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  HOME | Peru

Peruvian Villagers Hold Hostages to Demand Help after Oil Spill

LIMA – Residents of an indigenous community in the Peruvian Amazon are holding eight state employees hostage in order to pressure the government into including their village in the state of emergency declared following oil spills in the Loreto region.

An air force helicopter carrying provisions and workers of state oil company Petroperu and the OEFA environmental oversight agency had been barred from leaving since last Sunday in Mayuriaga.

Eight of the workers remained captive in the area Tuesday after the helicopter was allowed to depart on Monday to provide transport for an official committee, the press coordinator of the Interethnic Association for Peruvian Rain Forest Development, or Aidesep, Segundo Chuquipiondo, told EFE.

Petroperu Chairman German Velasquez and emergency services chief Gen. Alfredo Murgueytio are traveling to the area Tuesday to deal with the matter, the spokesman for the state oil company, Juan Jose Beteta, told EFE

The Mayuriaga community is not included in the Feb. 28 decree declaring an emergency in 16 communities in the Morona district of Loreto due to environmental damage caused by the oil spill from the North Peruvian Pipeline in Cashacaño.

Mayuriaga’s leaders demand that the government include its community in that decree, together with three others, and that it consider providing economic resources for the environmental restoration of the area, Chuquipiondo said.

The Aidesep spokesman recalled that Velasquez committed himself early this month to carrying out environmental restoration of the wetlands affected by the spill before resuming work on the oil pipeline.

The oil spills in the regions of Loreto Amazonas, according to a report released last month, have injured about 100 people and affected 4,500 others.

The first rupture of the North Peruvian Pipeline occurred on Jan. 25 in the municipality of Imaza-Chiriaco, where between 2,000 and 3,000 barrels of crude were spilled over the three days it took Petroperu to repair the conduit.

The second spill occurred on Feb. 3 in Datem del Marañon province and resulted in oil reaching the Mayuriaga River and then the Morona River, a Marañon tributary.

A national dialogue commissioner of the prime minister’s office is in simultaneous contact with indigenous community leaders and with officials of OEFA and Petroperu seeking to reach an agreement on the community’s demands, sources at the P.M.’s office told EFE.

Petroperu was fined 12.64 million soles (about $3.59 million) by the Energy and Mining Investment Supervisory Body for failing to properly maintain the pipeline.

The North Peruvian Pipeline transports oil extracted from fields in the Peruvian Amazon to the Pacific port of Bayovar along an 854-kilometer (530-mile) route.


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