Several Peruvian public officials have been taken hostage by members of the Amazonian Wampis tribe, after a ruptured oil pipeline resulted in the spillage of around 3,000 barrels of oil into rivers in the vicinity of the Wampis village of Mayuriaga. An emergency government decree immediately after the spill on February 3 laid out plans to provide essential aid to affected communities, yet inexplicably excluded Mayuriaga from the list, prompting locals to seize the hostages in order to demand assistance from the authorities.
Having formed its own autonomous territorial government in November last year, the Wampis tribe – which has roughly 11,000 members spread across 1.4 million hectares (3.5 million acres) of the Peruvian Amazon – has accused state-owned energy company Petroperú of neglecting its responsibility to conduct routine maintenance work on its 40-year-old Northern Peruvian pipeline. Similarly, following the recent rupture to the line, Peru’s environmental regulatory body, OEFA, concluded that the incident “makes evident that Petroperú is not adopting the necessary measures to prevent spills that have environmental impacts.”
Continuing its report, OEFA states that 20 similar failures have occurred over the past five years, adding that such incidents carry “a high risk of adverse impact… to the lives and health of those people who live in areas adjacent to these spills.”
The latest such spill is reported to have contaminated both the Cashacaño and Morona rivers. In response, Wampis representative Wrays Perez Ramirez has called on the government to provide support to the residents of Mayuriaga in the form of food and water, while also imposing sanctions against Petroperú. To ensure the protection of locals, the Wampis have demanded that the pumping of oil along the pipeline be immediately suspended.
However, having been omitted from the list of communities due to receive government aid, Mayuriaga residents seized a grounded military helicopter, capturing three Petroperú employees along with four OEFA officials and a government minister.
In response, deputy culture minister Patricia Balbuena has insisted that the omission of Mayuriaga from the decree was a “mistake that should be corrected as soon as possible.”