern Amazon broke traditional isolation to publicly reaffirm their cultural identity and remind regional and national officials of their more than 70 communities’ many needs.

The Organization of the Upper Napo Kichwaruna Wangurina (ORKIWAN), and the Federation of the Middle Napo, Curraray and Arebela (FECONAMNACUA), used an online proclamation to join voices with a chorus of indigenous groups in Northern Peru who are demanding their rights and asserting themselves into the national political process at a time of unprecedented invasion by foreign and domestic operators – legal and illegal – into isolated regions in search of natural resources.

In the statement, addressed to Peruvian President Ollanta Humala and also sent to Alianza Arkana, posted on other indigenous rights websites and circulated throughout Peru, the groups say their goal is “revealing social problems experienced by the people of the basin of the Napo.”

Titled “Year of National Integration and Recognition of Our Diversity,” and signed by ORKIWAN President Enrique Coquinche Coquinche and FECONAMNACUA President Richard Rubio Condo, the statement raises issues ranging from “Naporuna” identity and environmental issues, including contamination from mining, oil and other industries, to perennial issues such as education, health and transportation.

The threats to indigenous rights along this watershed are real, immediate and have a violent recent history. As recently as June, 2009, the Peruvian state send in heavily armed marines on behalf of Spanish oil company Perenco when indigenous residents mobilized to defend their rivers from contamination and bad-faith dealings on the part of Perenco and other oil companies.

“Perenco, Repsol, SubAndean… PetroVietnam and … PetroBras are a matter of constant concern in all the peoples of the basin,” the statement this week said, indicating that the problems have only gotten worse. “There have not been any real benefits to the population in these years of oil company presence. We are still the last to be heard, despite the very clear laws that protect us,” the statement read. “It is important to safeguard the life of our forest, our home.”

Other concerns can be read in the original:

1. NAPORUNA IDENTITY: We who live in this basin are indigenous peoples of the ethnicities Kichwa, Huitotos, Secoyas, Arabelas and Maijunas. We want the Peruvian State and the laws that originate from it to recognize us as INDIGENOUS PEOPLES, but not as native communities. We want to DIALOGUE about our problems. We are concerned about the situations that we live in our watershed. We demand that our frontier it is attended. The State is the largely absent in this part of Peru. Our rights are being violated as indigenous peoples.

2. LAND: We ask for the legal recognition and titling of the indigenous territories of the low, medium and high Napo. We are concerned that there are communities that are physically installed in areas declared by the State in permanent production. Our territory is being invaded by illegal enterprises and informal, which damage our forests in the same way our territory has been given without consultation to foreigners for its exploitation and abuse.

3. NAPO RIVER POLLUTION: We know of the existence of high levels of mercury and others in our watershed. We demand the publication of the heavy metals studies results in the waters of the Napo basin, in the food chain of bacteria in the river’s sediment, up to large fish and even humans. That the examined peoples are informed of these results. The peoples examined have the right to know the existing result of such studies conducted on the water and people. At the same time, we ask that you extend the study to include groundwater. Water is our life; if it is contaminated we risk ourselves and our children. We are not blind in front of so many rare diseases that appear.

4. ENVIRONMENT: We ordered the forest inventory. That a forest unit in the basin of the Napo and its tributaries: Santa Maria, Aushiri, Loroyaku, San Carlos, Curaray, Tamboryacu, Tacsha Curaray and Papaya Cocha. That this forest unit takes charge of the control and organized labor, identification reassessment of any viable concession. The establishment of the Forestry Police in our watershed. Illegal logging and timber washing, currently present in the watershed, concern us. We reject any threat that threatens the lives of Naporunas. It’s not fair that some communities live in constant fear against many threats. To whom turn to, there is no Public Ministry in the Napo, there is no Ombudsman, there are no policemen to protect us.

5. EDUCATION: We demand the creation of the UGEL NAPO. Strengthening PEBIAN – Bilingual Education Program of the High Napo – Bilingual teachers are not paid as rural teachers. To extend the EIB to the three levels: Elementary, Primary and Secondary Education. We value and recognize the work FORMABIAP does in our watershed. We are concerned about the breach of the agreement signed in the minutes of June/08 at the Navy Base of Nanay, where MINEDU agreed to participate in our conference in question, for the submission of the Proposal “School Brand Peru.” We feel cheated. Many teachers from the Upper Napo have left their work for three days to attend to Angoteros and to listen to that proposal. However, MINEDU has not known to communicate his absence despite such much prior coordination. Once again it seems promises only sound nice or remain on paper.

6. HEALTH: We thank IMR – International Medical Relief – for the medical team of eight days by 70 health professionals and doctors from the United States, Korea, Singapore, Canada, England, Malaysia who in coordination with the Health Center of Santa Clotilde and the Napo Micro Red, are attending the Indian and mestizo population of the Napo basin. We urge the Peruvian government that the teachers and State workers can be treated by EsSalud, for that we ask to renew the MINSA  and EsSalud agreement for providing with care in the health posts and centers of the Napo Micro Network.
7. FIGHT AGAINST DRUG TRAFFIC: We ask the eradication of coca leaf destined for the manufacture of drugs, endangering the children and youth of the basin.

8. COMMUNITY JUSTICE: We want to promote, disseminate and install the Indigenous Community Justice throughout our watershed. We ask the Superior Court of Justice of Loreto to facilitate to our organizations with the contents that leads to this important proposal. We ask that a Mixed Court is created in the town of Santa Clotilde, in front of the growing demand for justice from the naporuna population.

9. EXTRACTIVE BUSINESSES: The presence of Perenco, Repsol, SubAndean, and the interference that PetroVietnam will have in the area as well as PetroBras are a matter of constant concern in all the peoples of the basin. These years of oil presence, there have not been seen real benefits to the population. We remain being the last ones to be heard, despite the laws that protect us are very clear. We want to know their social responsibility programs that handle all these oil companies, all these years have not made known to the people their Social Responsibility Plan. That the right to CONSULTATION and other laws that protect us as indigenous people are respected. It is important to safeguard the lives of our forest, our home.

10. PROMOTION OF WORK: We ask for a scale system of payment for professionals and / or technicians of health, education and others, giving priority to border and rural towns. Implementation of policies to recruit professionals and can received incentives for working in rural, border, not easily accessible areas and with indigenous communities. Recognition for the SERUM, which works in the periphery scoring for the selection process of medical ‘residentado’. Napo’s population has no real job despite that foreign mining companies are present in the area.

11. SOCIAL INCLUSION: We ask that the social programs the national government promotes are executed and implemented: JUNTOS, Beca 18, Pension 65, Cuna más, etc.

12. YOUTH: We are promoting the capacity building and training of young leaders. We are preparing young people to help our people in different specialties and / or professions. Higher education is a necessity for graduates of secondary schools in our watershed.

Dialogue is a very large door that prevents all kinds of unpleasant situations that our Peru is tired to live. Both Napo indigenous federations have begun working together for our brothers and sisters of the Napo River. We signed this statement on behalf of 73 indigenous communities affiliated to our organizations.

Deborah Rivett, Tuesday, 07 August 2012

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