IN A DRAMATIC reversal of fortune, a key Congressional committee in Peru has effectively blocked a draft law, labelled the ‘Genocide Bill’ by Peru’s Indigenous people for the calamitous effects it would have had if approved.

The bill had been progressing through Congress, but the vote by the Decentralisation Committee will now prevent it progressing any further. Teresa Mayo of Survival International described this as “a huge victory for Peru’s Indigenous peoples, their organisations, and for thousands of ordinary people around the world who joined the campaign”.

Indigenous organisations in Peru such as AIDESEP and ORPIO had lobbied intensively to stop the bill, and more than 13,000 Survival supporters had written to the committee, urging them to block the bill.which had been drafted by Congresspeople with ties to the powerful oil and gas industry. It represented a particular threat to the many uncontacted tribes in the country, whose lands would have been opened up for industrial exploitation.

The oil and gas industry has had a catastrophic impact already on such tribes in Peru. In the 1980s, for example, following oil exploration work by Shell, introduced diseases killed more than half the population of the previously-uncontacted Nahua people.

Tabea Casique of AIDESEP said: “I’m very happy because we’ve worked hard to stop this draft bill, which violates the rights of uncontacted tribes and those in initial contact…. This scrapping of the draft bill protects our uncontacted relatives, their rights and their lives, and avoids the genocide and ecocide that it would have unleashed.”

Roberto Tafur of ORPIO added that the decision “highlights the participation of those people with a conscience, in order to look out for our [uncontacted] brothers and sisters. Because life comes before money. It’s been a hard-fought vote to get here. And to continue fighting for our brothers and sisters in the jungle, who don’t know that we’re fighting for them.”

Teresa Mayo said: “It’s hard to believe that this bill was just one small step away from becoming law. It would have been catastrophic for uncontacted tribes in Peru – they’d have been left utterly exposed to the oil and gas corporations who’ve targeted their lands and resources for generations. All their rights would have been stripped away, and many would very probably have been wiped out. So we’re delighted this bill has been blocked – but will remain on alert in case the oil and gas giants and their political allies try again.”

* Source: Survival International