Over 8,000 barrels of crude oil spilled into the Peruvian Amazon after members of an indigenous community severed the pipe on Tuesday night, according to state oil company Petroperu.
The spill, which Petroperu is calling a “catastrophe,” is the fifteenth attack on the pipeline in the last two years, a sign of escalating tensions between indigenous communities and oil companies in the Amazon.
Petroperu blamed the spill on members of the Mayuriaga community, which has been a leading resistance group against the environmental destruction wrought by oil companies in the region. In 2016, members of the Mayuriaga community took several Peruvian officials hostage after the government didn’t include them in an emergency response plan after a series of oil spills on their land severely polluted their water supply.
“The townspeople prevented us from securing the pipe to stop petroleum from spilling from the pipe,” Beatriz Alva Hart, a spokeswoman for Petroperu, told a local radio station in the aftermath of Tuesday’s spill.
Hart said that the attack on the pipeline had “nothing to do with [Petroperu].” Instead, the company attributed the sabotage to retaliation following alleged irregularities in recent local elections.
The Mayuriaga community is located in northeastern Peru and borders Ecuador, where indigenous communities have also been pushing back against encroaching oil companies. When Motherboard Editor-in-chief Jason Koebler went to meet with an Ecuadorian tribe in 2014, its members told him that they were preparing to go to “war” with the oil companies. This included developing special poison darts and plotting attacks on oil sites.
Since 2016, 5,600 barrels of oil have been spilled on or around the Mayuriaga land due to corrosion or other failures. The situation is even worse in Ecuador, where 18 billion gallons of oil and toxic waste have been dumped in the rainforest by Chevron over the last quarter-century.