Incensed by more than 50 years of oil spills across their forested territory, a meeting of Quechua leaders has voted to end cooperation with Petroperu’s staff and withdraw further permission for their entry into Quechua lands. The meeting was called on 17 December to negotiate the lifting of criminal charges made against eight Quechua leaders for their role in a protest last May against repeated and unremedied spillages that closed down the Andoas pumping station. Significantly, Petroperú’s representatives at the meeting refused to withdraw the charges.
The Quechua maintain that Petroperú has forfeited its right to operate the concession on the grounds of hostile and incompetent management and failure to maintain the obsolete pipeline. The legal situation is complex. Peruvian law gives government the right to petroleum in the subsoil while international law (ILO 169), to which the government is signatory, accords indigenous peoples the right of self-determination in their territories. The handling of the situation does not augur well for Petroperú’s recently awarded contract to operate Lot 192 for the next 30 years.