March 26, 2010
‘Hello, my name is Repsol YPF’
Repsol YPF, exploring for oil in northern Peru, has taken a different approach. Despite the extreme vulnerability of the tribes to any form of contact, the company suggests that its workers talk to them in certain instances, and even provides specific phrases to use and conversation topics to address.
Some of these are farcical. If violence looks likely, Repsol recommends: "Use a megaphone to inform the natives in the local languages why we are there and that it is not the company's intention to interfere with their activities."
Crossed arrows belonging to an uncontacted tribe in the region where Repsol YPF is working. © Marek Wolodzko/Survival
And if violence does happen? Reach for the megaphone again. "If peaceful contact and understanding can't be reached and the attack continues, try to establish communication using a megaphone," Repsol says.
Other suggestions are equally farcical, if not downright rude. "Try to persuade the person or group to return to their settlements. If it is known they are on their seasonal migration, you should persuade them to continue on their way."
Members of an uncontacted tribe spotted in south-east Peru. © Heinz Plenge Pardo/Frankfurt Zoological Society
Repsol seems to be forgetting that the uncontacted tribes are the owners of this land, and that their ownership rights are recognized by both the UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights and the International Labour Organization's Convention 169.
The company also seems not to realize that uncontacted tribes will have no idea what oil exploration is or why unknown diseases might kill them, no matter how carefully it thinks it can explain it to them – megaphone or no megaphone.
All these phrases come from a "contingency plan" presented by Repsol to Peru's Energy Ministry in 2007. The company is now waiting on a decision from the Ministry to hear if it can do more exploration in the region, which could be made any day, and is preparing a new plan.
Some of the Mastanahua, in south-east Peru, remain uncontacted. © Dave Mountain/Survival
Survival's recommendation to Repsol is this: scrap the plan and abort exploration in the region altogether. Not doing so violates international law and threatens two of the world's last uncontacted tribes – some of the world's most vulnerable people – with extinction.
For more information on Peru's uncontacted tribes: www.survivalinternational.org/tribes/isolatedperu
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