Human Rights
Project #13020

Justice After 40 years of Oil Contamination!

by Alianza Arkana
Quechua students in classroom
Quechua students in classroom

Hi there,

We are happy you are with us!

Together with the indigenous people of the Peruvian Amazon, we have been through a few challenging months. We have been participating in many meetings between the indigenous organizations and the Peruvian government in the framework of the prior consultation process on oil lot 192. The government reached an agreement with only two indigenous federations and ended unilaterally the dialogue with other two federations, amongst them FEDIQUEP representing the Quechua of Pastaza river, without reaching any agreement.

In a revealing report published in the midst of the prior consultation process, Alianza Arkana, together with their partner organizations the Chaikuni Insitute and the indigenous federation FECONAT, shed light on the shameful attitudes of oil company Pluspetrol Norte S.A. who had a free playground in the Amazon for the last 15 years. You can read the report here. One of the objectives was to not allow the Peruvian government to renew the licence to Pluspetrol for the next 30 years. This was achieved, despites the impressive media campaign run by Pluspetrol on national and local television.

Problems are not over, though. A new 2-year licence was given to oil company Pacific Stratus Energy, a company that is also severely questioned for human rights violations in Colombia. The company has now been operating since August 30th in the Loreto region. Huge protests have occurred against the non-transparent decisions of the national government. Civil society questions the procedures and conditions that have led to this contract and, taking into account the very low oil price, claims there are other solutions that would have benefited regional and local governments more, such as engaging state company Petroperu.

A the same time, on September 13th, the Quechua of Pastaza started a peaceful demonstration in Andoas, an indigenous community at the heart of the Northern Peruvian Amazon and the pulsing heart of that land’s most important oil production, as a reaction to the lack of respect for their right on prior consultation and to once again call global attention to the non-existing reparation of the damages of 45 years of oil destruction on their territories.

The Amazon is heating up again whilst extractive companies are causing more havoc in both the Loreto and Ucayali region and the State uses criminalization of social protest as one of its most important strategies to dampen down resistance.

In the midst of this challenging time, we think it is important to support long-term solutions and to exchange experiences between leaders and organizations in the different region - that is, in short, support civil society building. That is why we now will:

-       Continue to work in the Loreto region through the Sui Sui Program of our partner, Chaikuni, which is a program that supports FEDIQUEP Quechua university students who, in their turn for receiving help with their studies, support their people.

-       Continue to work in the Loreto region with our partner, the Chaikuni Institute, to stand with the indigenous federations and leaders that face persecution for defending their rights.

Spread and share the experiences of resistance and peaceful defense used in the Loreto region to Shipibo communities

Staff and Students from Sui Sui program
Staff and Students from Sui Sui program

Dear Supporters

With pride we share with you that in mid-June we have been able to launch the Pastaza movie at the festival "Green Unplugged" . As you might know the Pastaza movie, a coproduction of the indigenous federation FEDIQUEP and Alianza Arkana, reveals the broken promises and empty words of the Peruvian authorities towards the environmental and human disaster left in oil lot 1AB after more than 43 years of oil production.

The festival aspires not only to witness the current state of our environment—the greater body that has been nourishing the human species—but aspires also to contemplate upon the integral spiritual values that form our relationship with Mother Earth and fellow species. It is not just a festival, but an opportunity to reflect upon our collective consciousness and the present human impulse that is participating in life's creation process. It is an event that hopes to envision what may help us harmonize our living and being - with authentic nature within and without. Check it out at: If you wish: watch Opening Film .

This is very important to us and the indigenous peoples of the northern Peruvian Amazon. It is a call of attention to the world about a problem that has not been solved at all and remians unsolved in the wake of a new bidding round for oil companies in the same area. Since May 14th, the Peruvian state is offering oil lot 192 on the international market to make sure the country’s most important oil production continues once the actual licence expires end of August 2015.

