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PERU
Without sound state institutions on indigenous issues
Magali Zevallos Ríos
6/20/2013
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In addition to lacking power, government agencies exclude indigenous population from decision-making.

The first major national prior consultation in Peru, scheduled to begin in April this year, has been suspended due to controversies regarding indigenous demands. Native communities to be consulted have demanded from the government a series of prerequisites ahead of the consultation process, primarily the remediation of environmental problems caused by 40 years of oil exploitation and pollution. And those requests have uncovered a pressure cooker regarding government neglect of the country’s indigenous peoples.

This prior consultation is for Lot 192 (formerly Lot 1-AB) where Argentinian firm Pluspetrol Norte — which produces 17,500 barrels of oil daily, accounts for 11.7 percent of the country’s total production, and has proven reserves of 72.5 million barrels — works in the basins of Alto Marañón, Pastaza, Tigre and Corrientes rivers, in Peru’s northeast region of Loreto. In the area directly impacted, there are about 2,700 inhabitants among 17 native communities of the indigenous Achuar, Quichua and Urarina populations.

“The consultation by Perupetro [the state company in charge of promoting, negotiating, executing and monitoring hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation contracts in Peru] has revealed real problems in the areas of impact for mining and oil [exploitation]. The demands reflect the number of problems the state needs to address due to government neglect,” said Congresswoman Verónika Mendoza, president of a Congressional working group to monitor the implementation of the Law on Prior Consultation. Without environmental remediation, she explained, there can be no consultation according to the communities’ demands.

“The suspension of the consultation is justified. It will be postponed until there are better living conditions guaranteed in the area,” Mendoza said, adding that the population is not opposed to the oil company, “they just want a state that includes them in public policy. They demand basic services such as health and education. They are placing conditions [on the prior consultation] because the government neglected them for decades and they are not willing to tolerate it any more.”

After the last inspection visit to the Pastaza River basin conducted in March by the working group, led by Mendoza, along with Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar Vidal and regional president of Loreto, Yván Vásquez, the government declared an environmental state of emergency for 90 days in the affected area. However, further work remains to monitor and establish corrective measures in the Alto Marañón, Tigre and Corrientes rivers.

According to the Ministry of Environment’s Resolution 094-2013 on Mar. 25, the emergency is due to physical, chemical and microbiological levels that exceed national environmental standards, according to reports from the National Water Authority, the Agency for Environmental Control and Assessment and the Environmental Health Directorate.

Prior consultation is insufficient
Javier La Rosa, coordinator of the Indigenous Peoples sector of the non-governmental Legal Defense Institute (IDL), told Latinamerica Press there is no institution in the country protecting the rights of indigenous peoples and guaranteeing respect for their integrity.

“The government of [former President] Alan García [2006-2011] dismantled INDEPA [the National Institute for the Development of the Andean, Amazonian and Afro-Peruvian Peoples], the organization through which oversaw multisectoral policies on indigenous peoples, and with the administration of [President Ollanta] Humala that has not been corrected, so there is not a sound state institution for indigenous peoples,” La Rosa said.

He added that the government thought the approval of the Law on Prior Consultation in August 2011 would be enough.

“Prior consultation does not resolve the substantive issues of the indigenous peoples and communities. Other measures are required, one of which is indigenous state institutions,” La Rosa noted. “In our country we have [in the Ministry of Culture] a weakened Vice Ministry of Interculturalism with little power and lacks the leadership skills to propose to the other state sectors the changes that need to be made to address prior consultation. This Vice Ministry has not been able to discuss with the Ministry of Energy and Mines nor the Ministry of Economy and Finance the limits the state must have when there are investments in indigenous lands.”

“What´s even worse is that the Vice Ministry of Interculturalism hasn´t been capable of incorporating indigenous peoples in decision-making, and the main problem is that our economic model is based largely on the export of raw materials, which are usually found in indigenous territories. Therefore, the main demands are focused on protecting their territory because that is their livelihood,” he said.

The sixth alternative report on compliance of the International Labor Organization’s Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples and the conditions of Peru’s indigenous peoples, presented by civil society institutions in Sep. 2012, said that “as the territories of indigenous peoples are preyed upon, their rights to health and education are still neglected by the state. The coverage of both remains poor. Also, attacks on indigenous territories increase the risk of food insecurity, even though the communities are engaged in farming and produce much of the food consumed by the country.”

The vast majority of these people are engaged in small- and medium-scale farming, involving 2.3 million families for a total of 10 million people — a third of the country´s population. However, the livelihoods of thousands of indigenous families, and consequently of urban families, are threatened by extractive policies because, in many cases, mining and hydrocarbon concessions overlap with productive lands. Moreover, far from promoting policies that strengthen small-scale farming, the state has prioritized support for agro-export farming, the report said.

Rights deferred
The right to health has also been overlooked. According to the National Ombudsman, at the end of 2011 demand for medical personnel was not fully met, mainly in rural areas. This meant serious implications for access to health services for the indigenous populations. The state agency also noted there is no a health policy implemented efficiently and in keeping with an intercultural approach, “even though it is known that would develop actions to reduce health gaps between national and regional levels and indigenous peoples.”

In terms of access to education, about 20 percent of indigenous students between 6 and 11 years old do not have school access, according to the 2007 General Census. The current government has admitted, following the latest Census Evaluation of Students in 2011, that there is an increased inequality gap in learning achievement between urban and rural areas. However, this only reflects the historical delay of the Peruvian educational system regarding indigenous peoples.

“The emblem of the current government is social inclusion,” said La Rosa. “It is an inconsistent state. Instead of implementing inclusion, it excludes and marginalizes indigenous people, and we´re not talking about a small group.
 
They represent between 20 and 25 percent of the population.”

For Luis Vittor, advisor to the Andean Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations (CAOI) it is important that the inclusive policies the government promotes do not lose sight that prior consultation is a part of the obligation a State has to develop intercultural public policies at all levels of government.

The eight organizations that make up the Unity Pact of Indigenous and Campesino Organizations of Peru, approved in their second national meeting held in April the creation of a Ministry of Indigenous or Native Peoples, establishing stewardship for the creation and implementation of public policies to fulfill their rights and ensure their full participation.

“Our proposal is aimed at building a new Peruvian constitution that recognizes the plurinational nature of the Peruvian State in accordance with the diverse peoples of the country,” read the statement issued by the Unity Pact at the end of their meeting.

Meanwhile, Vittor notes that to establish true indigenous state institutionalism requires the political will to advance the development of cultural public policies.

“These policies should be formulated with the participation and consent of indigenous peoples as an act of reparation for historic practices of exclusion and discrimination,” Vittor said. “So the consultation should be a means for the State to repair historic debts and start a real intercultural and inclusive dialogue with the indigenous peoples.”
—Latinamerica Press.


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State must remediate environmental problems that threaten integrity of indigenous peoples, before initiating prior consultation process. (Photo: Magali Zevallos)
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