Quechua People Set for Showdown with Oil Company in Peru
Citing oil company abuses and broken government promises, indigenous Quechua people of the Pastaza River basin in Peru’s northern Amazon set a deadline that could soon bring them into direct conflict with Argentinian oil company PlusPetrol and shove another resource-related flashpoint onto the Peruvian government’s already crowded map of social conflicts.
On March 26, the indigenous federation FEDIQUEP—the Spanish acronym for the Quechua Indigenous Federation of the Pastaza—demanded that the Regional Government of Loreto comply with agreements it signed last June in the so-called Acta Pastaza, which the Quechua celebrated as a landmark pact on social and environmental issues in a delicate cultural and ecological zone where PlusPetrol profits and pollutes at the expense of the local indigenous people.
The act included promises ranging from school construction, additional bilingual teachers, doctors and clinic staff for a remote region where the Peruvian state has little presence and indigenous communities are left to haggle with the PlusPetrol for services in a grossly unfair relationship that breeds dependency and sanctions abuse. The regional government also promised a baseline study of the environment and the health of the locals to assess the effects of 40 years of oil activities in the region.
In a letter submitted to Regional President Iván Vásquez Monday, and in a statement published online earlier by AIDESEP, the main Amazonian indigenous federation of Peru, FEDIQUEP gave the government 40 days to comply.
The silent ‘or else’ in this case carries an implied threat of direct action—a chilling echo of a similar standoff in 2008 that left a police officer dead, about two dozen activists in jail and cost PlusPetrol millions of dollars in damage and production stoppages that ultimately led to the Acta Pastaza.
Leaders said the decision to throw down such a public demand to which the government stands little chance of meeting in so short a time at such great distances as the Pastaza region poses, was not taken lightly. The call came only after community leaders experienced the initial elation over the passage of the Acta, then the let down when government officials stood them up on important dates and projects, and then the inevitable insult as PlusPetrol continues spilling oil and using divisionary tactics in the field unabated.
“They (the government) have not completed one thing,” said David Chino Dahua, second in charge of FEDIQUEP. “Solo mas palabras”—just more words, he said.
The decision to thrown down the gauntlet was arrived at earlier this month when more than 150 leaders from FEDIQUEP base communities and other indigenous communities gathered at a rare assembly in the community of Santa Maria de Manchari.
“The attendees of the assembly recognized the value and importance of the Acta as a fundamental achievement in the struggle for their rights and the quest for the development of the Quechua People,” federation leaders said in a statement issued by PDDI, the federation’s legal advocate and legal partner of Alianza Arkana.
In the immediate celebratory wake of the Acta Pastaza in June, a new group was formed by leaders of many of the main river sheds of the region who all share the same problems with the oil companies operating in their region and with the regional and national governments, which they accuse of abandoning them. The group, called PUINAMUDT—has petitioned and testified to Congress, the Peruvian prime minister and many other top government officials and has become a solid voice for the people of Loreto on issues related to oil.
In support of the Quechua demands in the Pastaza region and an ongoing blockade of a stretch of river by villagers in the Corrientes basin, PUINAMUDT has repeated its request for a special on-site investigation by the ministers from Energy and Mines and other agencies charged with environmental regulation known collectively here as the PCM. A delegation of PCM officials was due to meet with PUINAMUDT already on April 9, making the date crucial to averting a crisis of the sort all-too familiar in Peru.
The FEDIQEP leaders have also called for the nullification of contracts and agreements made with company officials under unfair conditions. They reaffirm their basic demands to be fairly compensated for the use of their territories and for accountability by PlusPetrol and Peru’s national oil company PeruPetro for environmental damages and cleanup.
They demand a full investigation and assessment of environmental impacts if PlusPetrol’s concession to operate in the Pastaza region is to be considered for renewal in 2014.
If push comes to shove on the Pastaza, Peru’s government faces one more fight in a mounting list of social-environmental conflicts.
In mid-March the national Ombudsman, known here as the Defensoria del Pueblo, reported 229 active or latent social conflicts in Peru, at least 133 of which were “social-environmental” conflicts over resources. The most recent, in Piura, left a man dead last week as locals fought off a natural gas project planned for a Pacific bay important for small-scale and sustenance fishing.
A crisis on the Pastaza could be a spark that unites a growing movement against the mining industry in the Andes with the battle over hydrocarbon exploitation in the Amazon.