Business as usual it seems, but before signing a new contract, the state is obliged to respect indigenous rights and to organize a prior consent process. Currently the indigenous people of Fediquep and other indigenous organisations of the area find themselves in the midst of that important dialogue and are discussing the rights and rules for another 30 years of oil exploitation on their territories. They try to make sure the process it is not a mere formality but becomes a real dialogue where their demands for participation, transparency and guarantees are addressed before a new contract is signed. A huge challenge.

With your support we have been able to provide permanent advice and we are finishing an important article on the behaviour of the current company Pluspetrol Norte (publication for beginning of July!). We thank you strongly for that and hope we can continue supporting the indigenous people in their struggle for justice in this part of the Amazon.

Our next actions will be to:

  • Get the Pluspetrol publication printed and distributed to local communities and national and international audience.
  • Facilitate the travel of a big indigenous delegation to Iquitos for mid July when the process is in the dialogue stage.
  • Guarantee national and international lobby work during and after the consultation process.

Agreement with the government leaves room for interpretation: Is the agreement signed between indigenous leaders of the contaminated rivers in Loreto and Peruvian government a real recognition of the social and environmental damage?

Historical demonstration of indigenous capacity

After more than 3 years of dialogue in 2 multisectoral commissions, in 3 work groups and in endless sub-commissions and meetings, after countless travels forth and back from their far away communities to Iquitos and Lima, the indigenous leaders of the contaminated river basins in Loreto decided to sign the agreement on the negotiation table with the Prime Minister. Historical it is because of the enormous capacity showed by the indigenous organizations to use democratic mechanisms in order to reclaim their rights. Even though they have had enough of the government´s broken promises, the communities continued the process and stood up for their rights. At least 10 indigenous protest actions were registered on the Corrientes, Maranon and Tigre Rivers in the last 10 months. The latest actions in Andoas (Pastaza), Nuevo Remanente (Tiger) and Pampa Hermosa (Corrientes) were only ended recently (February- March 2015).

The right to have rights

The agreement includes: installation of provisional clean water systems, a toxicological and epidemiological study of the people in cooperation with the OPS (Organización Panamericana de Salud) that should be ready by next year, the implementation of an integral health plan for over 110,500 community members. Actions for intercultural education, electrification and agriculture are also on the list.

When it comes to remediation, the wording gets more generic. The state will guarantee the clean up by the responsible company within the framework of existing standards. To evaluate the company’s cleanup plan, the findings of the environmental taxation body - OEFA will be taken into account. At the same time, a 50 million soles guarantee fund will be created, for which – as says the actual law proposal - a good part will have to come from OEFA’s budget.

The same lack of specificity is kept when referring to the land titling: the Regional government - the responsible authority for the titling of indigenous communities, will (finally) start to do so.

In a nutshell: the agreement reaffirms that the state has to guarantee its’ citizens’ rights. The importance of the agreement is therefore the reaffirmation that indigenous peoples have the right to have rights in Peru.

No reason to celebrate

Although last Tuesday in Lima the official message was one of victory and joy announcing a renewed social pact between the state and the indigenous peoples, immediately after the official ceremony, the leaders themselves stated that there is no reason to celebrate. It calls the attention that no representative from the Tiger River was present.

First of all, the question is whether the state will accomplish the agreement, as there is a long list of unaccomplished acts and a much longer history of no-state presence in these remote areas.

Secondly, the wording used in the agreement leaves room for interpretation of what the next steps are. Will Pluspetrol clean up the areas already abandoned in 2011? Will the land titles include the areas where the installations were build on indigenous territory? Will the 50 million soles fund be sufficient taking into account Perupetro’s public statement that the remediation of oil lot 1AB will cost around 90 million USD? Will the old tubes and installations be replaced so that no new oil spills can occur?

Thirdly, the agreement does not address important unsolved issues as the valorization of land use and the compensation for the environmental, cultural and social damage. In that sense, an interesting precedent was created by five Achuar communities who presented last week, after years of trial, the extra judicial agreement they reached with the previous company and polluter Occidental Petrolueum.

New contract?

