LIMA – A group of Peruvian Indians opposed to private oil production in the northern Amazon region of Loreto halted output at 11 wells and seized an airport on the eve of a planned 48-hour regional strike.
The indigenous communities led by the Federation of the Achuar and Urarina Indigenous Peoples of the Corrientes River on Tuesday occupied several oil installations at Lot 8, which is located near Lot 192, the nation’s largest oil block and the focus of the protest, Argentine energy firm Pluspetrol said in a statement.
Pluspetrol, whose concession for Lot 192 expired last weekend, is the operator of Lot 8.
The Indians halted crude output at 11 wells at Pluspetrol’s Pavayacu field and seized control of the Trompeteros airport and three storage tanks, the company said.
Those protest measures came a day before a planned regional strike on Wednesday and Thursday by the broad-based Patriotic Front of Loreto and the CGTP labor federation to protest the government’s decision to directly award Lot 192 to Canada’s Pacific Stratus Energy, a unit of Toronto-based Pacific Rubiales Energy, for two years.
The protesters are demanding that that oil block be awarded to domestic oil company Petroperu.
The national government, however, says Petroperu lacks the technical and economic capacity to operate the field because its efforts are now focused on expanding and modernizing the Talara refinery.
Fernando Chuje, president of an indigenous federation known as Feconat, said Monday in Iquitos, Loreto’s capital, that the Kichwa community is “very upset about the government’s decision” and will never accept Pacific “because it has a bad track record in Colombia.”
Lot 192, located near Peru’s border with Ecuador, yields around 11,000 barrels of crude per day from around 16 wells and accounts for 17 percent of the country’s total oil production.
The block had been developed since 2001 by Argentine oil company Pluspetrol.
With that firm’s contract expiring in late August and a recent international bidding process failing to attract interest, the Peruvian government directly awarded the block to Pacific Stratus on Aug. 21.
Indigenous communities accuse Pluspetrol of polluting the area and not paying compensation for use of their ancestral lands.