Kichua and Arabela indigenous communities block river traffic in Amazon to protest oil exploration and extraction on their ancestral lands

Approximately 2,000 members of Kichua and Arabela indigenous communities blocked off river traffic on Peru’s Curacay and Napo Rivers in northeastern department of Loreto Wednesday, to protest the contamination of their ancestral lands by mining companies, and to demand the repeal of a series of laws they say are promoting unrestricted oil exploration.

According to the National Institute for the Development of Andean, Amazonian and Afroperuvian peoples, Indepa, the strike is “political,” because the indigenous communities have walked away from the negotiating table.

Meanwhile, the Interethnic Defense Front of the Peruvian Jungle, Aidesep, says the strike was called because they have consistently been ignored by the government, according to the association’s president, Edwin Vásquez.

Aidesep reportedly sent letters to Premier Yehude Simon and the president of Congress, Javier Velásquez, to initiate talks, but has yet to receive a response.

Last August, Congress ratified a congressional committee’s motion to repeal two Amazon land development laws decreed by President Alan García, and over two days of negotiations lawmakers struck a deal with indigenous rights groups to lift protests that disrupted operations at drilling platforms and sections of the North Peru oil pipeline.

Indigenous rights groups, headed by Aidesep, maintained that the decrees weakened tribal control of ancestral lands – estimated to contain billions of dollars worth of minerals, oil and lumber – and made it easier for private investors to obtain permission from individual indigenous communities to set up business.

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