Peru protests over Amazon developments intensify
LIMA (Reuters) - Protesters angry over oil and natural gas developments in Peru's resource-rich Amazon vowed on Friday to defy the government and step up demonstrations that have disrupted operations at energy companies.
A private-sector source told Reuters that as many as 41 vessels serving energy companies are stuck along jungle rivers, unable to move because of the protests.
Dozens of local and foreign energy companies operate in Peru's Amazon rain forest region, including Argentina's Pluspetrol, Spain's Repsol-YPF, France's Perenco, and state-run energy company Petroperu. The companies did not return calls for comment.
Indigenous communities have been blocking roads and waterways for weeks to get the government to revoke decrees aligning Peruvian law with a free-trade deal with the United States, which they fear will make it easier for companies to take control of their lands.
Over the weekend, the government declared a state of emergency in the central regions of Loreto, Amazonas, Ucayali and Cuzco, paving the way for military control of these areas.
Protesters responded by calling for "insurgency."
"Insurgency means to disobey, to not recognize the authority of (President) Alan Garcia, despite the state of emergency," said Alberto Pizango, president of AIDESEP, a leading Peruvian rights group.
"The state is stripping us of our territories and whatever happens next is the government's responsibility," he told reporters.
Peru, which has auctioned off mining and energy concessions throughout most of the country, has drawn fierce criticism from environmental and human rights groups that say development threatens to damage the environment and risks exposing remote tribes to new and deadly diseases.
The government is encouraging investment in hopes of turning the country into a net oil exporter from a net importer.
Peru's Prime Minister Yehude Simon said the demonstrations would not "hurt the government, or the country, because the constitution foresees these sorts of cases and we must take the appropriate measures to restore order."
"We've said over and over that the decrees can be corrected, in terms of what affects them (the protesters). We've asked what affects them so we can correct it, but they've walked away from the negotiating table," Simon said.
Earlier this week, Peru's environment minister said protesters had blocked two of Petroperu's pumping stations. Similar demonstrations last year forced the company to shut its northern pipeline for more than a week.
(Reporting by Marco Aquino; Additional reporting and writing by Dana Ford; Editing by Hilary Burke, Toni Reinhold)
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