Peruvian Indigenous protesters seized oil wells in an Amazonian oil block Tuesday to press the government to respond to demands for compensation due to the pollution caused by the petroleum operations.
The protesters from the Achuar Indigenous communities said they also plan to halt output in a nearby concession.
The Indigenous demonstrators shut down 11 wells and took control of an airdrome in oil block 8 to demand clean water, reparations for oil pollution and more pay for the use of native land, said Carlos Sandi, chief of the Indigenous federation Feconaco.
Achuar leader Carlos Sandi observes the damage left behind by extractionist oil companies.| Photo: Renato Pita/ PUINAMUDT
Argentine energy company Pluspetrol operates block 8 and said daily output of about 8,500 barrels per day had stopped. The firm called on protesters in block 8 to seek dialogue.
"So far, however, they insist on holding control of installations," Pluspetrol said in a statement.
Sandi said the Achuar in oil block 192 would also soon seize wells there following a dispute with the government over proceeds for communities in a new contract awarded to the Canadian company Pacific Exploration and Production Corporation.
Both oil blocks are in Peru's northern region of Loreto.
"The decision (to seize wells) has been made, we just need to wrap up some coordination," Sandi said.
Peru signed a last-minute deal with Pacific for the rights to tap oil block 192 for the next two years after an open auction for a 30-year contract failed to draw any bids last month.
The government included benefits for some Indigenous communities in the new contract but a stalemate with others over their share of oil profits left many out.
Representatives of Pacific could not be reached outside of regular business hours.
Block 192's operations have been halted on various occasions in recent years. The protesters have demanded the government clean up oil spills and give them more compensation. Peru has declared several environmental emergencies there because of oil pollution.
The Latin American country is rife with conflicts over mining and energy projects.
Earlier on Tuesday, an assembly of social organizations in the Amazonian region of Loreto voted to carry out another 48-hour strike starting Friday to protest the government's privatization move to allocate an oil lot to the Canadian company for two years instead of the country's state-owned company.
Lot 192 is the source of 17 percent of the national crude production.
The region's president of Patriotic Front Americo Menendez said the Canadian oil firm is a “mafia company,” saying that for example in Colombia they hire gunmen to deal with social leaders who oppose exploitation.
Nevertheless, he added, the assembly also voted in favor of maintaining the talks with the government, in order to negotiate various demands, including the creation of a compensation fund of about US$112 million, in addition to an inversion of around US$625 million in the area.
In Colombia, Pacific Stratus Energy allegedly hires killers against social leaders who oppose the exploitation, claimed President of Federation of Native Communities from the River Tigre Fernando Chuje.
Minister of Mining and Energy Rosa Maria Ortiz has indicated that the state company PetroPeru will start a process of restructuring and modernization in the next 270 days to prepare it to compete against the Canadian company in two years, when the concession ends.
Lot 192 is comprised of areas inhabited by the communities of the river basins of Pastaza, Tigre, and Corrientes.
The leaders of the Apus Indigenous people in the area have been protesting for years, demanding respect for their people and reparations for environmental destruction caused by oil companies.