Peruvian Amazonian Leader Tells Bidders Indigenous Peoples Will Oppose Drilling on their Lands Oil Executives Applaud Surprise Speech at Houston Concession Expo

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Houston – Oil company executives considering bidding for controversial concessions in the Peruvian Amazon today applauded an Indigenous leader who had traveled from the rainforest to warn them not to enter community land.

Robert Guimaraes, Vice-President of AIDESEP, Peru’s national federation of native Amazonians, told the 200 assembled executives at the road-show organized by Perupetro, Peru’s state oil-licensing agency, that drilling would cause devastating environmental and health impacts on Indigenous communities.

He added: “We want respect for our rights and for biodiversity in the face of this global warming that affects us all. We are very concerned because there are many oil blocks in the Amazon where many Indigenous peoples live. Many of the consequences of oil operations are the contamination of the rivers and forests. We want to inform you investors that, just as there are issues that you cannot negotiate, for us there are also territories that we cannot negotiate.”

Mr. Guimaraes also demanded an explanation from Perupetro and the Peruvian government why they have broken clear promises to ensure that the concessions would avoid Indigenous lands.

Among the concessions on the table at the road-show, part of the 2008 North American Prospect Expo (NAPE), are four highly controversial blocks, 132, 133, 136 and 139, which have each failed to win any bidders in the past as the oil industry became aware that local Indigenous communities would oppose any operations there.

The concessions would also violate international Indigenous rights laws as well as the international human rights benchmark of Free, Prior and Informed Consent, contained in the recently approved UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In particular some of the last communities living in voluntary isolation anywhere in the Amazon, inside dedicated Territorial Reserves declared to protect them from contact with outsiders, are highly vulnerable due to their lack of immunity to diseases.

Of the Amazonian blocks now being offered by Perupetro:
o Four overlap titled Indigenous lands;
o Three intrude on Territorial Reserves for Indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation;
o Two overlap proposed Territorial Reserves for Indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation;
o One overlaps a Natural Protected Area.

Mr. Guimaraes also attempted to deliver a letter from AIDESEP, addressed to Peru President Alan Garcia and Perupetro President Daniel Saba, demanding that oil companies and Perupetro stay out of their communal territories, but Mr. Saba refused to accept it.

Perupetro’s roadshow comes as international investors grow increasingly concerned about the risks associated with oil extraction in remote areas of the Amazon. Last year, oil major ConocoPhilips voluntarily gave up part of an oil concession in the northern Peruvian Amazon because of unified opposition from the Indigenous Achuar people.

The latest sell-off comes despite assurances from Perupetro and the Peruvian government that it would respect Indigenous rights and lands. In February 2007, the Peruvian government formally agreed that Perupetro would redraw its proposed oil concessions to avoid official territorial reserves. In April, according to AIDESEP, Perupetro also agreed to inform bidders that the Peruvian state would create the “necessary mechanisms” to ensure that the winning companies would not intrude onto the proposed reserves, until Peru’s Indigenous agency INDEPA had completed an evaluation.

Friday’s roadshow is the latest chapter in the Peruvian government’s scramble to concession off the nation’s highly biodiverse Amazonian rainforests, roughly twice the size of California, to the oil industry. In roughly two years, the proportion of the Peruvian Amazon zoned into hydrocarbon blocks has risen from 13 percent to roughly 70 percent, despite the widespread toxic contamination and negative social impacts left by previous oil companies, such as Occidental Petroleum, Hunt Oil and Pluspetrol in Peru’s rainforests.


For background on the campaign to protect the human rights and collective territories of the Peruvian Amazon’s Indigenous peoples, visit www.amazonwatch.org.

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