Take physic, pomp

Perenco’s idea of community relations: Shoot the locals

In Peru there are two conflicting issues in its oil industry. One you get to hear about quite a lot, the other doesn’t tend to get much press coverage:

1) Peru is about to auction a new batch of lots for oil and gas exploration in its Amazon Basin region in July and has recently agreed to deals worth $650m via PetroPeru (yep, the same oil company in the centre of all those corruption scandals just a few months ago) with international oil companies.

2) Locals in and around the regions being sold off and/or currently being explored are on the tenth day of a general strike against the oil companies. They complain of non-cooperation from the oil companies, broken promises of investments in the local regions, pollution of the rivers and waterways killing fish and animals and the forcing upon them of new laws that will strip them of the rights currently held to decide whether the oil companies can operate in their ancestral homes. A specific complaint is how oil companies refuse to engage in the legally required consultation meetings with locals and, even when they do turn up to the meetings, refuse to listen to the other point of view and simply say “we’re going to do this, this and this, like it or not.”

All this background explains, in a more or less way, why the local Amazin basin peoples have called their general strike. As part of that strike they have bloked several main trunk route waterways to stop the oil companeis from operating. So two days ago, the French Perenco Oil & Gas company (people with a bad rep for pollution in Ecuador, it should be noted) took it upon themselves to break their boat through the barriers set up. When local approached the boat in question they were shot at by the people on board, according to this report. Beats talking to them every time, no?

Yet another lesson in winning friends and influencing people, neoliberal style. I find it jawdropping to think of a mindset that believes you can trample all over these people and then expect to have an operating oil well further down the track. If there is one place in the world where you need to keep the locals on your side, it’s the Amazon Basin. Watch Joffé’s 1986 movie The Mission for insight.

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