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For 40 years, the Quechua communities in Perú have lived with contaminated rivers, and poor health as a result of oil drilling. Teddy is leading the effort to obtain integral land rights for his community before any more concessions are given to oil companies.
Teddy Guerra is the charismatic and outspoken 30-year-old leader of the Quechua community in the town of Nuevo Andoas. Located in the Amazon jungle of northern Peru, his home sits close to the banks of the Pastaza River, a beautiful but unpredictable part of the landscape here.
Teddy takes after his father, who was the previous leader and a vocal critic of the government. Since the 1970s, the state has allowed companies to drill for oil on indigenous peoples' lands without their consent. Many families here have lost children, and he knows lots of people showing symptoms of heavy metal poisoning. As a practical and determined leader, Teddy has demanded that the state hold an investigation to find out why.
His fight to protect the environment is also a call for the authorities to respect the rights of Quechua communities to their ancestral lands. Peru’s 1920 constitution was the first official acknowledgement that indigenous communities even existed. A century on, the state has never formalized their land rights. “It doesn’t matter to the government. They have no desire to give us security living here.” he says.
Petronila Sandi has spent her entire life in Nuovo Andoas. She advocates for the land rights of her people. Photo: Percy Ramirez/Oxfam
“This land was inherited from our fathers. Now it is our time, and soon it will be the next generation’s time. But we live with the knowledge that the government might again license our territory out to oil companies at any time.”
“For us, it’s important to be given formal land titles, not so that we can feel like owners, but to protect our territory.”
Stand with Teddy and all the Quechua communities calling on the government to recognize their land rights, and investigate cases of contamination. Visit Stand for Land website and sign the petition.