Cause Leader Paul Paz y Miño and the Achuar Community of Peru
Posted May 18, 2012 by Alejandro De La Cruz
Cause leader Paul Paz y Miño is an indigenous rights advocate with expertise working in the Andean region of Latin America. As a Causes.com campaign leader, Paul uses the platform to inform communities about unethical exploratory energy drilling affecting indigeous communities. Through his organization Amazon Watch, Paul is spearheading a movement to create dialogue between the Achuar people of Peru and Ecuador and the energy companies wanting to drill in their communities.
Last month, Paul created a fundraiser on Causes to send delegates from the Achuar indigenous community of the Peruvian Amazon to confront Talisman Energy in Ottowa, Canada. ”The Achuar’s ethnic neighbors can see what other energy companies — like Occidental Energy — have done to the region and they don’t like what they are seeing.” For members of the Achuar community, this would be their first time traveling out of their 11,000-person village. Serious coordination was necessary and it meant lots of help from Paul’s 5,000 member community on Causes. “We had to get visas, plane tickets, hotels, and ensure that the delegates would get face time during the shareholders meeting. It was a big production.”
The Achuar region spans around 4 million acres on the Ecuadorian and Peruvian border and since 2004, drilling has become common practice there. The drilling is affecting the livelihood of the Achuar community in tangible ways. “They are essentially drilling exploratory drills in the heart of [Achuar] ancestral territory and it’s affecting their hunting grounds. [Talisman Energy] brings in equipment, and once the wells are set up, the waste is dumped into their territory,” said Paul. Over 75% of the Peruvian Amazon has been leased out to corporations for exploratory energy drilling by the Peruvian government, but the area’s inhabitants want them out.
In Paul’s eyes, the most powerful way to engage energy companies in serious debate is to have a face-to-face discussion about the needs and values of the people with those most affected. It’s an effective strategy that produces real results. “What we want to do is accompany delegates to confront the company directly at the shareholders’ meetings, which is the most opportune time to tell them and the world how their actions are going to affect the communities on the ground where they are operating. The board of directors and the CEO get to hear firsthand from the people living there about what is going on; they don’t have their approval to drill there. It’s very difficult to face the international media and say, ‘We have the support of the Achuar’ when there are five people from the Achuar telling Talisman to stay out.”
Paul’s last campaign raised over $5,000; this helped five delegates travel to Canada to confront the energy company, Talisman Energy. The delegates expressed concerns and spoke directly to Talisman’s CEO. It was a moving experience for the Achuar community and one that Paul hopes to replicate again and again. “The challenge with a lot of our work is that these are longterm campaigns…you don’t just get a victory one month and then the next month you’re on to the next challenge. The idea of a delegation is great because cause members can see what they are supporting; they can follow the campaign for a brief time period and see what happens, and then see what the after affect was and hold this concretely in their hands.”
Paul plans to create more campaigns regarding the Achuar people’s plight and will challenge members to participate. He’ll be producing new petition campaigns to get the Canadian parliament’s attention about drilling in Latin America. Recently, he launched a fundraiser to get two delegates to meet with Chevron shareholders and directors. “For us, it’s not only an important time of year for our work…but there is a story to tell about individuals who are being affected. We tell the story of the delegates from beginning to end and we share them with people on Causes. With your support, you’ll cover the basic needs to help people speak their truth to power.”