Indigenous group takes new hostages aboard Amazon river boat | The Citizen

Members of an Indigenous group angry over inaction after an oil spill seized dozens of people on an Amazon river boat to protest a lack of government aid, local media reported Sunday.

The unrest came two days after the group released some 100 tourists, several of them foreigners, whom they had taken hostage for a day to draw attention to the environmental damage from a mid-September spill of 2,500 tons of crude oil into the Cuninico River.

“We are about 70 passengers being held without any apparent reason. The Indigenous people are threatening us with their spears and arrows,” lawyer Luis Otazu, who said he was aboard the boat, told RPP radio.

“We have 25 children who are crying, adults, mothers and pregnant women.”

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The cargo and passenger boat “Coquito” was seized early Saturday on the Maranon River near the Indigenous community of Cuninico, in the remote Loreto region of northern Peru.

Otazu said there is no food or water for the passengers, and that the boat’s power had been cut.

Another passenger, Scarlet Rodriguez, described the situation as a “complete kidnapping” and said other boats were being held in the area.

Protest leader Galo Vasquez, a representative of the Cuninico Indigenous community, said: “The boat will be prevented from continuing its route until a government delegation arrives for a dialogue.”

Authorities had yet to make a statement about the latest seizure, which comes some six weeks after the report on September 18 of a leak caused by a rupture of the Norperuano pipeline.

Ten days after the spill, the government of embattled President Pedro Castillo declared a 90-day emergency in the affected area, home to some 2,500 Indigenous people from six communities.  

The tribes have blocked all river traffic since Thursday to demand government action. 

The Norperuano pipeline belonging to state-owned Petroperu was built some four decades ago to transport crude oil from the Amazon region to ports on Peru’s coast some 800 kilometers (500 miles) away.

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