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Camisea has disrupted life for 10,000 people. photo by Antoine Bonsorte, Amazon Watch Fed up, indigenous groups are threatening to sue the Peruvian government in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for failing to protect them. “These big companies are damaging our habitat and exterminating our people,” says Robert Guimaraes, vice president of the Lima-based Interethnic Association of Peruvian Jungle Development. Beyond immediate harm, rain forest energy projects open corridors for roadbuilding, illegal logging, and poaching, as well as new settlements. And Camisea is but one of many new gas and oil projects in the country. “Peru has gone from 30 hydrocarbon concessions to 46 over the last year,” says Aaron Goldzimer, a social scientist at New York-based Environmental Defense. “This fire sale, combined with planned highways and other infrastructure projects, is the biggest threat to the Amazon.” Seizing on the bonanza is Hunt, one of the world’s largest privately held companies. Chief Executive Ray L. Hunt, the youngest son of a legendary Texas oil tycoon, chairs the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and serves on the board of Halliburton Co., the Houston-based defense contractor once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney. The Washington Post reported last month that Hunt, his wife, and his companies together have contributed about $1 million to campaign committees of President Bush and other Republicans since 1998. Forbes magazine estimates Hunt’s net worth at $2.5 billion. From Peru, Hunt is counting on more. This month the government licensed his company to explore for oil and natural gas under 3.5 million acres near the Camisea fields. Hunt has also enlisted South Korea’s SK Corp. and Spain’s Repsol YPF as investors in Peru LNG, a new consortium that’s opening gas fields, expanding Camisea’s pipeline capacity, and building a gas liquefaction plant and marine terminal. For the plant’s design, Hunt hired Halliburton subsidiary KBR. The $2.7 billion project, run by Hunt, will ship more than 4 million tons of liquid natural gas annually to Mexico and the United States. For public financing, Hunt is turning again to the IDB, this time requesting $400 million. The bank’s new president, Luis Alberto Moreno, announced last month that the funding depends on environmental and technical audits. “We are not even close to approving the loan,” he told the Financial Times. But Moreno isn’t any more likely than his predecessors to protect Peru’s Amazon. He won his IDB post last year with Bush administration backing. During the previous seven years, he served as Colombia’s ambassador to the United States, a perch from which he promoted U.S.-sponsored aerial spraying of coca-killing chemicals across the Colombian countryside. That program has cost U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars but has failed to reduce Andean cocaine production. The spraying has also drawn bitter criticism from indigenous groups and environmentalists. “We’re not worried,” says Phillips, the Hunt vice president. “We’re working with the IDB and many nongovernmental organizations to ensure that the Peru LNG project is very aggressive and progressive on the environmental front as well as the social-responsibility front.” That line is wearing thin in Peru. Both candidates in the country’s June 4 presidential runoff011anta Humala and Alan Garciaare vowing to revise Peru’s oil and gas contracts with foreign investors. They’re promising higher royalties, greater government stakes, and tougher regulation. They may feel emboldened by this month’s nationalization of natural gas operations in neighboring Bolivia. Humala, who has lived in France, likens Camisea’s pipeline system to a block of Gruyere cheese: “It has holes all over.” Chip Mitchell is a Bogota-based radio and print journalist. WRITE DIALOGUE 307. W 7th Street Austin, TX 78701 [email protected] MAY 19, 2006 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 17