Peru-Brazil Energy Agreement Challenged in Peru Court

Indigenous Group Alleges Agreement Violates Legal Rights
Sunday, February 19, 2012

Lima, Peru: A lawsuit filed last Thursday against the Peruvian Congress and the Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Relations seeks suspension of the Peru-Brazil energy agreement signed by the Energy Ministers of Peru and Brazil in June 2010. The Central Ashaninka of the Ene River (CARE), an indigenous group, filed the lawsuit at the Superior Court of Justice in Lima seeking an injunction against the agreement, asserting that the fundamental rights of indigenous peoples are threatened.

"The rights to life, integrity, freedom, lands and free prior informed consent of indigenous peoples are threatened, as the agreement was never subject to consultation with indigenous peoples," said David Velazco an attorney from the legal NGO Ecumenical Foundation for Development and Peace (Fedepaz). "Peruvian and international law mandates that indigenous peoples need to be consulted in matters related to development projects on indigenous lands, and that has not taken place."

Thousands of non-indigenous peoples, indigenous and uncontacted tribes would be displaced by projects contemplated under the agreement. The injunction seeks to protect the constitutional right to a healthy environment, and the right of indigenous peoples to free, prior informed consent on matters of the state that could have an impact on their rights. The agreement has not yet been ratified by either the Brazilian or Peruvian Congress, but it is making its way through both legislative bodies.

"We hope that this lawsuit seeking an injunction will convince Congressional representatives and senior officials to instruct the Ministry of Energy and Mines to respect our lands," said Ruth Buendia Mestoquiari, president of CARE. "We have already lived through the civil war, and thousands of our brothers and sisters have died or had to go far away. We won't let the history of displacement repeat itself."

The Peru-Brazil energy agreement, which has a timeframe of 50 years, commits Peru to supplying more than 6000 MW of power to Brazil, most of which is expected to come from hydropower in the Peruvian Amazon - one of the world's biodiversity hotspots. Many of the projects contemplated by the agreement were designed by the Brazilian electric utility Eletrobrás in conjunction with Brazilian multinational construction giants Odebrecht and Andrade Gutierrez, all of which would be directly involved in dam construction with funding from the Brazilian national development bank, BNDES.
Most of the energy produced would be for export to Brazil.

The total numbers of dams associated with the agreement are unclear, but indigenous communities have already delayed several projects contemplated under the agreement. The Pakitzapango Dam planned on the Ene River , which would affect the Ashaninka, remains stalled by a legal action presented by CARE in 2009. Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht announced in November of 2011 that it was withdrawing from the Tambo-40 Dam on the Tambo River due to strong opposition by indigenous Ashaninka communities. The planned Inambari Dam (2000 megawatts) in the Puno region was halted by the government last June due to community opposition.

Yet, there is uncertainty in the air. Recently-elected President Ollanta Humala, a former army officer who ran for the "Peru Wins" party, made clear in his inaugural speech his determination to build many dams. At present, 20 dams are being planned on the Marañon River alone. The Awajun indigenous people, the second most numerous indigenous group after the Ashaninka, would be affected. Most communities do not have basic information on the projects that would seriously impact their lives.

The lawsuit calls for the need to conduct evaluations of the environmental and social impacts of the projects. It also states that a technical assessment of Peru's energy needs and options for meeting these needs should be undertaken prior to the implementation of the agreement. According to the lawsuit, plans for building dams in the Peruvian Amazon and construction of transmission lines under the agreement would have serious adverse effects due to the extensive flooding and destruction of forests, impacts on the flora and fauna, and the production of greenhouse gas emissions. The lawsuit also calls for the need to comply with higher social and environmental standards in projects associated with the agreement.

"We the Asháninka of the Ene River are concerned, what would happen to our children if they flood our lands. Where are we going to go?" said Buendia Mestoquiari. "I have seen videos and met people from Brazil that have been evicted from their lands and now they live like beggars. Brazilian companies have made many mistakes with their dams, how are we going to trust our rivers and lands to them?"

Media contacts: 

Ruth Buendía Mestoquiari: +51-164545725

Paula Acevedo: +51-954869689

David Velazco: +51-14700287

Monti Aguirre: +1-707-591-1220