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Big Oil Wreaks Havoc in the Amazon, But Communities Are Fighting Back

This time it's not Chevron in Ecuador but Occidental Petroleum in Peru. And the local community has had enough of giveaways to corporate polluters.

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Several years ago, at the height of Ecuador's oil boom, oil companies were taking over the traditional lands of Amazonian Cofan Indians until Randy Borman, the son of white U.S. missionaries (who had lived his life as a Cofan) organized them into gun-toting groups that kidnapped oil workers. The Cofan got their land back. A few years ago, I spoke on the phone with Borman and he told me that "companies only understand force. That's just how it is."

I hope the oil outsiders and developers learn to do what they do in an environmentally sound way, in ways that respect the people who have lived on the land for countless generations. I hope the people of Peru can benefit from the jobs and oil royalties generated by environmentally sound extraction methods (like horizontal drilling) and that companies will consider natives as real stakeholders. And I hope that Oxy has to pay big. I hope its gazzillionaire executives have smaller bonus checks and are forced to one day explain to their children why their massive company wasn't able to correct such a giant injustice.

Kelly Hearn is a correspondent for National Geographic News and the Christian Science Monitor. His work has been funded by the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting and the North American Congress on Latin America. A former UPI reporter, he has published in The Nation, Grist, High Country News, The Washington Times and World Politics Watch. He is a frequent contributor to Alternet.

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