Three Indigenous Kukuma killed at protest at Calgary-based PetroTal oil company site in Peru

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Photo from EFE.

Three Indigenous Kukuma were killed by Peruvian National Police late in the evening on Saturday August 8 at a protest at Calgary-based PetroTal’s Block 95 oil field in the town of Bretaña, Puinahua district, Requena province in Peru.

Several news articles also report that 11 other Kukuma were injured in the incident as well as 6 members of the security forces.

The incident reportedly began on Sunday August 2 when Kukuma took over a pumping station for a 100,000 barrel per day pipeline used by PetroTal (and other companies including Toronto-based Frontera Energy) to move crude from the Amazon jungle to the Port of Bayovar on the Pacific Coast of northern Peru.

PetroTal says: “As a result of the attack at Pump Station No.5, PetroTal had requested enhanced security at the Bretana field from Peru’s National Police.”

It appears the Kukuma wanted the Canadian company to stop its activities due to concerns about the influx of workers given the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing concerns about environmental contamination from its operations.

La Mula reports: “For days there have been a number of actions by communities in areas affected by oil activity that demand that the state not allow crude oil production during the pandemic. These measures aimed to draw attention to both regional and central governments and prevent COVID-19 from spreading in their communities.”

The New York Post adds: “Local indigenous rights organization ORPIO [the Regional Organization of Indigenous Peoples of the Northern Amazon of Peru] said in a statement that natives of the area demand assistance from oil companies amid an outbreak of coronavirus infections in their Amazon communities.”

And Mongabay reports: “Ugkum Jempetf – who represents the Kukama communities of the Lower Puinahua community of Bretaña – recalled that in 2019 the people of Bretaña held several protests to ask the oil company to install water and light in their community, as well as to improve the basic conditions of their health centre…”

In terms of the deaths, Angus Media reports that Orpio has claimed it was PetroTal security guards who opened fire on the Kukuma.

That article also notes: “Peru’s interior ministry reported that around 70 people armed with spears and pellet guns surrounded the block”, while AFP reports the interior ministry says the Kukuma were “armed with shotguns”.

But Orpio says: “The indigenous brothers had no firearms. They only carried their arrows as a tool of ancestral defense, for traditional and cultural use…”

Red Muqui, a network of Peruvian organizations, has tweeted: “Orpio denounces the murder of 3 indigenous people on the outskirts of Lot 95 … after wanting to exercise the right of territorial control in protest at the abandonment of the State and 50 years of oil extraction that has contaminated territories. They don’t have water or medicine.”

Between January 21 and February 3 of this year, Michel Forst, at the time the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, visited Peru.

Forst stated: “I regret to conclude that a large number of human rights defenders, and especially indigenous people and local communities defending the environment and their human rights are not able to operate in a safe and enabling environment.”

And while his report predates this circumstance, Forst also noted: “I heard that security guards or police officers employed by oil and mining companies have at several occasions threatened to kill, harassed and attacked human rights defenders during peaceful protests.”

It is being reported that Orpio and other Indigenous organizations want an independent investigation of the violence at Block 95.

Above Ground has tweeted: “While observers in Peru call for an impartial investigation into the tragic incident, Canadian civil society continues to push for measures to hold companies like PetroTal to account here in Canada if their actions contibute to violent conflicts abroad.”

It adds: “A small step in that direction would be giving the [Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise] investigative powers, so we’d finally have a watchdog capable of finding out if a Canadian firm is engaged in wrongdoing abroad.”

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