Agua, No Bagua: Only Justice Will Keep the Peace

Today, the courageous voices of the Amazonian indigenous federations are rising above the din of denial that has deflected corporate and state responsibility for crimes committed over the last 42 years of oil exploitation in the Amazon. These voices are demanding immediate disaster relief; at the very least, clean drinking water, safe food, and healthcare for the people surviving in the toxic wasteland left behind by Pluspetrol Norte and their predecessors in the Northwest Peruvian Amazon.

Five years have passed since the tragic events at Bagua, where 32 people lost their lives at Devil’s Curve. Today, President Ollanta Humala, is committing the same potentially fatal mistake as his predecessor, Alan García: placing the interests of trans-national oil companies above the fundamental human rights of the indigenous peoples of Perú.

In the last year government agencies conducted soil and water analyses that demonstrated alarming levels of heavy metals, hydrocarbons, and other toxic compounds in regions impacted by oil extraction, which resulted in the declaration of states of Environmental and Sanitarian Indigenous MobilizationEmergency in four major river basins: Pastaza, Tigre, Corrientes, and Marañón. This should have been the catalyst for immediate action to bring relief to the affected communities. However, they have seemingly abandoned the Quechua, Achuar, Urarina, Kichwa y Kukama Kukamiria people, repeatedly ignoring their cries for justice and tangible solutions. Is this mere negligence, or is it a sign of corruption at the highest levels of government?

The federations, gathered together for over a week to plan the mobilization, have given an ultimatum: Ollanta Humala has until the end of today to respond. If he allows his government to linger in negligence, the indigenous mobilization will grow and intensify. The latest news from our contacts on the ground is that the Prime Minister will meet with the federations in the community of Nuevo Andoas on Saturday to attempt to find a solution to their demands. That same day, the Kukama Kukamiria also have plans to march on the city of Iquitos and join with other indigenous groups there already. Our hope is that it remains peaceful and the atrocities witnessed at Bagua are not repeated. Their message is simple: “Agua, No Bagua!”



We are defending the right to a decent life and respect for our people:

We just want to live peacefully.
We cannot dialogue when our people are sick. Dialogue without health is not fair dialogue.
In spite of the fact that nearly 3 million dollars’ worth of oil is extracted from our territories every month, the State has not, to this day, wanted to give us, at the very least, water nor food.
They have abandoned us after declaring that we are in a state of environmental and sanitarian emergency.

In the territories of first peoples, we, the Quechua, Achuar, Urarina, Kichwa, and Kukama Kukamiria peoples of the Pastaza, Corrientes, Tigre and Marañón river basins, respectively, most affected by environmental and social contamination caused by more than 42 years of oil exploitation, currently called Block 1AB and 8, in Loreto (Perú), have decided with dignity and respect to mobilize in defense of our territories and in defense of life for future generations.

For many years we have demanded this contamination in our lands be investigated. That is why, in 2012, the State demonstrated through scientific studies that our water, rivers, lakes, our fish, our gardens, and our entire forest is contaminated. Even our National Reserve, Pacaya Samiria, in the indigenous territory of the Kukama Kukamiria, with its unique wetland ecosystems of ecological and cultural importance for the Amazon and the world, has been contaminated with oil.

The proven damages from oil caused the government to declare our territories in a State of Environmental Emergency over a year ago. In spite of this, there has been NO action to face to grave threat of drinking highly contaminated water. The declaration of a Sanitarian Emergency, declared this year, also did nothing to address our health problems. This negligence continues to damage our health and the future health of our children (with cancer and birth defects), thereby causing the disappearance of our culture. We are not against development or investments, we are accustomed to living in solidarity, but we are defending and we will continue to defend our right to a life of dignity and respect for our people.

How can we speak of “development” when in our territories we are surrounded by contamination and the oil activity that is responsible for it; without control or oversight, without protections for our rights as indigenous peoples, without listening to us or consulting us, and without considering if we agree or not about the way these large oil companies work here: where our ancestors built the history of our people by coexisting with and protecting the forest. How can we speak of “development” when the Argentinian oil company, Pluspetrol Norte, is getting rich off the oil in Blocks 1AB and 8 and costing us our lives, health, territory and dignity?

In spite of the last 2 years of dialogue that has been sustained with the State and the formation of a new dialogue mechanism, called a Commission for Development, the State has not carried out any concrete or immediate actions to minimally meet our needs for:

1. Urgent access to water suitable for human consumption,
2. Clean food free of contamination and
3. Immediate (medical) attention to address our physical and mental health affected by the contamination.

