Desperate Measures

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Indigenous protesters in Peru released more than 100 tourists and local residents over the weekend after holding them on a boat for more than a day in an effort to force the government to act over oil spills in the Amazon region, the Guardian reported.

On Thursday, the Indigenous Kukama held a boat full of Peruvians and foreigners – including British and US citizens – in the region of Loreto. The incident occurred amid protests by the group over the spilling of 2,500 oil barrels into the Cuninico River in September.

Kukama leader Watson Trujillo lamented that the spill had affected nearly 1,000 inhabitants and 80 other communities, many of which lack utilities, such as running water, electricity and telephone lines.

Trujillo said the release came following talks with the head of the Cuninico communities. None of the tourists were physically harmed, according to local media.

Even so, Peruvian officials accused Indigenous communities in the Amazon region of cutting the oil pipeline to later “claim compensation.” Indigenous leaders, however, rejected the allegations, saying their communities – which primarily rely on fishing, hunting and farming – have been affected by the spill.

The September spill occurred on the state-run NorPeruano pipeline, which is more than four decades old and has been the subject of much scrutiny over its poor maintenance.

Constant oil leaks have impacted the health of the native Amazonians: According to blood and urine tests conducted by Peru’s health ministry in 2016, children and adults in Loreto’s four main river basins were found to have levels of toxic heavy metals – such as mercury and lead – far above permissible levels.

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