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By Daisy Simmons
1. Stay Informed<p>A first order of business in pet evacuation planning is to understand and be ready for the possible threats in your area. Visit <a href="https://www.ready.gov/be-informed" target="_blank">Ready.gov</a> to learn more about preparing for potential disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. Then pay attention to related updates by tuning <a href="http://www.weather.gov/nwr/" target="_blank">NOAA Weather Radio</a> to your local emergency station or using the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app" target="_blank">FEMA app</a> to get National Weather Service alerts.</p>
2. Ensure Your Pet is Easily Identifiable<p><span>Household pets, including indoor cats, should wear collars with ID tags that have your mobile phone number. </span><a href="https://www.avma.org/microchipping-animals-faq" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Microchipping</a><span> your pets will also improve your chances of reunion should you become separated. Be sure to add an emergency contact for friends or relatives outside your immediate area.</span></p><p>Additionally, use <a href="https://secure.aspca.org/take-action/order-your-pet-safety-pack" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">'animals inside' door/window stickers</a> to show rescue workers how many pets live there. (If you evacuate with your pets, quickly write "Evacuated" on the sticker so first responders don't waste time searching for them.)</p>
3. Make a Pet Evacuation Plan<p> "No family disaster plan is complete without including your pets and all of your animals," says veterinarian Heather Case in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9NRJkFKAm4" target="_blank">a video</a> produced by the American Veterinary Medical Association.</p><p>It's important to determine where to take your pet in the event of an emergency.</p><p>Red Cross shelters and many other emergency shelters allow only service animals. Ask your vet, local animal shelters, and emergency management officials for information on local and regional animal sheltering options.</p><p>For those with access to the rare shelter that allows pets, CDC offers <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/emergencies/pets-in-evacuation-centers.html" target="_blank">tips on what to expect</a> there, including potential health risks and hygiene best practices.</p><p>Beyond that, talk with family or friends outside the evacuation area about potentially hosting you and/or your pet if you're comfortable doing so. Search for pet-friendly hotel or boarding options along key evacuation routes.</p><p>If you have exotic pets or a mix of large and small animals, you may need to identify multiple locations to shelter them.</p><p>For other household pets like hamsters, snakes, and fish, the SPCA recommends that if they normally live in a cage, they should be transported in that cage. If the enclosure is too big to transport, however, transfer them to a smaller container temporarily. (More on that <a href="https://www.spcai.org/take-action/emergency-preparedness/evacuation-how-to-be-pet-prepared" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.)</p><p>For any pet, a key step is to establish who in your household will be the point person for gathering up pets and bringing their supplies. Keep in mind that you may not be home when disaster strikes, so come up with a Plan B. For example, you might form a buddy system with neighbors with pets, or coordinate with a trusted pet sitter.</p>
4. Prepare a Pet Evacuation Kit<p>Like the emergency preparedness kit you'd prepare for humans, assemble basic survival items for your pets in a sturdy, easy-to-grab container. Items should include:</p><ul><li>Water, food, and medicine to last a week or two;</li><li>Water, food bowls, and a can opener if packing wet food;</li><li>Litter supplies for cats (a shoebox lined with a plastic bag and litter may work);</li><li>Leashes, harnesses, or vehicle restraints if applicable;</li><li>A <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/pet-first-aid-supplies-checklist" target="_blank">pet first aid kit</a>;</li><li>A sturdy carrier or crate for each cat or dog. In addition to easing transport, these may serve as your pet's most familiar or safe space in an unfamiliar environment;</li><li>A favorite toy and/or blanket;</li><li>If your pet is prone to anxiety or stress, the American Kennel Club suggests adding <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stress-relieving items</a> like an anxiety vest or calming sprays.</li></ul><p>In the not-unlikely event that you and your pet have to shelter in different places, your kit should also include:</p><ul><li>Detailed information including contact information for you, your vet, and other emergency contacts;</li><li>A list with phone numbers and addresses of potential destinations, including pet-friendly hotels and emergency boarding facilities near your planned evacuation routes, plus friends or relatives in other areas who might be willing to host you or your pet;</li><li>Medical information including vaccine records and a current rabies vaccination tag;</li><li>Feeding notes including portions and sizes in case you need to leave your pet in someone else's care;</li><li>A photo of you and your pet for identification purposes.</li></ul>
5. Be Ready to Evacuate at Any Time<p>It's always wise to be prepared, but stay especially vigilant in high-risk periods during fire or hurricane season. Practice evacuating at different times of day. Make sure your grab-and-go kit is up to date and in a convenient location, and keep leashes and carriers by the exit door. You might even stow a thick pillowcase under your bed for middle-of-the-night, dash-out emergencies when you don't have time to coax an anxious pet into a carrier. If forecasters warn of potential wildfire, a hurricane, or other dangerous conditions, bring outdoor pets inside so you can keep a close eye on them.</p><p>As with any emergency, the key is to be prepared. As the American Kennel Club points out, "If you panic, it will agitate your dog. Therefore, <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pet disaster preparedness</a> will not only reduce your anxiety but will help reduce your pet's anxiety too."</p>
Evacuating Horses and Other Farm Animals<p>The same basic principles apply for evacuating horses and most other livestock. Provide each with some form of identification. Ensure that adequate food, water, and medicine are available. And develop a clear plan on where to go and how to get there.</p><p>Sheltering and transporting farm animals requires careful coordination, from identifying potential shelter space at fairgrounds, racetracks, or pastures, to ensuring enough space is available in vehicles and trailers – not to mention handlers and drivers on hand to support the effort.</p><p>For most farm animals, the Red Cross advises that you consider precautionary evacuation when a threat seems imminent but evacuation orders haven't yet been announced. The American Veterinary Medical Association has <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/large-animals-and-livestock-disasters" target="_blank">more information</a>.</p>
Bottom Line: If You Need to Evacuate, So Do Your Pets<p>As the Humane Society warns, pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed. Plan ahead to make sure you can safely evacuate your entire household – furry members included.</p>
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