Indigenous organisations step up pressure for resolving longstanding complaints at Block 192

13 October 2019

Indigenous organisations in the oil-producing Block 192 have taken their complaints to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). They want to bring added international pressure to bear on the Peruvian government to respond favourably to claims communities and NGOs have been making for decades over remediation and full consultation over future oil contracts.

And within Peru, such organisations have also taken action in occupying oil installations in recent weeks for fear that, as in the past, their voice will be ignored as consultations over a new contract reach a decisive stage following the expiry of the existing one for Block 192 at the end of this year.

Oil exploration and production in the Peruvian Amazon have been intimately associated with Block 192 ever since the early 1970s when the California-based Occidental Petroleum Company and the state company, PetroPerú, began operations there. It is Peru’s largest onshore oilfield. In 2000, the Argentine company Pluspetrol acquired the rights to Block 192.

Then, in 2006, the FECONACO indigenous organisation occupied the Dorissa pumping station and obliged the company and the state to negotiate an agreement involving social investments and environmental remediation to mitigate damage done by more than 30 years of oil extraction.

The effort to achieve full implementation of the Dorissa agreement led to the formation of an alliance between four indigenous organisations representing communities living in Block 192. In the two years leading up to the expiry of Pluspetrol’s contract in mid-2015, this alliance (now called PUINAMUDT) engaged in an interminable round of consultation meetings under ILO Agreement 169 aimed at fulfilling the Dorissa agreement and reaching one on conditions for a new contract. This was finally awarded to Pacific Oil and Gas, and then ceded to the current contractor Frontera Energy.

Since 2015, the PUINAMUDT has split into two of the four original federations (FEDIQUEP and ACODECOSPAT) with two new federations joining (FECONACOR and OPIKAFPE). A series of oil spills from the ageing oil pipeline network, sections of which are the responsibility of Frontera Energy and others of Petroperú, have bedeviled relations.

With Frontera Energy’s contract ending soon, it, Petroperú and the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MINEM) have been involved in conflicts and negotiations over the ongoing impacts of Frontera Energy’s operations, where responsibility lies for a sequence of oil spills, and over full prior consultation with Petroperú over the new contract.

To win international recognition and support for their claims, the four indigenous federations presented their case at the 173rd Session of the Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in Washington, DC, with technical and legal support from Peru’s Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos, Oxfam, and the Peruvian NGOs CAAAP and Perú Equidad. 

The objective was to inform the IACHR about the violation of the basic human rights, to add to the pressure on the Peruvian government both to provide medical attention to people affected by toxic substances and to achieve environmental remediation at the 1,200 contaminated sites.

Meetings were also held with representatives of the State Department and NGOs like the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), Earth Rights International (ERI) and Oxfam America.

As a result of the hearings the IACHR agreed to make recommendations to the Peruvian authorities and to monitor the situation through visits and six-monthly meetings with the federations and government officials. 

Meanwhile, in Peru, the indigenous communities Nuevo Andoas and Titiyacu along the Pastaza River and Nueva Jerusalem and Nueva Nazareth on the Corrientes River occupied the local airstrip, electric power plant and pumping station. They demanded the renewal of negotiations over the impacts of Frontera Energy’s activities. They also sought the presence of a high-level government delegation to define a concrete programme for provision of health and education services and to achieve environmental remediation. 

Finally, in early October, PUINAMUDT raised the alarm about a halt in prior consultation, due to be completed by the end of the year, over the negotiation of a new oil contract for Block 192. In May it had been agreed that the informational phase of the consultation would conclude with an intercultural dialogue on 19 September. However, MINEM has since announced that the agreed timetable could not be met for “logistical and administrative” reasons. 

Fearing that there could be a repeat of the 2015 consultation process when the MINEM and Culture Ministry excluded twelve communities at the last minute, and concerned about the uncertainties generated by yet another change in ministers, PUINAMUDT is now demanding that the Health Ministry and OEFA be included in the consultation, that Frontera Energy be held to its commitments to provide environmental remediation before the end of its contract, that MINEM honour its promise to include the UN´s special rapporteur for indigenous peoples in a monitoring role, and that a revised timetable for completing the consultation be drawn up.

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    The Peru Support Group exists to promote social inclusion, sustainable development and the observance of human rights in Peru. To that end the PSG highlights shortcomings in observance of established norms, whether international or local in nature, in its research, advocacy and publications. In so doing, it underscores the relationships that exist within the political system, how institutions work, and the effectiveness of policies that aim to reduce poverty and inequality within the context of sustainable development.

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