IIRSA and its megaprojects in the Amazon. Interview with Jaime Corisepa

IIRSA and its megaprojects in the Amazon. Interview with Jaime Corisepa

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By Pablo Cingolani

The FTAs ​​is the strategy for indigenous peoples to disappear. He insists that it is the beginning of the disappearance of indigenous peoples.

Jaime Corisepa is 30 years old. He was born into the Harakmbut indigenous people, in the Puerto Azul community, in the southern Peruvian jungle. Next year he will graduate with a degree in ecological tourism from the Amazon University. At the XV Regional Congress of FENAMAD —the Native Federation of the Madre de Dios River and Tributaries, 1997 Bartolomé de las Casas Award for its defense of the Isolated Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon—, held in Boca Inambari, on the 16th, 17th and January 18, he was elected as its new president. The successor of Antonio Iviche, received us at the federation offices, in Puerto Maldonado. His statements are resounding:

Look, for us, what governments call development is deception. All projects are hoax. If we accept that word, development, in any case, is what should come from the communities themselves. However, development, for the government of Peru, is looting the Amazon, without respecting rights and indigenous groups. Didn't you read that Alan article about The Dog in the Manger?

On Sunday October 28, 2007, in the newspaper El Comercio, in Lima, Alan García Pérez, President of the Republic of Peru, published an article entitled The syndrome of the dog in the manger. It is a capital text to understand the “neo-extractivist” logic - according to the Ecuadorian Alberto Acosta, former president of the Constituent Assembly of his country -, which is devastating the Amazon and threatening its survival and that of the native peoples that inhabit it, like never in its history.

In the text in question, the former leftist launched his theory of the dog that neither eats nor lets eat: “There are millions of hectares for wood that are idle, other millions of hectares that the communities and associations have not cultivated or will not cultivate, in addition to hundreds of Mineral deposits that cannot be worked (…) The rivers that flow down to one side of the mountain range are a fortune that goes to the sea without producing electricity (…) There are many unused resources that are not tradable, that do not receive investment and do not generate work. And all this because of the taboo of ideologies that have been overcome, because of idleness, because of indolence or because of the law of the dog in the manger that says: "If I don't do it, no one does it." Then, without embarrassment, he made it clear that "the first resource is the Amazon." (one)

Under this aggressive trend, he was not shy, at the same time, in relation to his eagerness to find “black gold” in the forest, even to question the existence of isolated indigenous peoples: “And against oil, they have created the figure of the wild native 'not connected'; that is to say, unknown but presumable, so millions of hectares should not be explored, and Peruvian oil must stay underground while the world pays US $ 90 for each barrel. It is preferable for them that Peru continues to import and impoverish itself ”. (2) Corisepa is very clear when explaining the implications of this official speech:

—For those plans, according to the government, we are their enemies, we are an obstacle, because according to them, we have a lot of land but we are a minority ...

That same was the macabre warning that Alan García launched the day he ordered the repression in Baguá, with reference to the indigenous people: “That's good, these people don't have a crown, they are not first-class citizens who can tell us 400 thousand natives to 28 Millions of Peruvians, you do not have the right to come here, in any way, that is a very serious mistake and whoever thinks that way wants to lead us to irrationality and primitive backwardness ”. (3) For Corisepa, all this represents "a strong fight between civilizations":

—If we don't accept their impositions, they put a bullet in us, jail us, criminalize indigenous leaders and organizations. Therefore, we demand self-determination, which is the way we want to live our own destiny ...

For the young leader, external globalizers and internal developers must understand and respect the fact that for indigenous peoples, territory is not a commodity, it is something sacred and spiritual, and that there is an economy beyond money, beyond the supposed investments that would bring benefits from mega "development" projects.

—Here in Peru, the “famous” development is also FTAs ​​(Free Trade Agreements) with the United States of North America, with China, with Chile. The FTAs ​​is the strategy for indigenous peoples to disappear.

According to Jaime, the clearest expression of the FTAs ​​are the projects that are promoted under the IIRSA acronym.

—We are in a stage of raising awareness against the projects of the “famous” IIRSA. I insist that it is the beginning of the disappearance of indigenous peoples.

IIRSA is the acronym for the most ambitious capitalist and transnational recolonization project ever undertaken in the history of South America. IIRSA stands for Initiative for the Integration of South American Regional Infrastructure. It is the material support for the policies of free penetration of foreign capital and trade, and aims to become the backbone of a development model imposed by international powers, transnational corporations and multilateral banks. There is a lot of information available on the internet about it. It is promoted by the Inter-American Development Bank, the Andean Development Corporation and all the governments of the subcontinent, but especially Brazil.