Confronted with the unwillingness to meet these urgent demands; confronted with the weakness of a State that cannot exercise its authority over the oil company Pluspetrol Norte; confronted with the disrespect, lies and abuses of Pluspetrol Norte in our territories; and confronted with the urgency of finding a solid route to respectful, fair, transparent dialogue carried out in good faith, we find ourselves obliged to demand the Peruvian State´s attention in the only way that really makes them listen to us: through mobilization.

WE MANIFEST that we are peaceful people and that is why we guarantee and will continue to guarantee the safety of the representatives of the Peruvian State who present themselves in our territories, who come with the will to resolve these problems.

We demand concrete and immediate attention to providing clean water, safe food, and health!
We demand that they respect our rights; we only want to live in peace!

That is why WE DEMAND,

  • The presence in our territories of the President of the Republic Ollanta Humala, the Prime Minister René Cornejo, the President of the Regional Government (of Loreto) Iván Vásquez; the only authorities capable of assuming the responsibilities that the government has within our communities. Likewise, the presence of the Congress women Marisol Pérez Tello and Verónika Mendoza, the congress man Eduardo Nayap, the ombudsman, representatives of the United Nations, and others. We also demand the presence of a high level representative of Pluspetrol.
  • That in the coming days healthy and clean water to drink and safe food is provided, with no excuses, because our current drinking water and our lands are contaminated with oil and heavy metals, making us sick and killing us.
  • Implementation in the coming days of measures to mitigate, prevent, and control the dangers to our health, establishing programs for epidemiological and environmental surveillance. Let this be done to reveal information on the risks to which we are exposed by the oil industry. We demand to recover our health.
  • That epidemiological and toxicological human health and bioaccumulation studies be conducted, as well as biomagnification studies on forest animals we eat. The State has an obligation to tell us how we are being contaminated after 42 years of oil activity.
  • A repeal of the decrees that attack us with access to the certification of our territories and that frees the oil company of its duty to compensate us. Executive Orders 060 and 061 of 1996 which grant Pluspetrol free easements in our territories, this being a standard violation of our rights as indigenous peoples recognized in the Constitution and at the international level.
  • Suspension of the transfer of barrels of crude oil from Yanayacu, Block 8X, until the 16 kilometers of pipeline within the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve are replaced, so as to avoid further pollution therein.
  • Respect for the right to prior consultation, an achievement of the struggle of indigenous peoples; may it be effectively enforced by the law. We call special attention to the fulfillment of responsibilities inherent in this right in the special cases of Block 192 in the Maranon River Waterway and in the new oil rounds. May the State be the guarantor of that right.
  • That those who are legally responsible for so much pollution and impact on our rights be identified.

WE REJECT the arrogant attitude of Pluspetrol procrastinating the work of the Multisectoral Commission for the “Development of the Pastaza, Corrientes, Tigre and Marañón river basins, in Loreto” RS No. 119-2014-PCM. We regret that the State continues to impose the interests of extractive companies on our fundamental rights as Indigenous organizations, and we will not allow solutions to historical pollution problems to be interrupted by the interests of extractive companies.

WE REJECT the presence of the forces of the Special Operations Division of the National Police of Peru – DINOES – in our territories.

WE DECLARE that the Multisectoral Commission for the “Development of the Pastaza, Corrientes, Tigre and Marañón river basins, in Loreto” RS No. 119-2014-PCM should be a space to confront quickly and effectively the task of solving this problem of oil pollution in our territories, and which ensures respect for indigenous rights. We will be insistently vigilant for this.

WE DECLARE that we will continue to resist, demanding respect for our rights and the fair treatment of our people.

WE DECLARE that our demonstration is peaceful in nature; the National Police of Peru has tried to provoke us and interfere with our legitimate right to demand justice (Andoas 06.06.2014). We will not allow this again and if the State does not present itself to us (to address these demands), we will see the need for other kinds of actions.

The Federation of Quechua Indigenous People of Pastaza – FEDIQUEP
The Cocama Association for Development and Conservation of San Pablo de Tipishca – ACODECOSPAT
The Federation of Native Communities of the Upper Tigre – FECONAT
The Federation of Native Communities of the Corrientes — FECONACO

Note: Traslation of Manifesto by Lily Hollister.

Lily Hollister, Thursday, 12 June 2014

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