Tag Archives: Peru

Peru Attacks its own People — and its Forest

4 Jul


Originally uploaded by thekjkev

Even as the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico rivets the attention of people all over the world, people in many other places continue to suffer the catastrophe of petroleum production completely unheeded. I’ve already posted something about the vicious toll oil companies have imposed on the poor of Nigeria. Now in Peru, oil companies have set their sights on that country’s Amazon basin. According to the website of the Red Ambiental Loretana (the Loreto Environmental Network) “there are hundreds of kilometers of rivers and streams that have never received any treatment after the oil spills.”

It’s really no wonder. The Peruvian government is firmly on the side of the oil companies. Avid for petro-dollars, it has refused to listen to the complaints and proposals of the indigenous people who actually live along those river, in places like Loreto, Bartra, and the Rio Tigre. Just a few weeks ago, it resorted to the kind of unhinged violence to smash through a road blockade that left at least one hundred dead. It has used the police to beat and torture protesters and the navy to break through flotillas of canoes arranged across the affected rivers — essentially funding the repression of Peruvians in favour of multi-nationals from the public purse. 

Lately the Interior Ministry has gone so far as to expel a Catholic missionary, Brother Paul McAuley, and forbid him to ever return. Government bureaucrats are calling him a terrorist. McAuley’s crime? Encouraging the inhabitants of the rainforest region to stand up for their rights.  Yet many student, civil and grassroots movements support the work of Brother McAuley, and the right of the people of the Peruvian Amazon to decide what is in their best interest.

No doubt the Peruvian government is saying it will use all the money it can earn from petroleum and gas production to better the lives of the poor. The governments of countries with these kinds of resources always do. But it never seems to happen. (Check out Paul Collier’s ‘The Bottom Billion’ for statistics on the economic performance of African nations ‘blessed’ with natural resources.)

Could oil and gas be extracted and produced without harming a rainforest environment and benefiting local people? Well, it’s a good question, but one on which no oil company I can think of wants to waste profits on trying to answer.