Peruvian indigenous community release detained officials after reaching agreement
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Peruvian indigenous community release detained officials after reaching agreement

Members of an indigenous group in the Peruvian Amazon have released eight detained officials after reaching an agreement with the president of state-owned oil firm Petroperú.

The Wampis community of Mayuriaga detained the officials Sunday (March 6) in a bid to secure compensation following last month’s oil spills.

Peru21 reports that Mayuriaga community members seized a grounded military helicopter carrying an inspection team. Government officials were visiting the area in order to evaluate the damage caused by oil spills which had leaked from the Northern Peruvian Pipeline, which is operated by state-owned oil firm Petroperú.

The Air Force of Peru told Peru21 that members of “the helicopter crew are being treated adequately and are in perfect condition, as is the helicopter”.

Indigenous action

Germán Velásquez, the president of Petroperú, told Reuters that the community apprehended crew members and several officials on Sunday to demand that the government include Mayuriaga in the emergency response plan.

Mayuriaga is one of several communities to have been impacted by two oil spills which occurred in February. Some 3,000 barrels of oil have been spilled, leaking onto the land and into the rivers which are relied upon by indigenous communities.

Mayuriaga, however, was omitted from a government list naming the affected communities that would be entitled to get emergency supplies and receive attention.

On March 2, the autonomous territorial government of the indigenous Wampis people (Wampis GTA), published a press release accusing Petroperú’ of “gross negligence”.

Wrays Perez Ramirez, the recently elected President of the Wampis GTA, said:

This oil spill has already resulted in severe and irreparable harm to the community lands of Mayuriaga and to our collective territory as a people. Responsibility lies squarely with Petroperú who have acted with complete negligence. Over more than 40 years they have failed to maintain and repair their pipeline knowing full well that it needs constant maintenance and replacement every 10-15 years.

We, the Wampis, never authorized or gave our consent to the construction of this pipeline in our territory yet we suffer the consequences. This is another example of where we have lost control over our territory which has been subdivided by the State into different village lands or issued as concessions to different companies. It is exactly this kind of problem that our territorial government is trying to address.

According to TeleSUR, Deputy Culture Minister Patricia Balbuena, has announced that the government will be amending the list to include Mayuriaga. “It’s a mistake that should be corrected as soon as possible,” she said.

Spills and sanitation problems

Peru this Week reports that the community of Mayuriaga has now signed an accord with Petroperú president Germán Velásquez and Chief of the National Institute of Civil Defense (Indeci) Alfredo Murgueytio. The agreement stipulates that Indeci and Petroperú are to carry sanitation projects and provide electricity.

Since January, three oil spills have occurred at different locations on the Northern Peruvian Pipeline. The first occurred on January 25, in the Bagua province. Then, on February 3, the pipeline ruptured in the Datem del Marañon province, where Mayuriaga is located, just two weeks later, on February 17, another oil spill took place in the Jaén province.

See also:

Peruvian Amazon hit by 3rd oil spill in 2 months

Leonardo di Caprio protests over oil spill in Peru’s Amazon