The present contract for the oil block 1AB (192) expires in August. The government is desperate to continue the exploitation in one of Peru´s most oil productive lands and to start the new bidding round. As the ILO-Convention 169 states, the indigenous peoples have to be consulted before signing a new contract. In this case, the government will have to ask for consent the peoplethat have suffered the consequences of oil exploitation for over 40 years. Are they satisfied with this agreement?


After the declaration of an environmental emergency in March 2013 and the declaration of a health emergency in April 2014 in the Pastaza river, the Peruvian government installed in May 2014 a Multisectorial Commission for Development, as a dialogue mechanism between the State and indigenous peoples to find solutions for the damages caused by more than 43 years of oil pollution in Pastaza.

 However, eight months after the installation of that Commission, and after numerous meetings, no solution has been found. During the last official meeting in November, the Prime Minister’s High representative admitted that it is not a matter of legal nor technical answers, it all depends on political will. He made the promise that during a meeting at the end of November, that is before the International Conference on Climate change would take place in Lima, answers would be given by the Prime Minister himself.

 None of that happened and during the Climate change conference the Peruvian government kept in silence the suffering of its peoples. Although the federation FEDIQUEP together with woman leaders and its environmental monitors tried very hard to denounce the situation on the international scene, by presenting and sharing the Pastaza movie on different occasions, little attention was paid to it on an official level. However new alliances were woven with social movements from Peru, Ecuador and across the world, and the Quechua women returned home obviously inspired and strengthened by the many women’s movements they met. The internationally recognized ethic Tribunal for the Rights Of Nature accepted the case of the polluted river basins of Loreto as a case of severe violation of the rights of nature and assigned it a special hearing in Peru in the very near future.

 The situation for the people of Pastaza is concerning. And there is more: PeruPetro, the company that promotes oil and mining inversion in Peru, announced the bidding of at least 26 new licences for 2015, including a new contract in the severely polluted area of oil block 1AB, now 192, on the Quechuas’ territory. In the meanwhile the operating company Pluspetrol is appealing against the fines imposed by the state’ environmental control body, and tries constantly to divide the communities by offering and negotiating amounts of money for the use of their territories.

 The federation FEDIQUEP and its communities face a very challenging year. 2015 takes off with too many pending questions and unsolved matters. The hard task for the Federation is to organize, unite and inform its communities even more and to re-strategize in the wake of the announced new oil contract on their territories. One of the key issues for 2015 will be the right to prior and informed consent in oil block 192.

 That is why we dare to ask your very necessary support again. Please help FEDIQUEP and its communities to stand up against the injustice of 43 years of oil contamination and to get real respect for the indigenous right to prior and informed consent.

Indigenous women on the front lines
Indigenous women on the front lines

Dear Friend of the Amazon,

I am writing you with a special invitation to double your impact for justice in the Amazon. A generous individual with a commitment to global change is matching all new & recurring donations we receive on this project within the next 24 hours!

Your commitment to become a recurring supporter would greatly strengthen this sustained movement for justice in the wake of more than 40 years of severe oil contamination. 

With your help, we will: 

  • hold key congresses of indigenous women in affected communities to strategize and grow this movement for justice
  • help indigenous women travel to the COP20 People's Summit on Climate Change to tell their stories to the world 
  • bring indigenous federation leaders to negotiations to demand accountability, action, and solutions

Will you help make all this a reality? Become a monthly supporter today and double the impact of your dollar!

Be sure you select "monthly recurring" when you make your donation, as only these will be matched, making your act of kindness count two-fold. 

This offer only stands until midnight on Wednesday, September 10th. Don't wait! Please share this opportunity with your networks now! 

In Solidarity,

Sarah & the Alianza Arkana team

Quechua leader speaking truth the the press
Quechua leader speaking truth the the press
Oil in the Amazon remains with no clean up
Oil in the Amazon remains with no clean up


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Organization Information

Alianza Arkana

Location: Yarinacocha, Ucayali - Peru
Project Leader:
Matthew Watherston
San Juan de Bautista, Maynas, Loreto Peru
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