Over the weekend more than 100 Shuar indigenous people, also known as Wampis, blockaded the Morona River in Peru in an effort to stop exploratory oil drilling by Canadian-owned Talisman Energy. The blockade in meant to prevent oil drilling in an area of the Peruvian Amazon known as Block 64, home to four indigenous tribes in total and the Pastaza River Wetland Complex, a Ramsar wetland site.
“We do not consider the oil company as a creator of jobs but instead as murderous, criminal and abusive. We do not want Talisman in the Wampis territory,” a statement from the Shuar reads pointing to Talisman Energy’s track record in Peru as well as alleged human rights abuses in Sudan during the nation’s civil war. The company sold off its Sudan holdings in 2003 after international criticism, while a lawsuit in the US against Talisman was thrown out due to sufficient admissible evidence. The US Supreme Court refused to hear the case.
The Shuar blockade comes at a time when the new Peruvian administration is working to repair battered relations with indigenous groups. Earlier this month, Peru’s new president Ollanta Humala signed into law a measure requiring that industry consult indigenous groups prior to any activities on their land, including oil drilling. Although the law does not go so far as to give indigenous groups a ‘veto’ over industrial activities on their land.
“What we want to do with this law is have the voice of indigenous people be heard, and have them treated like citizens, not little children who are not consulted about anything,” Humala said at the signing.
The Shuar indigenous people contend that Talisman Energy had “not completed the prior process of consultation” before drilling on their land. Talisman drilling in Block 64 began in 2004.
Despite this, the CEO of Talisman, John Manzoni, has said the company will “only operate in areas where it has consent and support from local communities.”