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Brazil’s Javari valley threatened by Peruvian oil, warn tribes


Indigenous Peoples in Brazil

Matsés man Alesandro Dunu Mayoruna, from Sao Meireles village in Brazil, painted with achiote to receive visitors and talk about oil company Pacific Rubiales. Photograph: David Hill/David Hill


Powered by article titled “Brazil’s Javari valley threatened by Peruvian oil, warn tribes” was written by David Hill, for on Friday 28th November 2014 16.47 UTC


An indigenous people whose territories are divided by the Brazil-Peru border in the remote Amazon say they are vehemently opposed to oil exploration on the Peruvian side and are prepared to fight companies in order to keep them out.

The Matsés’s main concerns are the potential social and environmental impacts of oil operations on both sides of the border, where they live in the far west of the iconic Javari Valley Indigenous Territory in Brazil and a 490,000 hectare legally-titled community in Peru.

“I don’t want to die contaminated or from some illness transmitted [by a company],” Waki Mayoruna, the head of a village called Lobo, told the Guardian on a visit to the Javari Territory. “If they don’t understand our no means no, there’ll be conflict that’ll lead to people being killed.”

“Our forests and the headwaters could be contaminated,” says Raimundo Mean Mayoruna, president of the General Mayoruna Organization (OGM) in Brazil. “But this isn’t just an environmental issue. It could bring illnesses. The Matsés are afraid this’ll be the death of them.”

The licence to operate on the Peruvian side is held by Canada-based company Pacific Rubiales Energy, whose two concessions, Lot 135 and Lot 137, cover almost 1.5 million hectares and have been estimated to hold almost one billion barrels of oil.

Pacific Rubiales told the Guardian it is not currently operating in either concession, but it has held the licences since 2007 and performed some exploration in Lot 135 in 2012 and 2013 which was due to involve, according to company plans, drilling three wells and conducting seismic tests.

Earlier this month numerous Matsés in Brazil crossed the border into Peru to attend a bi-national, three day meeting for Matsés from both countries, which was held in a village called Santa Rosa and concluded with them “totally rejecting” both concessions.

“We maintain the position of not permitting the oil company to enter,” Cesar Nacua Uakui, from a village called Estirón on the Peruvian side, told the meeting. “It doesn’t matter if they kill us. We must look after our land for our children.”

“We definitely don’t want the oil company,” said Carlos Fasabi Panduro, from San José de Añushi in Peru, who acted as the meeting’s translator on the second and third days. “Everyone will say the same. The decision is unanimous.”

Jorge Pérez Rubio, president of the regional indigenous organization, ORPIO, to which the Matsés community on the Peruvian side is affiliated, told the meeting he “welcomed” their decision and said, “We’re going to avoid the kind of disaster that has happened elsewhere.”

The Matsés issued a statement ratifying their decision and alluding to “serious social and environmental contamination” caused by oil operations in other parts of Peru, and the “continued use of contaminating practices” and “little will to remedy environmental damages.”

They have made similar statements regarding the concessions every year for the last five years after previous bi-national meetings, leading one woman, Delia Rodriguez Lopez, to tell this year’s gathering, “We don’t want to keep talking about this. Our position is no. It’ll be no until the end.”

Numerous Matsés told the Guardian, during visits to villages in both Brazil and Peru after the meeting, that they were prepared to fight oil company personnel – with spears, bows and arrows – if they turned up in their territories.

“They should respect indigenous peoples’ rights, but in my view they’re not doing so,” says Lorenzo Tumi, from Puerto Alegre in Peru. “The only weapon we have is to kill one of them. They have their powers – we have our powers too.”

“We’ll always fight against the invasion of our territories,” says José Tumi, from Sao Meireles in Brazil. “If they don’t listen, we could fight like we did before, with bows and arrows. We could attack anyone who invades our territory. We’re not afraid of dying.”

Last year a delegation of indigenous peoples from the Javari Territory in Brazil, including Marubos, Matís and Kanamaris as well as Matsés, travelled to Brasilia to express their concern about Lot 135 and Lot 137 to Brazil’s Foreign Ministry and Peruvian government representatives.


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