The Yine, Machiguenga and Harakmbut communities, issued a statement this month demanding to speak ‘directly’ to Ray Hunt, CEO of the Texas-based company Hunt Oil. James Pliny reports.
Can you imagine oil tycoon and Bush associate Ray Hunt in the Amazon? That’s what three tribes have requested. Hunt’s company, Hunt Oil, is exploring on the tribes’ land and they want to tell its owners, in person, that the company isn’t welcome there.
To date, Hunt has ignored local people’s protests. Even though they have threatened to expel Hunt from the region. Even though oil exploration and drilling will destroy a beautiful part of the Peruvian Amazon that acts as the source of several rivers which 10,000 people depend on. Even though, at a recent meeting with two Hunt employees, one woman, from the Harakmbut tribe, said this:
‘The people who said the company could work here, don’t they have children? Don’t they think about them? We are poor people. But even if they give us money – one sol, five soles, one hundred soles – oil exploration will kill us. The company must not be allowed to work here. I agree with what the others are saying. Don’t insist any more! They’re only interested in money! They already have plenty of money and now they want more! We want them to return to their own country and work there instead and not disturb us like this. Get out of here! If you want to explore for oil, go and do so on your own land, not ours. That’s all. Thank you.’
That speech fell on deaf ears. Now the three tribes, the Yine, Machiguenga and Harakmbut, have demanded to speak ‘directly’ to Ray Hunt as ‘the person who really makes the company’s decisions.’
Hunt’s project is in south-east Peru in a region called Madre de Dios (literally, ‘Mother of God’). Hunt was given permission by Peru’s government to work there in 2006, and seismic testing began earlier this year.
In response to protests against Hunt, Peru’s government have sent armed police into the region. Some people have expressed fears that there will be a repeat of earlier in the year when armed police fired on an indigenous protest in northern Peru, leading to thirty-three deaths.
Will you travel to the Amazon, Ray Hunt? Harakmbut land is a long way from the Hunt boardroom, but 10,000 people’s futures are at stake.
To read a letter (in Spanish) to Hunt from an indigenous organisation representing the Yine, Machiguenga and Harakmbut see: http://fenamad-indigenas.blogspot.com/2009_11_01_archive.html
James Pliny is a writer and activist based in the United Kingdom. You can find more of his writings at http://www.jamespliny.blogspot.com
PHOTO CREDIT: Corbis
Indigenous Peoples are putting their bodies on the line and it's our responsibility to make sure you know why. That takes time, expertise and resources - and we're up against a constant tide of misinformation and distorted coverage. By supporting IC you're empowering the kind of journalism we need, at the moment we need it most.