Oil companies poised to enter uncontacted tribes’ territory

December 5, 2007

Crossed spears left by an uncontacted tribe in the region where Barrett and Repsol-YPF are working. © Marek Wolodzko/AIDESEP

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Two oil companies have been given the green light by the Peruvian government to explore for oil in a remote part of the Amazon inhabited by uncontacted tribes.

The decision comes after a Peruvian government spokesperson suggested the uncontacted tribes do not exist, claiming there was ‘no firm proof’ of their presence. But the Ecuadorian government has revealed plans for a bi-national agreement with Peru to protect the Indians, who live near the Peru-Ecuador border, setting aside $38,000 to do so.

Both oil companies, many outside experts and even other departments of the Peruvian government have all recognised the tribes’ existence.

The companies, Barrett Resources of the USA and Repsol-YPF of Spain,
provoked outrage earlier this year when they revealed plans to ‘communicate’ with the Indians using megaphones if their oil crews are attacked. Amongst the phrases Barrett’s workers are expected to shout are, ‘Is something disturbing you?’ and ‘We haven’t come here to look for women, we have our own women in our own village.’

In total, there are an estimated 15 uncontacted tribes in Peru, all of them under grave threat from oil and gas exploration and illegal logging. Any form of contact with them could be fatal because they do not have any immunity to outsiders’ diseases.

Survival’s director Stephen Corry said today, ‘The Peruvian government’s decision to allow oil companies to enter this part of the Amazon could spell disaster for these Indians. The government must understand that it is their land, that they have the right to live there as they wish, and that no drilling should take place there. If that doesn’t happen, something really will be disturbing them: the threat of extinction.’

For more information contact Miriam Ross on (+44) (0)20 7687 8734 or email [email protected]

Uncontacted Tribes of Peru