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  • Leaders of Indigenous communities near Peru

    Leaders of Indigenous communities near Peru's biggest oil field are pressing for better benefits and environmental monitoring. | Photo: Reuters

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One leader said oil spills have led to contamination of the river and the children in the communities suffer from diseases.

Indigenous people living on Peru's largest oil field have seized some facilities operated by Frontera Energy Corp to demand that the government apply an Indigenous rights law before signing a new contract with the Canadian company, an Indigenous leader told Reuters.

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According to a prior consultation law passed in 2011, it requires the government to seek input from Indigenous people before approving any development plans that might affect them. But according to the Indigenous leaders in Frontera's Block 192, the government refused to go through the consultation process even though it is negotiating a new contract with the energy company, whose 2-year contract is due to expire this month.

"If the government says it'll carry out prior consultation, we'll automatically end the protest," Wilmer Chavez, leader of the community of Los Jardines, told Reuters.

Nearly 25 representatives from some 120 Indigenous communities — with over 40,000 inhabitants located in the Pastaza, Corrientes, Tigre and Marañon river basins of the Loreto region — have been in Lima since Monday to talk with the government officials about the issue.

But they say their demands haven't been met and are now organizing a series of protests.

"We only ask the government to consult prior to bidding for the exploitation rights for 30 years of Lot 192, otherwise our brothers will stand up, they will pull out their spear to rebel," Aurelio Chino, one of the representatives, also an Indigenous leader from the Pastaza river basin said.

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With the previous consultation, the Indigenous communities wanted to establish a relationship that would help the people in the region to build infrastructure and better environmental monitoring.

Aurelio Lopez, leader of the Marañón river basin, said oil spills have led to contamination of the river, the land around the basin areas is not that fertile anymore and the children in the communities suffer from diseases.

"Since 1970 several foreign companies have exploited Lot 192 and in the communities, there are no schools, there are no hospitals and (in) the few health posts there are no medicines or a doctor," Lopez said.

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