The Kukama people have made a journey of more than 100 kilometers to have their voices heard. Arriving at their destination, government representatives with resolve to create solutions were nowhere to be found. Rather, these courageous people have been greeted with sheer indifference, with the national government deciding to utterly ignore them for the past 2 weeks.
The Peruvian government’s blatant lack of respect for this grassroots movement is demonstrative of weak political will; keeping thousands of people suffering the toxic effects of almost half a century of contamination caused by oil activity.
A high-ranking cabinet of ministers (PCM) had planned to visit the Kukamas on the plaza last Wednesday, giving the people hope that solutions were finally on their way. However, the visit was cancelled, apparently due to a lack of funding. Some have reported that the representatives were already at the Lima airport ready to leave for Iquitos when the visit was cancelled. The Kukamas announced a hunger strike to start today in case the central government wouldn’t send representatives capable of hearing the demands of the Kukama federation, ACODECOSPAT, publicly at the Plaza 28 where they are occupying the square. Watch this video and hear the cry of their leader >>
They elected Monsignor Miguel Olaortuo, a high representative of the vicariate of Iquitos, to be their official spokesperson. He has written of the Kukama’s plight, “We cannot remain impassive in the face of human suffering. We must stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters. This is not a matter of faith, but of human solidarity and social responsibility.”
The Commission for Development of the four environmental crisis zones is supposed to meet next Monday 30th Of June and Wednesday 1st of July to discuss tangible solutions. However, the recent cancellations of the PCM visit and the declarations of this hunger strike would have heated up the debate considerably and potentially would have disturbed any attempts at constructive dialogue, as stated by the leaders involved.
Early this morning a high representatives’ commission arrived at the Plaza 28, trying to avoid the announced hunger strike. The Vice Minister of Energy and Mining was there and repeated the agreements he made last week to the people in Andoas. When asked how this would manifest in practice, he referred to the Commission for Development that will take place on Monday and Tuesday to continue working towards solutions. The General Secretary of the Commission for Development, also present this morning, promised that he would work hard guided by the principles of justice and equality.
While the Kukama people were not really satisfied with this, many oft them have been camping out for two weeks with health problems such as bronchitis. So, they decided to go home, in their words, “with nothing in their hands, only promises in their ears.”
In the declarations of some Kukama leaders, they emphasized the State’s “abandonment” and they warned the government representative: “Do as you have stated, because we are ready to take the oil installation at Saramuro.”