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Renewed Controversy As Disease Rocks Camisea

U.S. Public Banks Back in the Spotlight Over Financing for
Camisea Gas Project in Peru’s Amazon Heartland

February 25, 2020

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 IDB’s 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 they’re 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 IDB’s 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:

  • Jon Sohn, Friends of the Earth: 202 783 7400
  • Nadia Martinez, SEEN, Institute for Policy Studies: 202 234 9382
  • Atossa Soltani, Amazon Watch: 310 456 9158 (Janet Lloyd, UK +44 1830 540201)
  • See www.serjali.org and www.cabeceras.org for more on Camisea's uncontacted peoples.
  • See www.ran.org to learn about Citigroup's involvement in financing the Camisea project.

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:

  • Endorse the withdrawal of all gas operations from the Nahua-Kugapakori Reserve
  • Order Hunt Oil to end forced contact with isolated indigenous peoples
  • Reject funding requests for the Camisea project
Sample letter

Dear Mr. Iglesias:

I urge you to reject all financing requests for the Camisea Gas Project in the Peruvian Amazon currently under review by the Inter-American Development Bank. My tax dollars should not fund destructive fossil fuel projects in the territories of indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation from the outside world.

The isolated and uncontacted Kirineri, Nahua and Nanti peoples who live in the Nahua-Kugapakori Reserve where 75% of the gas wells are located are now suffering from new introduced diseases, potentially as a result of being forcibly contacted by Camisea companies.

When Shell Oil explored for gas in the region in the 1980’s, 50% of the uncontacted Nahua population died from diseases introduced by workers. In full knowledge of the potentially fatal outcome, the consortium led by Hunt Oil has sent search parties into the Nahua-Kugapakori Reserve to seek out uncontacted groups.

Hunt Oil plans to construct wells, pipelines and access roads within the Nahua-Kugapakori Reserve. This will only increase the risk to the lives of isolated peoples. To avoid further tragedy and prevent more abuses of these vulnerable peoples, the IDB should endorse the permanent withdrawal of all Camisea Project operations from the Nahua-Kugapakori Reserve.

I urge you to deny financing to the Camisea project and all investments in climate destabilizing fossil fuel projects—especially those in indigenous homelands. Instead I call on you to invest my tax dollars in community-based sustainable economic alternatives and clean renewable energy and.


(your name)


Send your letters to:

  Send copies to:

Philip Merrill
Export-Import Bank of the U.S.
811 Vermont Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20577
FAX: (202) 565-3513

Enrique V. Iglesias
Inter-American Development Bank
1300 New York Avenue,NW
Washington, DC 20577
FAX: (202) 623-3096

James Mahoney
Engineering and Environment
Ex-Im Bank.
FAX: (202) 565 3584

Robert Montgomery
Natural Resources Specialist
Private Sector Department, IDB
FAX: (202) 623 3319


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