An oil spill in Peru has left a trail of destruction. The company responsible for the oil spill offered indigenous people in the affected areas the equivalent of five NOK to clean up the mess barehanded.


After winning the Oscar, Leonardo di Caprio issued a petition in social networks asking Peruvian authorities to clean up the mess after two oils spill and to take action to protect indigenous people. The spills Di Caprio referred to happened on January 25 and February 3, at the Nor Peruvian pipeline. The pipeline poured an estimate of  3500 barrels of oil into the soil, crops and rivers reaching the Marañon river, one the main tributaries of the Amazonas river.  The oil spill has left a path of destruction, killing life at the rivers, as well as the crops.

Despite the gravity of the situation that has affected approximately 8500 inhabitants, most of them Amazonian indigenous people, the spills have not generated any national debate regarding the vulnerability of Peruvian indigenous people to this type of disasters, nor on the need to recognize their rights to land and free determination.  Peruvian authorities have remained passive.  As Di Caprio gave his Oscar speech, the oil was still infesting crops and the land of the indigenous population.  

The disaster has also to a large extent been ignored in the electoral race.  Next April, the Peruvians will elect a new president and parliament. Only one of the candidates, Veronika Mendoza, has visited the area affected by the spill and made a public statement about it. She only has 5 % voting intention. After protests in Lima, two of the favourite candidates stated that they have attempted to visit the area, but have had to cancel due to bad weather. However, they have not made any statements on how to protect indigenous people from this kind of situations.  

Like the current authorities, the presidential candidates can safely neglect the recent oil spills without any fear of criticism. During the last five years, environmental agencies have registered 15 oil spills from the same oil pipeline.

Amazonian indigenous people in Peru are so marginal that even reports about workers from the company responsible for the oil spill (Petro Peru) hiring indigenous people for the equivalent of five Norwegian kroner to clean up the oil in one of the communities affected by the January 25 spill, without offering them tools or special suits, have not unleashed a broad debate on indigenous rights.

This practice from Petro Peru’s workers is not new.  In July 2014, after an oil spill from the Nor Peruvian pipeline at Cunico, Loreto, the media reported how the company hired indigenous people, including minors, to clean the oil spill without providing them proper suits and tools.

The oil spills in Chiriaco and Morona last January and February once again confirm the persistent level of exclusion and violence suffered by indigenous people in Peru. The pitiful reaction from the politicians who will run the country for the next five years does not bring hope. The Leonardo Di Caprio speeches at the Golden Globes and Oscar awards have more references to indigenous rights than the speeches given by the majority of Peruvian candidates during their entire campaign.

Camila Gianella, Postdoctoral Researcher at CMI