Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 28 September 2020

CORONAVIRUS

Two indigenous people killed in Peruvian Amazon after pandemic-related clash with police

Six police officers and 11 tribespeople injured

Some indigenous peoples in Peru have been frustrated over oil spills and what they say is government neglect of natives during the coronavirus crisis. AFP
Some indigenous peoples in Peru have been frustrated over oil spills and what they say is government neglect of natives during the coronavirus crisis. AFP

Peruvian indigenous people angry over the pandemic and armed with spears assaulted a settlement for oil workers in the Amazon, sparking a police raid that killed at least two tribespeople, the government said on Sunday.

Frustrated over oil spills and government neglect during the coronavirus crisis, about 70 indigenous people tried to overrun the oil company settlement about midnight on Saturday to try to stop work at a well in the remote town of Bretana, in the Loreto region.

They complain that the well, known as Lot 95 and operated by Canadian-owned company PetroTal, has polluted their lands through oil spills.

The company said after the clash that it was suspending work at the site, where it employs about 100 people.

The Interior Ministry said six police officers and 11 native people were injured, and two tribespeople were killed.

Orpio, an umbrella organisation representing indigenous people in the Peruvian part of the Amazon, said the attack was against "the oil company and the state because of neglect and abandonment of their loved ones through lack of treatment and medicine" in the pandemic.

There were differing accounts of how the violence bgena.

The ministry said that in addition to spears, the indigenous people had shotguns and that the clash started when they opened fire with buckshot and wounded a police officer.

But Orpio said it was police who fired first and that in the ensuing chaos, in the middle of the night, some officers ended up shooting at each other.

"Our indigenous brothers did not have firearms. They only carried spears as an ancestral tool of defence," the organisation said.

"They wanted to take over the oil camp."

The government said a prosecutor was with police who tried to repel the indigenous people's assault.

The pandemic has exacted an awful toll on the dozens of indigenous people who live in poverty in the Peruvian Amazon.

Authorities estimate that in Iquitos, for instance, the main city in the Peruvian Amazon, seven of every 10 people have been infected with the virus.

In May, its morgues were overflowing and hospitals were desperately short of oxygen tanks.

The Loreto region is one of the most vast and least populated in Peru, and one of the hardest-hit by the pandemic.

There are few roads in the Amazon, with most transport carried out on rivers, so the government has been flying in medical supplies.

Peru has suffered more than 20,000 deaths from the virus, putting it behind only Brazil and Mexico as the South American nations hit worst by the crisis.

Updated: August 10, 2020 04:05 AM

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