More than 240 tourists, including US and UK nationals, have been released after they were detained by an Indigenous group in Peru.
The group was taken hostage around 10am on 3 November as part of a protest against the Peruvian government after more than 40 oil spills in the area, community leaders in the locality of Cuninico told local media. Pregnant women, a one-month-old baby and elderly people were reportedly among those held hostage.
The US Department of Justice said in a statement to ABC that the situation has since been resolved. A total of 248 people, including 228 Peruvian citizens, were held while they were on a riverboat for more than 24 hours, the DoJ said.
“Our very punctual request is that the government declares a state of emergency due to the constant oil spills in our territory, and a committee presided by the president is then commissioned,” community leader Wadson Trujillo told national outlet TVPeru Noticias.
Angela Ramirez, a local who claimed to have been detained by the indigenous group, had written on social media that there were infants among the hostages.
“We spent the night here. We are running out of water to drink, the sun is very strong, there are babies crying, the youngest is only one month old, pregnant women, disabled people, and elderly,” Ms Ramirez said on Facebook. “Now we do not have electricity to charge our phones, nor water to clean ourselves.”
Ms Ramirez said that the leaders who had detained them were kind and respectful and that the soonest “the government answered to their request, the faster the group would be released.”
Former Peruvian Prime Minister Anibal Torres hit out at local media for reporting that the government was not actively assisting the hostages and went as far as claiming that some members of the Cuninico community were to blame for the spill of about 2,500 barrels of oil, which have killed at least three locals.
According to El Pais, more than 6,000 people use the water affected by the oil spills in Cuninico and neighbouring communities. Leaders have previously blocked access to rivers and travelled to the capital to protest the government.
The spills were caused by Peru’s longest pipeline, Norperuano. The government declared a 90-day state of emergency in late September after the spills in Cuninico and Urarinas, but no agreements were made with locals.
“We have started to run out of food and water. We’re doing okayish but we’re concerned for the pregnant females we have on board, the diabetics, the children, the elderly and the other ill people so we’re starting to get quite desperate,” Charlotte Wiltshire told the network.
“We are a little concerned that our boat has been now moved closer to the village but I understand that gives us a little more easy access to possible supplies later.”