LIMA – The Peruvian Ombud’s Office on Thursday called on the national government to immediately form a commission tasked with negotiating with indigenous leaders in the northern Amazon region of Loreto, where protesters have halted operations at oil block 192 – the country’s largest – and shut down a nearby airfield.
In a statement, it said that commission needs to reach agreement with the Indians on the basic conditions for “a dialogue process” involving Cabinet ministers overseeing areas pertaining to items on the indigenous agenda, the regional government and representatives of local communities.
The national ombud’s office also called on indigenous organizations to refrain from actions that could lead to confrontations among native peoples.
Hundreds of Peruvian Indians have shut down operations at block 192 and the nearby Andoas airfield since Saturday to press demands that the government address their environmental and territorial concerns, an indigenous leader, Carlos Sandi, confirmed in remarks to EFE on Wednesday.
That block, which yields some 11,000 barrels of crude per day, accounts for 17 percent of domestic oil output.
Indians do not oppose oil drilling but they want to “live a healthy life, with water suitable for human consumption, health and education,” Sandi said.
The government on Sunday called on indigenous leaders to end their occupation and reiterated that state-owned oil company Petroperu lacks the financial and technical means to operate the block, despite native communities’ calls for it to do so.
Argentine oil company Pluspetrol operated the block from 2001 until July of this year and was periodically accused by local Indians of polluting their territories and not living up to their environmental remediation obligations.
Peru’s Congress passed a bill earlier this month authorizing Petroperu to develop block 192 despite the vehement opposition of President Ollanta Humala’s administration, which objects to canceling a two-year concession contract awarded in August to Canada’s Pacific Stratus Energy.