Eye on the Amazon

In Defense of Water and Life

National March of Solidarity in Iquitos

On Thursday, May 31st, the people of Iquitos and the region of Loreto came together once again in unity in defense of water and life. Leading the pack was a small boy with a handwritten sign, "Don't you drink water from the Nanay? Join the fight." And behind him thousands of people from Iquitos and the region of Loreto, chanting and marching along the main streets of Iquitos.

It used to be that natural resources protests in the area were the subject matter for indigenous peoples. However, the newest threat to the region, the drilling of 48 exploratory wells in the Nanay River Basin by US oil company ConocoPhillips and its partners, has become a regional threat. Not only is the Nanay an area of endemic biodiversity, but it also provides 90% of the drinking water to the city of Iquitos.

The threat brought out people by the thousands – a rarity for bustling, workaday, Iquitos – with estimates from anywhere between 2,500 to 10,000 in the crowd.

"Before the people from Iquitos used to say: 'the indigenous people don't let the oil companies do their work, and they (the oil companies) are the ones that are bringing money and development. The indigenous people just want money.' But at the end it wasn't because we wanted money, we believe that the Amazon cannot be contaminated and that it is the only source of healthy water for drinking. Now we thank them. We are happy. Because of our work, the people have become aware," said Andres Sandi, president of FECONACO.

The people of Loreto were also protesting in solidarity with the people of Cajamarca and Cusco, who marched yesterday against mining projects that threaten their source of water. This is a growing, national movement uniting Peruvians across the country in defense of water and life, and against anything-goes development practices.

In addition, they were protesting the more general concept of corruption in the regional and national governments, who are allowing transnational companies to exploit Peru's natural resources at the peril of its people. "I am here to tell the authorities, those corrupt people who are in power right now, tell them that we reject completely their silence, their complicity with transnational corporations that want to exploit and take everything without taking life into account. Life. That is why it is important to be here right now at this protest," said one of the protestors.

The march ended in a large gathering in the 28 de Julio plaza, where demonstrators demanded governmental accountability and a stop to the drilling in the Nanay. If not, more protests and demonstrations will be in the works. "A United People Can't be defeated," they chanted.

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