Matsés Indians say no to oil exploration

July 9, 2008

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The Matsés, a tribe of 2,500 people living in the remote Peruvian Amazon, have rejected plans by the Peruvian government to explore for oil on their land.

The government has created five exploration ‘lots’ overlapping Matsés territory, and signed deals with two companies to work there.

‘No adequate process of consultation was carried out during the creation of these lots, not as the lots were being auctioned, nor when the contracts were signed between the oil companies and the Peruvian government,’ says the president of the Matsés Council. ‘This is in clear contravention of the International Labour Organisation’s Convention 169 and the United Nations’ Declaration of Indigenous Peoples’ Rights.’

A statement from Peru’s Amazon Indian organisation, AIDESEP, adds that the Matsés reject exploration on their land because ‘there is no sign of any development in communities (in Peru) which have permitted exploration – only environmental contamination and more poverty.’

AIDESEP’s statement says that the Matsés have written to Peru’s president, Alan Garcia, outlining their concerns and saying they do not want to leave their homes for ‘fictitious promises that – in all the years of exploration in other parts of the Peruvian Amazon – have not led to the improvement of Indigenous peoples’ lives.’