A large group of indigenous Peruvian community members took control of an airport in the Andoas region of the Amazon on Monday to protest Argentine energy company Pluspetrol, which they say is polluting the land and exploiting resources in the region to build their oil drilling operations.
Indigenous rights group Aidesep told the Latin American Herald Tribune on Wednesday that the occupation had grown to 2,000 people, a significant increase from the days before.
On Tuesday, Nuevo Andoas community chief Tedy Guerra told Reuters, “Right now there are about 500 of us at the airport … flights have stopped.”
Nuevos Andoas residents occupied the airport along with other community leaders, including those from Alianza Capaguari.
Community members are calling for the government to overturn new laws regulating access to water and forest resources—laws which they say favor Pluspetrol at the expense of vulnerable land. Both Nuevos Andoas and Alianza Capaguari are in a region that was declared to be in a state of environmental emergency in recent years due to pollution, but leaders say the emergency declarations have done nothing to mitigate the effects of the oil drilling and reserves.
Among the demands are legal titling of the lands, a clean-up of water and territory to end the ongoing health threats from pollution, compensation for the lands on which the oil blocks—large swaths of land awarded to energy companies—are set up, and a fair share of 40 years of oil revenues.
“Otherwise humble indigenous communities are exasperated by the evident lack of political will to effectively address long-standing local grievances.”
— Andrew Miller, Amazon WatchThe occupation is “the latest in a series of recent indigenous protests provoked by the intransigence of Pluspetrol and the Peruvian government,” Amazon Watch advocacy director Andrew Miller told Common Dreams. “Otherwise humble indigenous communities are exasperated by the evident lack of political will to effectively address long-standing local grievances.”
Pluspetrol said it signed an agreement with the people of Nuevo Andoas in September for use of a quarry. But as Miller explained, “Water and soil samples have repeatedly been shown to contain dangerous levels of heavy metals…. Pluspetrol demonstrates a tremendous cynicism by trying to assign blame elsewhere and avoid their responsibly.”