Peru: Indigenous Occupy 9 Oil Wells, Force Out Talisman Energy

While activists have been carrying out civil disobedience against the construction of

In 2009, an Indigenous uprising occurred in Peru against oil and resource exploitation.

the Keystone XL pipeline in Texas, Indigenous people in Peru have been engaged in their own conflict with oil corporations.  On Sept 2, nine oil wells belonging to Maple Energy were occupied by some 400 people.  On Sept 13, Talisman Energy (a Canadian oil company) announced it was abandoning operations in the Amazon region, after spending millions of dollars on exploration since 2004. Below are two reports.

Peru’s Achuar people force out Talisman Energy

World War 4 Report, September 18, 2012

Talisman Energy announced Sept. 13 its decision to cease oil exploration activities in the Peruvian Amazon and to leave the country. “We have fought long and hard against Talisman’s drilling in our territory because of the negative environmental and social impacts we have seen from oil drilling around the world,” said Peas Peas Ayui, President of the National Achuar Federation of Peru (FENAP). “Now that Talisman is leaving we can focus on achieving our own vision for development and leave a healthy territory for future generations.”

Talisman is the fifth oil company to withdraw from controversial Bloc 64, located in the heart of indigenous Achuar territory in a remote and bio diverse area of the Amazon rainforest (in northern Loreto region). Talisman has been exploring in the area since 2004, despite growing pressure by human rights groups and shareholders for operating without Achuar consent.

“Talisman has had to face up to what the Achuar told them when they first invested in Block 64: The company cannot drill without the consent of the Achuar people,” said Gregor MacLennan, Peru program coordinator at Amazon Watch. “Talisman’s exit sends a clear message to the oil industry: Trampling indigenous rights in the rush to exploit marginal oil reserves in the Amazon rainforest is not an option.”

Despite Talisman’s claim of attaining local support from communities and signing “good neighbor” agreements with 66 communities downriver from their operations, the company never had the consent of the majority of communities living within Bloc 64. Talisman first invested in Peru one year after leaving Sudan. (Amazon Watch, Sept. 14 via UDW).

Talisman’s operations in Achuar territory were blockaded by protesters during the 2010 indigenous uprising in Peru’s Amazon rainforest. The company’s Sudan operations were linked to genocide, resulting in international litigation which has been cited in subsequent cases concerning corporate complicity with human rights abuses in Colombia and in Iraq.

Peru: Indigenous occupy nine Maple Energy oil wells, force retreat of Talisman Energy

Posted by Darrin Mortenson, Alianza Arkana, on Monday, 17 September 2012

Some of the oil well occupiers, armed with sticks. Indigenous resistance in Peru is radical and militant.

In the act of seizing and occupying nine of the big-time polluter Maple Energy’s oil wells along Peru’s Ucayali River last week, Shipibo indigenous communities along the Ucayali River have done far more than create a crisis that could force the company to clean up its toxic mess there and pay for damages.

The dramatic action by some 400 Shipibo residents of Canaan de Cachiyacu also sounded a loud and clear warning to foreign and domestic oil companies now invading other indigenous homelands in the Peruvian Amazon looking for new caches of oil.

Their demands that oil companies respect native rights was one that has also echoed from other corners of the region this week, especially after the Canadian firm Talisman Energy announced Thursday that it was retreating from its Peruvian Amazonholdings in Lot 64 after years of resistance from native Achuar peoples.

“Our people are suffering at the hands of these oil companies. The government needs to assume responsibility for defending the rights of the indigenous people, not only in Canaan, but across the country,” said Lizardo Cauper, vice president of ORAU, the regional collective of indigenous federations, speaking with Alianza Arkana this week.

Similarly, Amazon Watch put the Achuar victory in these terms:

“Talisman has had to face up to what the Achuar told them when they first invested in Block 64: The company cannot drill without the consent of the Achuar people,” said Gregor McLennan, the advocacy organization’s Peru program director.

“Talisman’s exit sends a clear message to the oil industry: Trampling indigenous rights in the rush to exploit marginal oil reserves in the Amazon rainforest is not an option,” he said.

One of the nine oil wells occupied in Sept 2012.

As the occupation of Maple Energy’s wells enters a third week, Cauper reported that a delegation from Peru’s central government and regional government of Loreto is expected to arrive soon in Canaan to negotiate an end to the blockade that has shut Maple’s operations down since Sept. 2.  No news has yet emerged from those talks.

Cauper also warned that before the community ends its peaceful protest, they demand that the state promise to complete an environmental audit of the Maple’s Ucayali River operations and force the company to clean up its well-documented contamination. Community leaders also demand that the government help develop and mediate a “closure plan” in preparation for Maple’s expected withdrawal from the region in 2014.

After making formal complaints against Maple to the official ombudsman for the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation in 2010 (The IFC invested some $68 million in Maple’s operations since 2007) talks broke down last year when Maple refused to fund health and environmental studies or provide food and potable water to the communities after the spills.

More recently, a year ago this month, the Peruvian government confirmed widespread contamination of the water sources and agricultural land that the people depend on for survival, documented health problems and cited Maple’s failures to clean up after spills and bad faith in dealing with the communities affected.

Maple’s human rights violations in the region have hardened local Shipibo communities against the oil industry just as new companies encroach on the region, often subverting indigenous sovereignty and violating native rights in order to cut seismic lines or dig exploratory wells.

The companies include PetroVietnam’s subsidiary PetroVietnam Exploration and Production Corp (VEP) in the 4,700 square-kilometer Lot 162, the Spanish firm Compania Espanola de Petroleos (Cespa) in 7,200 square kilometers of Lot 114 and the 10,000 square kilometer Lot 131, as well as British drillers Emerald Energy in 5,000 square miles of Lot 163 and Canadian-Colombian firm Pacific Rubiales Energy in Lot 138.

To counter the onslaught of both crude oil slicks and slick community relations men, Cauper and other leaders from Canaan and other indigenous communities from the region spoke to some 25 representatives from the to-be-affected communities along the Ucayali at a recent workshop organized by Alianza Arkana and ORAU in August. They warned the elected leaders of the perils of the industry and created a forum for them to share their stories about the companies’ tactics and strategies on the ground. Lawyers from the Alianza Arkana legal team at PDDI – the Program in Defense of Indigenous Rights – and Earth Rights International provided a crash course in their constitutional and international rights as indigenous Peruvians.

The new collaboration across and among indigenous groups represents a new threat to encroaching companies, who for decades have sought to divide communities and peoples in order to contain and control. The ongoing actions against Maple are more evidence of a growing angst among indigenous groups of the region and a further sign of their refusal to wait for government and willingness to act freely in their own common defense.

Posted on September 26, 2012, in Oil & Gas, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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