Peru indigenous group frees dozens of tourists held in oil spill protest

Workers attempting to stop the flow of oil in the Cuninico River in September following the spill.— AFP
Workers attempting to stop the flow of oil in the Cuninico River in September following the spill.— AFP

LIMA: A Peruvian indigenous group freed a group of tourists held for over a day in a protest over what the community alleged to be government inaction over toxic oil spills, one of the released tourists and local officials said separately on Friday.

The Cuninico indigenous group, from the Urarinas district in Loreto province in Peru‘s Amazon rainforest, had held an estimated 150 tourists — which included some US and European nationals — to raise awareness about the oil spillage in a local river, according to local media.

“We were just all freed, we have boarded a boat and are on our way to (the city of) Iquitos,” one of the freed tourists, Peruvian Angela Ramirez, told Reuters.

Peru’s independent public defender agency said on Twitter that “after dialogue with the (head) of the Cuninico communities, our request to release people was accepted.”

“The right and respect for life must prevail,” the chief of the indigenous group, Watson Trujillo, told local media outlet RPP.

RPP added that none of the tourists were physically harmed.

Among those taken while travelling river boats were disabled individuals, a pregnant women and a 1-month-old child, said Ramirez.

Media reports cited the number of people being held as ranging from 70 to as many as 300, including between 17 and 23 foreign nationals.

The United Kingdom’s foreign ministry said in a statement that it was in contact with local authorities regarding a “very small number of British nationals involved in an incident in Peru.”

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