Indigenous Protesters Agree to Leave Peru Pipeline Station

LIMA (Reuters) — Peruvian state-owned oil firm Petroperu said on Monday that it had regained control of one of its pipeline stations that was invaded almost two weeks ago by a group of indigenous people, armed with spears and demanding medical care for coronavirus infections. 

A Petroperu pipeline. Photo: Petroperu

The station's seizure forced the company to stop pumping crude just a day after the easing of coronavirus-related restrictions on industry had allowed it to restart its pipeline, which crosses the northern jungle of Peru to its refinery on the Pacific coast. 

The company said that Petroperu workers would now return to the station in Datem Marañón province, 700km north of the capital Lima, and it would work to restart the pumping and transport of hydrocarbons "in strict compliance with security protocols."

Petroperu said in a statement that an agreement had been reached on Saturday between the company and neighboring communities that it would implement social development projects.

Jorge Perez, president of the local indigenous rights organization ORPIO who was involved in the negotiations, said a meeting would be held between indigenous leaders, the company and Peru's new prime minister Walter Martos in the city of Iquitos, Loreto, on Wednesday. 

He said the meeting was to discuss potential development projects including the building of a hospital, a highway and an airport and the installation of a state bank branch. 

"Thanks to this agreement, we have facilitated the return of station 5 of Petroperu`s pipeline and we trust that the social gaps in the Amazon can be closed," he told Reuters by phone. 

A week ago, three indigenous Amazonians died after a clash between local tribesmen and security forces over a conflict with the Canadian oil company PetroTal Corp. 

The uptick in tensions coincides with Peru surpassing half a million coronavirus cases and a fresh spike in contagions. It now has the highest fatality rate in Latin America, reaching 26,281 deaths on Sunday and 535,946 confirmed cases.

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