Indigenous people from the Amazon in Peru have arrested a group of Peruvian and foreign tourists, including British and American citizens, to protest the lack of government assistance following an oil spill in the area.
“[We want] to get the attention of the government with this action, there are foreigners and Peruvians, there are about 70 people,” Watson Trujillo, the leader of the Cuninico community, told RPP radio.
French, Spanish and Swiss citizens are also among the detained tourists, who were detained while traveling on a river boat.
Trujillo said his group took the “drastic step” in an effort to pressure the government to send a delegation to assess the environmental damage caused by the spill of 2,500 tonnes of crude oil into the Cuninico River on 16 september.
The detainees would spend the night inside the ship awaiting a resolution to the situation, he added. Trujillo said he would return to the boat on Friday to consider releasing them.
The government and police have not commented on the incident, which happened on a tributary of the Marañón River.
Indigenous communities had already blocked the transit of all ships on the river to protest the spill, which was caused by a rupture in the Norperuano pipeline.
On September 27, the government declared a 90-day state of emergency in the region, which is home to the Cuninico and Urarinas communities and home to around 2,500 indigenous people.
The 800km Norperuano pipeline, owned by state-owned Petroperu, was built four decades ago to transport crude oil from the Amazon region to Piura on the coast.
According to Petroperu, the spill was the result of an intentional cut of 21 cm in the pipeline.