Peru: first "prior consultations" on Amazon oil development
Peru's official human rights ombudsman, Defender of the People Eduardo Vega, is set to convene the first "prior consultation" with Amazonian indigenous peoples on oil development in their territory, under terms of a new law passed earlier this year establishing protocols for the process. The consultation concerns a planned new round of oil contracts planned for Bloc 1AB, currently held by Argentine firm Pluspetrol, in the watersheds of the Pastaza, Corrientes and Tigre rivers in the northeast of Loreto region. The Regional Organization of Indigenous Peoples of the East (ORPIO), with an office in the city of Iquitos, it to represent the impacted indigenous peoples. Vega pledged the process will be executed "with the utmost clarity so that rights of the indigenous peoples will be respected and the same process can serve for other consultations that will subsequently be carried out."
But after years of conflict over resource extraction in the region and accusations of broken promises by the government, many indigenous residents remain skeptical about the process. "The government has ignored us and has not obliged the companies to comply with their commitments," David Chino, vice president of the Quechua Indigenous Federation of Pastaza, in Lima for a meeting of indigenous apus (traditional chiefs) with cabinet ministers last month to agree on opening the consultation process, told Inter-Press Service. "If a parent abandons its child, who has to pay for these damages? The parent, the government. And in second place, the company." (IPS, Sept. 5; RPP, Aug. 29)