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Indigenous people hold foreign tourists in Peruvian Amazon after oil spill

Indigenous people in Peru’s Amazon detained a group of foreign and Peruvian tourists traveling on a river boat to protest the lack of government aid following an oil spill in the area, local media reported Thursday.

“(We want) to call the government’s attention with this action, there are foreigners and Peruvians, there are about 70 people,” Watson Trujillo, the leader of the Cuninico community, told RPP radio.

The detained tourists include citizens from the United States, Spain, France, the United Kingdom and Switzerland, and include women and children.

Trujillo said his group had taken the “radical measure” in an effort to put pressure on the government to send a delegation to assess the environmental damage from the September 16 spill of 2,500 tons of crude oil into the Cuninico river.

The detainees would spend the night inside the vessel while awaiting a solution to the situation, he added.

Trujillo said he would return to the boat on Friday to evaluate the possibility of releasing the tourists.

The government and police did not comment on the incident, which took place on a tributary of the Maranon river.

Indigenous communities had already been blocking the transit of all vessels on the river in protest against the spill, which was caused by a rupture in the Norperuano oil pipeline.

On September 27, the government declared a 90-day state of emergency in the impacted region, which is home to the Cuninico and Urarinas communities and where about 2,500 indigenous people live.

The 800km-long Norperuano pipeline, owned by state-owned Petroperu, was built four decades ago to transport crude oil from the Amazon region to the ports of Piura, on the coast.

According to Petroperu, the spill was the result of an intentional 21-centimeter cut in the pipeline pipe.