Communities blockade River Marañón in protest at oil spills
10 October 2016
The Federation of Native Communities from Alto Tigre (Feconat) has called upon Rolando Luque, the newly-appointed head of the Oficina Nacional de Dialogo y Sostenibilidad (ONDS), to visit the communities affected by the oil spills in the Amazon. Luque says he will do so in due course, specifically the town of Saramurillo, one of the communities most affected, in the hope that the communities accept his visit as a sign of the government’s good faith. http://larepublica.pe/impresa/politica/810020-rolando-luque-anuncia-que-llegara-saramurillo
A blockade of the Marañón has been in effect for over a month. Initially, community members occupied the installations of Petroperú in Saramuro in protest at the oil spills and for what they perceive as negligence by Petroperu in maintaining the Northern Peruvian pipeline. The protests escalated to the point where members of indigenous communities began detaining boats with tourists, as well as containers with food provisions heading for Iquitos, the capital of Loreto. Amongst those held were two regional prosecutors heading for Monterrico to investigate the cause of the latest spills. They were detained on 29 September but reportedly managed to escape in the early hours of 1 October. http://larepublica.pe/impresa/politica/808157-fiscales-logran-escapar-tras-dos-dias-de-detencion-en-comunidad-de-iquitos
On 7 October, local communities agreed partially to suspend the blockade and allow passage along the Marañón for five days. All those detained have now been released, following promises of dialogue. Days before, representatives of the Council of Ministers had travelled to the region to enter into talks. Indigenous leaders handed them a list of key demands for the blockade to be lifted permanently.
The Instituto de Defensa Legal (IDL) has stressed the urgency of providing immediate humanitarian assistance to Saramuro and Saramurillo, the communities in greatest need, as well as providing assistance to others affected, including Monterrico, Nueva Alianza and Cuninico.
There have been seven oil spills in 2016 alone. http://www.alphabetics.info/international/how-many-oil-barrels-have-spilled-in-the-amazon/
These have had serious consequences for the local environment as well as the health and livelihoods of people living in the area caused by polluted water. There is food scarcity too, as many people depend for protein on the fish they catch from the rivers. Juan Carlos Ruiz, from IDL, says this humanitarian disaster obliges the government in Lima to send more food and fresh water supplies to the area.
After the first two spills in January and February, the pipeline was shut down. Having denied in the past any responsibility, Petroperú finally admitted negligence in failing to maintain the pipeline in good conditions (http://www.perusupportgroup.org.uk/news-article-1129.html). However, since the shutdown, five more spills have occurred. Petroperú blames vandalism for the latest two spills.
The cause of the latest spills remains unclear and it is possible that sabotage was to blame. The authorities need to carry out a thorough investigation into these allegations and bring those responsible to justice. But even if members of the communities are responsible, it does not exonerate Petroperú for its lack of due diligence.