“This is not a symbolic action — we have completely paralyzed the country’s most important oil field,” declared a spokesperson for several of the indigenous federations backing the occupation of Peru's petroleum processing plants. The takeover of Lot 192 lasted for 43 days. It was hardly the first protest to shut down the oil facilities studding the rainforests of Loreto, Peru’s biggest region and for decades the hub of its petroleum industry. Since 2006, the native people who live on the river basins where this oil is produced — a watershed of five major Amazon tributaries: the Pastaza, Tigre, Corrientes, Marañón, and Chambira — have executed at least a dozen similar uprisings. Some are just a few days; others stretch across seasons. Last autumn, indigenous communities launched a flotilla from the town of Saramurillo that blocked traffic on the Marañón River, the main artery of Lot 192’s sister block, Lot 8, for four months.
These uprisings have all demanded the same redress. For nearly a half-century, the state oil company, Petroperú, and its foreign partners have wreaked systemic contamination on the region, transforming daily life and poisoning the five rivers, whose waters fuse with the Ucayali River to become the Amazon just east of Iquitos, Loreto’s capital.
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