Oil company withdraws from Peruvian town after days of violent protests


It looks like days of anti-oil protests are starting to pay off for the residents of a remote Peruvian town.

On Thursday, Argentine energy company Pluspetrol said it would withdraw from the central Peruvian town of Pichanaki, claiming it has nearly completed its exploration work in the area.


The decision, however, came after intense protests earlier this week in which locals blocked roads leading into the town, shut down businesses and staged several demonstrations in an attempt to force the company to pull out of the ecologically sensitive region.

More than 20 people were injured during the protests, which turned into field battles with law enforcement, and led to the dismissal of the local police chief.

A young demonstrator was killed on Tuesday night, when protesters tried to break into an army base where Plus Petrol was keeping equipment.


Pluspetrol announced its decision to leave Pichanaki hours after Peru’s Ministry of Energy gave the company three days to leave the town.


The company claimed it wasn’t leaving because of the protests or the government’s request.

“We are basically leaving in a short time, because our activities here are finished,” Pluspetrol spokesman Daniel Guerra told Peruvian state television.


Pluspetrol is currently conducting exploratory work in a large oil and gas concession next to Pichanaki known as Lot 108. The company said it would continue working in the bloc.

Protesters in Pichanaki are asking the Peruvian government to declare their region a “mining and hydrocarbons free” zone that would be reserved for fishing, tourism and agriculture.


They accuse Pluspetrol of contaminating the forest while it explores for oil, a charge the company denies.

Pluspetrol has recently been involved in several environmental conflicts with indigenous communities in Peru.


In northern Peru, four tribal federations claim the company is running sloppy operations that have led to numerous oil spills in the Amazon. VIllagers on the Corrientes river recently occupied 14 Pluspetrol wells deep in the jungle, saying they won’t leave until the company promises to pay at least $10 million in reparations.


In 2014, a report by Peru’s environmental regulator, OEFA, found that 92 sites in a Pluspetrol concession known as lot 1AB had been contaminated by oil activity.  Pluspetrol challenged the report in a provincial court, arguing that OEFA had acted beyond its jurisdiction. A local judge ruled in favor of the oil company and ordered the findings of the environmental report dismissed.

Manuel Rueda is a correspondent for Fusion, covering Mexico and South America. He travels from donkey festivals, to salsa clubs to steamy places with cartel activity.

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