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Catastrophic oil spill in the Peruvian Amazon mine Energy Company versus local tribe

Aerial view of the Nanay River in the Peruvian Amazon
Photo: AP

Last week, at least 8,000 barrels of crude oil poured into the rainforest of the northern Amazon region in Peru, which led to one of the worst patches in the region in years. The state oil company Petroperú accuses a local indigenous community of sabotaging a pipeline and causing the overflow, but the leader of the Peruvian wampis nation, whose members form this community, denies the allegations.

Petroperú confirmed the damage to the Norperuano pipeline on 27 November. The company shared a press release with Earther, which contained a handwritten letter dated November 20, in which three people threatened to damage the pipeline if the company did not invalidate recent election results (although the company is not responsible for voting) , The authors call for corruption and fraud within a mayoral election won by the National Restoration Party, which is linked to Christian fundamentalism.

The letter writers identify themselves as indigenous peoples of Morona, the district in which the wampis community of Mayuriaga is located. which is about 500 meters from the outlet. In a separate statement shared with Earther, the company said that 20 of its employees were held hostage from 17 to 20 November, a practice previously accused of this community. After a Petroperu oil spill in 2016, it was widely reported that members of the Mayuriaga community seized a military helicopter and took eight officers hostage for one night to demand their inclusion in an emergency plan.

The company did not provide any specific information before it discovered the damage. It was alleged only that vandals cut through the line and spilled oil, which was confirmed by aerial investigations. Almost a week later, the company officials were still unable to assess the site and do the work, spokesman Juan Jose Beteta Herrera told Earther on Monday. The company said the community does not allow them to safely enter the area.

Wrays Perez, President of the Territorial Autonomous Government of the Wampis Nation, categorically denied the claim that members of the Mayuriaga community are behind the spill and told Earther to contaminate the land is not in the interests of its peoples. When asked about the handwritten letter, he said it had been "manipulated" and the company chose names to attach. He did not elaborate.

An aerial view of the raid on 27 November 2018.
Photo: Courtesy of PETROPERÚ

"We dispute these allegations," Perez said in Spanish. "We do not know if it's a coincidence that this overflow has happened, whether it has been cut off or whether the pipes are old. If it was a group of people, it is not from our community. Some other people have come to do that. "

Perez also denied allegations that the community would not let Petroperu cleaners in and that his people had recently taken Petroperu workers hostage. Regarding the 2016 incident, Perez said that he has not deteriorated as reported in the press. According to him, officials from Petroperu have simply spent an extra night in the Amazon. "Nobody stopped her. They stayed because it was too late, "he said.

Perez emphasized that destroying a pipeline would only exacerbate the environmental damage his people experienced. Unfortunately, oil spills are common in the Amazon, especially in the Loreto region, in the northernmost part of Peru, which also includes Morona, the district where Mayuriaga is located. The Wampis nation has spoken out in the past against oil production in the region.

Hernán Arturo Manrique López, a researcher at the University of Leuven in Belgium, has compiled data on the oil spills in Peru for his master's thesis. He says that this youngest is the biggest in a decade. Between 2011 and 2018, he found that 102 leaks had occurred in Loreto. This equates to 57 percent of leaks throughout Peru during the same period. Many of these overflows were dozens or hundreds of barrels, but there were cases in which thousands of barrels were spilled. Before the incident last week, the biggest outbreak was in the last week of 2014 and has released 3,000 barrels in the province of Loreto.

While the cause of most of the outbreaks in the past was corrosion, according to Manrique López, the 2014 figures also attributed one-third to Party Disruptor.

"One of the problems in this case is that [Petroperú] will have an argument that it's always about vandalism, that's just not natural," said Manrique López to Earther. For him, it made no sense why members of local indigenous communities claiming to fight for their land rights and the protection of natural resources would take extreme measures to ruin the resources.

Tidying up will not leave the land as God intended. "

According to Petroperú conducted an analysis and shared with Earther that the company was responsible for 109 oil spills over the last 41 years. The company writes 69 of these events to third parties, which they call vandalism.

"There is much controversy surrounding this topic," said Manrique López. "The good thing these days is that people are finally discussing it."

These discussions quickly escalate into disputes.

Petroperú said that every oil spill requires] a cleanup: a small group of people who want to search for cleanup cause spillage. The company filed a complaint against the three people who signed the letter they shared with Earther. This is clear from a statement published in Spanish on 30th November. In addition, it filed three further complaints that related to the alleged vandalism of last week the alleged hostage taking of 2016 and another threat to the past. These complaints are all new and do not seem to have gone to court yet.

Perez does not believe his people are behind this recent overflow or the other incidents that Petroperú has brought to justice. If anything, he suggested that the age of the pipeline might have been flawed. Pipeline requires maintenance because of its age, "said Andrew Miller, attorney at Amazon Watch, to Earther. Perez said a government commission is now in Mayuriaga to investigate the matter] Samuel Sumpa, An Indian member of Wampis who lives in Mayuriaga told Earther that he did not know what had happened, so he could not talk about it, but he is very worried.

"Even tidying up will not leave the country like that as God intended, "Sumpa said in Spanish.

Another aerial photograph of the outlet that appears to be in a river.
Photo: Courtesy of PETROPERÚ

In fact, we know that Such an outbreak poses a major threat to humans and the environment, and Amnesty International's 2017 report outlined how the ingestion of chemicals and toxic metals from oil spills was a major threat n can affect human body. People can develop skin lesions, cramps and even lose their eyesight and miscarry when exposed to these pollutants.

The global human rights organization visited communities like Cuninico in the Loreto region. This community experienced a separate oil spill in Petroperú in 2014, producing more than 2,000 barrels of oil near Cuninico Creek, which flows into the Marañón River. Here bath and fish the members of the community. Amnesty International reported cases in which children with elevated levels of blood lead were found in the blood and were unable to leave their homes due to body pain and sensitive eyes. said Victor Chama, a tropical ecologist who worked with the Amazon Forest Inventory Network. That's why he wants the tidying up to be cleaned up immediately. The heat multiplies the effects as the evaporation of the oil worsens the odor and poses another health risk to the locals.

"It's not just the effects on the forest, it's all about it," he said in Spanish. "The fauna, the flora and all these relationships to the water, to the ground and even to the sound of purification could displace animals from their habitat."

In an ideal world, the Amazon would be free of oil infrastructure and would have nothing handle it. Chama would like to see that, but he knows that such a future is not realistic at the moment.

"Many of our economies are based on what we can extract," he said. "Not only in Peru, but throughout Latin America."

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