Outrage at oil chief's plans for uncontacted tribes

May 21, 2007

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Peru’s national Indigenous peoples’ organization has strongly condemned plans by state oil company Perupetro to forcibly contact some of the world’s last uncontacted tribes, a move that threatens them with extinction.

‘The tribes don’t want to have any contact with national society and we have to respect that,’ said Alberto Pizango Chota, president of Peru’s Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Jungle (AIDESEP).

AIDESEP described the intention to make contact as an ‘attack on the fundamental human rights of the uncontacted tribes.’ Extremely vulnerable because they do not have immunity to outsiders’ diseases, any form of contact can be fatal.

AIDESEP’s condemnation comes after Perupetro’s chairman, Daniel Saba, announced plans to ‘consult’ the uncontacted tribes about potential oil exploration on their land. Perupetro is the government body responsible for granting exploration licences to companies.

‘We don’t know the uncontacted tribes’ position,’ said Mr Saba. ‘Nobody has consulted them and with this investigation we are going to find out what they think.’ 

After first contact with outsiders in the mid-1980s, more than 50% of the previously uncontacted Nahua tribe died. A similar tragedy happened to the Murunahua tribe ten years later.  

Uncontacted Tribes of Peru