Peru: Indigenous Protesters Occupy Airport

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Peru has been grappling with a growing protest movement against oil privatization.

Indigenous protesters have seized an airport in northern Peru, escalating demands that the government hold consultations with local communities before implementing any deals that would privatize oil exploration.

Peru has been grappling with a growing protest movement that is calling on the government to nationalize and invest in the largest oil block in the country, Lot 192, which was recently licensed to a Canadian transnational, Pacific Stratus Energy, in August.

Protesters are demanding that the state-run Petroperu operate the oil-rich lot instead of transnational companies, which many remain highly suspicious of.

On Saturday, Indigenous activists with the Quechua Community Assembly in Cuenca del Pastaza decided to take over the small airfield in Andoas, which is used for light aircraft and private business aircraft, in an effort to send a message to the government of President Ollanta Humala and business community.

“This struggle is for state consultation. (The government) gave away the oil exploitation license without first agreeing with us who live this area,” said Indigenous Leader Tedy Guerra from the Nuevo Andoas area to the local press.

“Any action on Lot 192 must first be consulted with by communities to achieve their commitments to support development, prevent contamination of their rivers and lands, health post, among others,” Guerra said.

The government on Sunday called for Indigenous protesters to end their action, insisting that the government can not invest in the oil lot, while chastising them for disrupting operations.

A statement from the Ministry of Energy and Mines called on the representatives of the communities in the surrounding areas to reach consensus and draft proposals of their demands.

Earlier in September a general strike shut down closed roads, ports and businesses in Loreto, the largest territorial region of Peru, as protesters demonstrating against the recent concession of the major oil field.

President of Federation of Native Communities from the River Tigre, Fernando Chuje, had earlier alleged that Pacific Stratus Energy has hired killers to silence social leaders who oppose oil exploitation. He and other prominent members of Peru’s Indigenous community have led strikes and demonstrations against the government’s support for the company.

The oil field, known as Lot 192, is the country’s richest, producing 13,000 barrels a day. It has certified reserves for 20 years, and estimated profits of US$40 million a year. However, the government has refused to invest in the lot.

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