Kukama Indigenous Territories To Be Included in First Tests for Oil Contamination

With persistent pressure and without ever softening its hard line against the government’s role in oil industry ills, the Kukama indigenous federation ACODECOSPAT (Cocama Association for the Development and Conservation, San Pablo de Tipischca) has won a historic accord with the Regional Government of Loreto on a package of long neglected services, as well as a commitment by the government to include some of the federation’s Marañon River territories in a first-ever environmental analysis of regional oil contamination later this fall.

The Acta de ACODECOSPAT was agreed to without fanfare in June by the Regional Government (GOREL) agency heads for Health, Education, Energy and Mines, Tourism, Transportation and Communication, Agriculture, and the Environment and Natural Resources. Regional President Iván Vásquez Valera signed the binding agreement.

Alfonso_arrives_2_1The accord’s 20 points were just hashed out last week in a quiet meeting in the port town of Nauta, on the Marañon. Alfonso Lopez, ACODECOSPAT president, pushed officials to include oil-contaminated areas from outside village boundaries that lie and deep inside the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve in the pending environmental investigation.

It would be the first time contamination caused by the Argentinian oil driller PlusPetrol’s operations inside the reserve would be exposed to public scrutiny.

In addition to the range and depth of the pledges made by the government, what makes the accord remarkable was how gracefully the Kukama leader Lopez wove his peoples’ agenda into the struggle of neighboring indigenous groups.

An underdog among some of the other, better-funded federation leaders, in June Lopez joined with Quechua indigenous communities in the distant village of Alianza Topal, on the Pastaza River, to protest government neglect and oil company malfeasance there. His solidarity with the Quechua and role in the high-level negotiations with Peru’s central government ensured that Lopez’s Kukama communities were not left out of the agreements that followed.

Lopez has been a major player in efforts to unify the various indigenous peoples of the Corrientes, Tigre, Pastaza and Marañon rivers as a block to defend their territories, rights and to monitor PlusPetrol, which is regarded a common foe.

Oil_wide2After ACODECOSPAT communities suffered two huge PlusPetrol oil spills on the Marañon – one in 2010 or more than 500 barrels and another in 2000 of more than 5,500 barrels – Lopez has fought hard and risked much to achieve an environmental analysis like the one included in the recent Acta de ACODECOSPAT and the Acta de Alianza Topal.

“This is a project for life,” Lopez said at the recent meetings in Nauta where GOREL agencies reported on their pledges.

“It’s not for money that we defend ourselves,” he said. “It’s for the defense of life.”

Deborah Rivett, Wednesday, 22 August 2012

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