At the last FENAMAD congress, the indigenous people expressed their firm decision to reject the construction project of the Inambari River Hydroelectric Power Plant - whose studies are being carried out by Brazilian companies, the private OAS and the state-owned Electrobras and Furnas - one of the projects star of IIRSA in the jungle south of Peru, together with the so-called South Peru-Brazil Interoceanic Road Corridor, the first highway that would link the South American colossus with the Pacific Ocean, that is, the Brazilian agro-exporters and cattle ranchers with the Asian markets. (4)

At the same time, in a historic decision, FENAMAD sanctioned indigenous leaders who favored the oil companies Hunt Oil and Repsol-YPF to enter the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve. (5) They stripped them of their quality of leaders and community members. The sanction reached the current president and legal representative before the State of the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve, Adán Corisepa; to the current president of the native community of Shintuya, Jacinto Bario, and to the community members Antonio Fernández and Rómulo Corisepa, for having contravened sovereign agreements that prohibited the entry of the named oil companies into indigenous territory. (6)

—We wanted to give an example to all of Peru in relation to the fight against corruption. The state and the oil companies buy leaders to further their interests. Against that and against everything else that all these policies represent, we are standing up for struggle and mobilization. We must unite the indigenous movement also the chestnut trees, the farmers, (7) the riparian. Local governments are subject to the central government. Some politicians are "masked", who say they are indigenous, and who promise us that the projects will bring jobs and improvements in health and education. They are hoaxes. We know that in the case of Inambari, the energy produced will not even be for us, it will be for the large industries of Brazil.

Corisepa is right: there are 6 dam projects agreed between the presidents of Peru and that of Brazil, Lula da Silva. (8) It is the energy that the Brazilian business community needs to affirm and develop new poles of development, not in São Paulo, but in the Amazon itself: it is the end of the jungle, and as our interviewee says, the end of the indigenous peoples within the basin.

—We must awaken the population of the entire Amazon around what extractive actions and the threats of mega projects mean. We have contributed a lot to Western culture, and we can continue to do so. But we are neither with globalization, nor with single thinking. We want them to respect us as we are and to respect nature. That is why we do not want either the FTA or the IIRSA. We want to live according to our needs, with the visions that arise from the communities themselves. We have rights and we will defend them.

We say goodbye to Jaime Corisepa, happy and confused. Happy to have heard that FENAMAD is strengthened - the sanction to the leaders sold to the oil companies is exemplary in every sense - and that it does so to confront the offensive of the transnationals on their ancestral home, on the jungle. Confused because, at times, we did not know if he was talking about what is happening in Peru or what is happening in Brazil or Bolivia.

Pablo Cingolani. Interview with Jaime Corisepa, President of FENAMAD - Native Federation of the Madre de Dios River and Tributaries - Peru

Río Abajo, February 3, 2010


(1) Alan García Pérez: The dog in the manger syndrome. El Comercio, Lima, October 28, 2009. Taken from

(2) See my article Alan García and the “unconnected” jungle natives, in defense of the isolated indigenous peoples of the Peruvian Amazon, ridiculed by García. At

(3) See news: President Alan García warns natives: "It's good with protests." Taken from
The news is dated June 5, 2009 at 8:06 in the morning. James Anaya, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, noted that “… on June 5, 2009, the police mobilized to evict the indigenous protesters who were occupying and blocking the road “Fernando Belaúnde Terry” in a sector of the province of Utcubamba near the city and province of Baguá (…) During the eviction process, violence broke out, resulting in several deaths and injuries, both police officers and protesters. Clashes between the police and indigenous people and other civilians continued in the city of Bagua and nearby places during the same day ”. Taken from OBSERVATIONS ON THE SITUATION OF THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLES OF THE AMAZON AND THE EVENTS OF JUNE 5 AND AFTER DAYS IN THE PROVINCES OF BAGUÁ AND UTCUBAMBA, PERU, July 20, 2009.

(4) See

(5) The long conflict between the indigenous people of Madre de Dios against the North American oil company Hunt Oil and the Spanish-Argentine company REPSOL-YPF can be read in the FENAMAD document: THE LOT 76, HUNT OIL AND THE AMARAKAERI COMMUNAL RESERVE: A HISTORY OF CORRUPTION AND SYSTEMATIC VIOLATION OF INDIGENOUS RIGHTS. The document and more information can be read at

(6) Seeían-dirigentes-indigenas-que.html

(7) The Board of Directors of the Departmental Agrarian Federation of Madre de Dios (FADEMAD) issued a statement given in Puerto Maldonado on January 28, 2010, rejecting the construction of the Inambari dam. An extract from it says: “In this sense, our great Agrarian Federation expresses its strong rejection of the South American Regional Integration Initiative - IIRSA for violating the fundamental rights of our peoples and for the negative social, environmental and cultural impacts on the affected communities, violating our rights to prior consultation to consent, decide and control the priorities of our own development in harmony with our mother nature, once again demonstrating the unconsulted and arbitrary way in which it operates, with the full support of our own rulers .. ". See The interview with Jaime Corisepa was conducted in Puerto Maldonado, on January 22 and 23, 2010.

(8) See

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