Painkillers and pens used to placate Peru’s Indians as gas giants move in

September 14, 2011

Raya, a Nahua elder. More than half his people were wiped out after their land was opened up for oil exploration, Peru. © Johan Wildhagen

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Isolated Indians in southeast Peru are being ‘bribed’ with painkillers and pens, as industry giants seek to open up their land to explore for gas.

Survival has learned that even members of INDEPA – the government agency set up to protect Peru’s tribes – have put pressure on communities so research can be carried out in the reserve where they live.

Workers from Argentine gas giant Pluspetrol have been into the Kugapakori-Nahua Reserve to conduct environmental tests on the land’s suitability. The reserve was created in 1990 to protect the territorial rights of vulnerable tribes.

The isolated Nanti live deep in Peru’s Kugapakori-Nahua Reserve and are under threat from land invasions and disease. © Survival

Enrique Dixpopidiba Shocoroa, a Nahua leader, said his tribe have been given medical equipment, stationery, and promises of temporary work.

This worrying development comes as Peru’s President Ollanta Humala approves an historic law designed to guarantee Indigenous peoples the right to prior consultation about any projects affecting them and their land.

But around 15 tribes have chosen to resist contact in the Peruvian Amazon, and several are inside the reserve. All face extinction if their lands are opened up.

Survival’s Director, Stephen Corry said, ‘Oil and gas drilling in uncontacted tribes’ reserves make a mockery of Peru’s new law. It also risks jeopardizing the government’s promise to protect uncontacted tribes, who are especially vulnerable’.

Half of the Nahua died after their land was first opened up by Shell for oil exploration in the 1980s. Today, uncontacted tribes still living in the region are at extreme risk of succumbing to diseases brought in by outsiders.

Peruvian Tribes