The Governor of Amazonas region has moved quickly to defuse a potential flashpoint in the area bordering Ecuador arising from the long-standing conflict between indigenous peoples of the River Cenepa and the mining company Afrodita. In 2009, the company’s divisive interventions in Awajún and Wampis territory contributed to the showdown at Bagua which resulted in 33 deaths during the presidency of Alan García.
After two days of demonstrations resulting in ten people being injured, the regional government has withdrawn recognition (granted in January) by the local office of the Agriculture Ministry for two bogus indigenous communities. These communities were submitted by mining interests with a view to securing prior consultation for Afrodita’s plans. The new communities overlapped the Ichigkat-Muja National Park.
The IDL lawyer acting for the indigenous organisation ODECOFROC commented that the regional government had acted in bad faith by ignoring the ploys of illegal mining operations and the problems of trafficking and contamination to which they would give rise. The lawyer emphasised that “creating a community with the intention of committing crime runs by definition against the spirit of the Law of Native Communities and the Constitution”.
At a meeting in Lima a year ago, indigenous leaders had warned the regional governor of Amazonas, Oscar Altamirano, that such applications for new communities did not meet with the agreement of their organisations, but had been advanced by individuals who had been manipulated by the company.
Afrodita’s focus on the Cordillera del Cóndor appears less than auspicious given the area’s status since 1996 as a priority zone for the conservation of biodiversity. By 2001, when the company applied for 39 concessions, the Institute of Natural Resources, INRENA, responded with the opinion that the Cordillera was “incompatible” with mining activities.
In 2004, the indigenous peoples agreed with the government on the creation of the 152,000 hectare Ichigkat-Muja National Park as a means of safeguarding their ancestral territory. But high-level lobbying by Afrodita succeeded in hiving off 70,000 hectares of this from the park, the area where the company was active. It also managed to force INRENA to reverse its opinion.
In his 2013 report on the inquiry into the Baguazo, then Congressman Guido Lombardi concluded that the executive had promoted “private investment in the exploitation of natural resources to the maximum, frequently overlooking constitutional mandates such as prior consultation” in the Cordillera del Cóndor.