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Indigenous group in Peru’s Amazon frees tourists after protest | Environment News

Indigenous group in Peru’s Amazon frees tourists after protest | Environment News

Members of the Cuninico community had blocked the passage of a tourist boat to draw government attention to a toxic oil spill.

An indigenous group in Peru’s Amazon rainforest freed around 100 river boat passengers – including foreigners – who were detained for a day in protest at what the community claimed was government inaction on toxic oil spills.

The indigenous group Cuninico, from the district of Urarinas in the province of Loreto in Peru’s Amazon rainforest, had detained the passengers – who included citizens of France, Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom, the United States and Peru – for raise awareness of the oil spill in a local riveraccording to local media.

“We’ve all just been released, we’ve boarded a boat and we’re on our way to (the city of) Iquitos,” one of the released tourists, Peruvian Angela Ramirez, told AFP on Friday. Reuters news agency.

The Peruvian Independent Public Defenders Agency said on Twitter that “after a dialogue with the (head) of the Cuninico communities, our request for release has been accepted”.

Local media RPP said none of the tourists were injured during the protest.

The UK Foreign Office said in a statement it was in contact with local authorities regarding a “very small number of UK nationals involved in an incident in Peru”.

The leader of the indigenous group, Watson Trujillo, said all the tourists left along the Maranon River just after noon on Friday aboard the vessel named Eduardo 11, which had been detained since the day before by residents of Cuninico.

The passengers were en route to Iquitos, the main city in Peru’s Amazon region, he said.

He also said the inhabitants of Cuninico would continue the protests – and blocking the passage of river boats – until the government gives them concrete help to deal with the pollution affecting their community.

“We felt compelled to take this step to get the attention of a state that hasn’t paid attention to us for eight years,” he told The Associated Press by phone.

He asked the government of President Pedro Castillo to declare an emergency in the area to cope with the effects of oil spills.

Trujillo said oil spills in 2014 and again in September this year “have caused a lot of damage” to people who depend on fish from the river as an important part of their diet.

“People had to drink water and eat oil contaminated fish without any government caring,” he said.

He said the the spills affected not only the approximately 1,000 residents of his township, but nearly 80 other communities, many of which lack running water, electricity or telephone service.

Peru’s Minister of Mines and Energy, Alessandra Herrera Jara, said in a series of tweets that her ministry was responding to community demand and that an environmental emergency was declared on September 24 in the affected area.

The minister also called on the community to respect transit rights for all passengers.

The Peruvian Ministry of Health took blood samples from the region in 2016 and found that about half of Cuninico’s tests showed levels of mercury and cadmium higher than those recommended by the World Health Organization.

“Children have these poisons in their blood. People suffer from stomach problems – that is, every day,” Trujillo said.

In January, the Spanish energy company Repsol announced that it had launched a clean-up operation following a Major oil spill on the coast near Lima, the capital of Peru.

The government said Repsol spilled some 6,000 barrels of oil into the ocean near its La Pampilla refinery and dead seals, fish and birds washed up on nearby oil-covered shores, while fishing activities in the area had to be suspended.