IIRSA Project threatens Indigenous Community in Peru

Video transcript:

Location: Flor de Ucayali, Peru

(Sound of boat)

Along the banks of the Utuquinia River in Peru sits the Flor de Ucayali Community. The only way in and out of this 20 family settlement is by boat.

Debora Bardoles Guimaraes, member of the Flor de Ucayali Community: "For the moment we are in tranquility in our community, we are organized."

This peaceful existence now faces imminent threats. A planned inter-oceanic highway to connect Brazil to Peru would literally run through their village.

Carlos Guimaraes Majin, member of the Flor de Ucayali Community: "This is the area of the community. Within the area of the community are two identified oil sites, but in the study, they made only one site. And so within this area, is where the highway will pass, an IIRSA project which they are carrying out from Peru to Brazil."

The project is part of the Initiative for the Integration of the Regional Infrastructure in South America -- or IIRSA -- with the aim of promoting development.

IIRSA proposes more than 500 projects that will bring dams, highways, deforestation, and resource extraction to the Amazon Basin and other indigenous lands. In other communities already divided by IIRSA highways, such as Tres Islas Community in Madre de Dios, there are on-going informal mining and logging activities affecting the community, its environment and biodiversity.

Mateo Guimaraes Majin, member of the Flor de Ucayali Community: "The community sees that it is a problem. We here are still living our way of life. But this highway will have a tremendous impact. We don't know how it will be carried out. But our position is that this highway not pass in our territory. It should pass outside of the territory of our community."

In addition to the highway, the Peruvian Government has granted permits to oil companies to explore the Flor de Ucayali Territory, this has been done without consultation with the indigenous community.

Mateo Guimaraes Majin: "We have titles to our lands. We have our rights and we don't want the government or this very highway to affect us, to violate our rights. But instead, the Peruvian government should respect all the rights of indigenous peoples. "

The Indian Law Resource Center is working with Indian communities in Mexico and Central and South America so they can protect their environments from harmful IIRSA developments -- often funded by multilateral development banks.

These communities have a right to exist as distinct peoples and cultures; to be free from discrimination and forced assimilation; and the right of self-determination.

The highway project and the oil developments are still in the planning stages and not implemented yet. There is still time to act and to create awareness at the international level about these issues and this place the Flor de Ucayali people call home.

For more information on how to get involved or to make a donation, visit www.indianlaw.org.