Approximately 8,000 barrels of crude oil have spilled into the Amazon, and the Peru State oil company Petroperu says its because local indigenous people severed the pipeline. According to a company statement, members of the Mayuriaga community in the Loreto region first damaged the pipeline and then interfered with the technicians trying to repair it.

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“The townspeople prevented us from securing the pipe to stop petroleum from spilling from the pipe,” said Beatriz Alva Hart, a Petroperu spokeswoman.

The spill is one of the worst the region has seen in years, and it comes after the Mayuriaga community threatened to attack the pipeline in protest of recent district election results.

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The pipeline transports the crude from the Peruvian Amazon oil fields to Petroperu’s refinery on the Pacific coast. And, during the past two years, local vandals have attacked it fifteen different times over issues that have nothing to do with the company.

Data from OEFA, an environmental regulator, shows that the repeated attacks have caused over 20,000 barrels to spill from the critical pipeline, and over 5,000 barrels have sprung leaks thanks to corrosion or operative failures.

The leader of Peru’s Wampis Nation — whose members make up the Mayuriaga community — has denied Petroperu’s accusations.

Just days before the spill, the company received a handwritten letter from three individuals threatening to damage the Norperuano pipeline if the company didn’t declare recent election results invalid. They also claimed fraud and corruption in the local mayoral election.

The letter’s authors identify as indigenous peoples of Morona, the district that contains the Wampis community of Mayuriaga, which sits about 500 yards from the spill site.

Petroperu is not in charge of the local elections, but 20 of their employees were held hostage before the threatening letter arrived, a practice that the Mayuriaga community has been accused of in the past.

Company officials have still not been able to assess the damage from the spill or do any cleanup work because the community will not allow them to enter the area safely.

Via Reuters, Earther

Image via Shutterstock