Renewed Controversy As Disease Rocks Camisea
U.S. Public Banks Back in the Spotlight Over Financing for
|Nahua villager with respiratory disease due to contact
with the outside world.
Photo: Shinai Serjali
Washington, DC Today US NGOs issued a comprehensive statement to the Inter-American Development Bank, urging the rejection of financing for the controversial Camisea Gas Project in the remote Peruvian Amazon. A diverse coalition of environmental and human rights groups criticized the IDBs failure to take seriously the risks to isolated and uncontacted indigenous peoples, who potentially as a result of the project, are now experiencing an unprecedented rise in death rates from diseases to which they have no immunity. Seventy-five percent of Camisea production wells are located deep inside the territories of groups with little or no contact with the outside world.
Peruvian government officials visited Washington last week to drum up more
than $600 million in financing for the $1.4 billion project from the Inter-American
Development Bank and the US Export-Import Bank, both taxpayer-backed institutions.
The project involving two 430-mile pipelines to the Peruvian coast
will cut through an area recognized globally for its spectacular biodiversity
and for being home to isolated and uncontacted indigenous peoples. Citigroup
is financial advisor to the project.
NGOs point to the project sponsors violations of internationally recognized indigenous rights by forcibly contacting groups living in voluntary isolation. In the 1980s, nearly fifty percent of one indigenous group the Nahua - died from illnesses introduced by workers when Shell was exploring for oil and gas in the area. Ignoring the risks of introducing fatal diseases, project operators have repeatedly sent search parties into the remote forest to track down uncontacted peoples, said Dr. Janet Lloyd, Anthropologist with Amazon Watch. We have warned from the beginning that indigenous rights abuses by Camisea companies would result in disaster. Disease is once again spreading.
Texas-based Hunt Oil, a staunch ally of and campaign contributor to the Bush administration, heads a ragtag consortium of small and inexperienced energy players that have so far violated many international environmental and social standards. The consortia include Pluspetrol, an Argentinean oil company that has an appalling environmental track record and also suffered heavy losses in the Argentine economic crisis last year. Without the green light from U.S. government-backed public banks, this project would probably not go forward, said Nadia Martinez of the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies. Taxpayer dollars should be used for the public good, not to protect private companies from high environmental, social and financial risk.
Shaken by persistent corruption allegations, the Inter-American Development Bank can ill-afford the fresh storm of hostile publicity that would follow any approval of Camisea financing. The US Congress has issued legislation to make sure that public institutions that receive budget appropriations have certain standards for project approval, explained Jon Sohn of the environmental group Friends of the Earth, The IDB and Ex-Im seem to think theyre above those laws, but we intend to continue pushing our legislators to tell IDB and Ex-Im that they either comply or they will not receive additional US support.
Peruvian indigenous representatives from the Camisea region will join US NGOs in lobbying IDB President Enrique Iglesias at the IDBs Annual Meeting in Milan, Italy in March 2003. No decision date on Camisea has been set after both the IDB and Ex-Im repeatedly postponed their decision.
Contacts and related links:
If Ex-Im and IDB give the green light to the Camisea Gas Project, your tax dollars will end up financing the invasion of uncontacted peoples lands spreading disease and fear.
Send a letter to Ex-Im and IDB! Urge them not to use our tax dollars to fund indigenous rights abuses and rainforest destruction (see sample letter to IDB below).
Demand that they:
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Enrique V. Iglesias