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Open letter: AIDESEP demands urgent action from the Peruvian state, international palm oil buyers, the RSPO and international civil society in response to the predatory and divisive practices of the Ocho Sur Group

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The Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (AIDESEP), a national Indigenous organisation representing nine regional organisations from across the Peruvian Amazon, strongly rejects the "divide and rule" campaign promoted by the palm oil business group Ocho Sur. We denounce that this company, whose parent company Peruvian Palm Holdings is based in the British tax haven of Bermuda, has been undermining the self-determination and self-government of the Amazonian Indigenous peoples of Ucayali and our possibilities of building a Full Life in our territories.

Ten years on since this story of land grabbing of Indigenous territories, massive deforestation and violence began, we declare the following:

To the Peruvian State:

  • We demand that you fulfil your obligation to recognise and protect Indigenous territories. Is it acceptable that you have not fulfilled your responsibility to adopt measures to protect these territories from the actions of land traffickers and palm oil companies, nor adopted compensation and reparation measures for the serious affectations to them, particularly to the ancestral territory of the community of Santa Clara de Uchunya? We uphold the discontent of the Shipibo-Konibo people in the face of the recent ruling of the Constitutional Court (TC) that declared inadmissible the amparo lawsuit filed in 2015 by the community demanding territorial restitution and remediation, in the face of violations by the companies Ocho Sur and Plantaciones de Pucallpa, and the Regional Government of Ucayali (GOREU). The GOREU must accelerate the second territorial extension of Santa Clara de Uchunya to avoid further damages.
  • We condemn the lack of serious regulation of the company's activities and the alarming situation of deforestation of more than 17,000 hectares of forest in and around the plantation in Coronel Portillo. In view of the multiple administrative procedures and judicial complaints for alleged illegal acts, how is it possible that such a large-scale monoculture plantation can operate for almost a decade without environmental authorisation? Is it a question of inefficiency or complicity on the part of the State authorities? In this serious context, we welcome the ray of light represented by the recent decision of Judge Víctor Zúñiga Urday, of the Fourth National Preparatory Investigation Court, to include Ocho Sur P SAC in criminal proceedings for environmental crimes and we demand real reparations, without further delay, for the extensive damage they have caused.
  • We denounce the progressive deterioration of food security in our communities, due to the aggressive and large-scale expansion of the agribusiness model proposed by Grupo Ocho Sur. This degrades our lands, pollutes our streams and rivers, makes the hunting, fishing and agroforestry practices that have fed our peoples for generations impossible, and accumulates profits for a few, especially their foreign investors like the Anholt/Kattegat group and AMERRA Capital Management LLC. Is it acceptable that a company like Ocho Sur can cement its control over our lands and lives by taking advantage of the unsatisfied needs of our peoples?
  • We reject the State's policy of leaving the provision of basic public works and services to a private company like Ocho Sur, whose primary responsibility is to generate profits for its investors and whose intentions are to launder its corporate social image. Drinking water, education, health, electricity, decent livelihoods, communication and transport: Ocho Sur, stop forcing us to bargain for what the State should ensure for us! Our communities have the right to a dignified life without losing their autonomy or having to kneel before a company that seeks to divide and dominate them. As we see it, the State is on its knees in front of this economic group.

To international buyers of the Ocho Sur Group's palm oil:

  • We alert international buyers whose palm oil supply chains include the Ocho Sur Group, including its processing plant Servicios Agrarios de Pucallpa SAC: you are doing business with a company that actively undermines the self-determination, collective rights and territorial protection of Amazonian Indigenous peoples. Your business dealings with Ocho Sur support their ongoing efforts to fracture our communities, undermine our Indigenous organisations and damage the social fabric of our peoples, which guarantees the long-term protection of the Amazon.
  • Considering that a recent report by the Sector Project Management Executing Unit (UEGPS) of the Ministry of Agrarian Development and Irrigation (MIDAGRI) described "the case of the Ocho Sur P company" as "the most emblematic case of the connection between oil palm and land trafficking", we ask Ocho Sur's buyers in Asia and Europe, including Bunge Loders Croklaan, Lasenor Emul, Lípidos Santiga S.A., Louis Dreyfus Company, Meiji Group, Nisshin Oillio, and Vandemoortele NV: what are you doing to fulfil your responsibility to respect human rights under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and to act with due diligence to ensure that your actions or omissions do not undermine the rights of our communities and peoples? Should we also denounce you as complicit?
  • Although in recent years Ocho Sur has not been able to expand its plantations directly, thanks in large part to the resistance of our peoples, nevertheless, land trafficking, deforestation and the destruction of our agrobiodiversity and waters are still ongoing in the Indigenous lands adjacent to Ocho Sur. And impunity continues. So how are you going to ensure that the palm oil you buy from Ocho Sur does not come from these recently dispossessed and deforested lands?

To the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO):

  • We recall your previous decisions against the plantation now owned by Ocho Sur: in 2016, when you ordered Plantaciones de Pucallpa SAC to suspend its operations; and in 2021, when you stated that the oil extraction plant Oleaginosas del Perú S.A. (OLPESA) must not buy or process palm from Ocho Sur, as a plantation already condemned by the RSPO.
  • We warn that despite these previous decisions against Plantaciones de Pucallpa and Ocho Sur, all of the above-mentioned buyers of Ocho Sur in Asia and Europe are members of the RSPO.
  • In view of the serious shortcomings of your body's complaint mechanism, which we the Indigenous movement have resorted to three times and which we have learned through bitter experience is not fit for purpose as it has not improved the situation in our territories, and with the possibility of Ocho Sur attempting to become a member of the RSPO in the near future, the RSPO must at once issue a clear ban against the purchase of palm oil from plantations that have been found to be operating in violation of its standards.
  • We therefore demand that the RSPO establish and maintain an exclusion list of those plantations it has found to be in violation of its standards, in the case of Peru, headed by Ocho Sur.

To civil society organisations internationally:

  • We warn about the fierce publicity campaign that Ocho Sur is running to recover its image at local, regional and national levels, with the advice of companies such as ADN Consultores that specialise in "crisis management". Is it a crisis when Indigenous peoples demand respect for our self-determination and territorial rights and denounce the environmental crimes and impunity that are destroying the Amazon?
  • We question why the NGO Proforest is working with Ocho Sur to advance its RSPO certification. Can there be "socially and environmentally responsible sourcing" when it is a company that has grabbed Indigenous territories through land trafficking, turning the area into a massive deforestation hotspot and seeking to divide Indigenous communities and organisations?
  • We assert our collective right to self-determination: we will decide - and not the agribusiness bosses - whether oil palm monocultures are a desirable alternative for our ancestral peoples and territories. Despite the fact that the state and international cooperation agencies have been promoting oil palm plantations for many years as a substitute for illicit coca crops, what we are experiencing in Ucayali, according to the State's own figures, is more drug traffickingmore deforestation and more oil palm monocultures. What alternative are we talking about here?

Don't waste your time trying to redeem the Goliath of agribusiness - raise your voices with ours to demand that the Peruvian government listen to our proposals and support our indigenous bio-economies and other real alternatives, to ensure a dignified future for the Amazon and its peoples.

We demand urgent action!

Indigenous peoples continue to resist and fight for our collective rights and the defence of the Amazon!

Long live the struggle of the peoples, for life and land!

Original open letter in Spanish.

    Posted by: Tom Younger
  • Icon-world  AIDESEP
  • 15 Jun 2022

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