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The political ecology of voice (PEV) of oil company-community relations in Peru’s Loreto Region

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This paper studies resource extraction industry-community engagement through a focus on the ability and willingness of local citizens to report environmental pollution incidents. This is conducted through the political ecology of voice (PEV) theoretical framework which comprises investigation into economic, political, social and geographical factors over an explicit period and their impact on different actors’ voices. The case-study was centred around Peru’s Loreto Region, the state-run oil company Petroperu and the interview testimonies of two communities affected by Petroperu pollution incidents. This PEV paper finds that the community relationships are strictly controlled by Petroperu who, wherever possible, avoid citizen dialogue and engagement which raises significant difficulties for citizens wishing to report environmental contamination events. However, through deliberate threats to their provision of important community economic and development opportunities, Petroperu generated a climate of fear which sought to silence the willingness of citizens to report contamination events or the company’s poor and abusive post-spill response. This suppression of voice was only overcome through the actions of strong, independent citizens, and the accessibility to exterior community-based organisations. However, the latter’s involvement does not always outweigh the powerful influence which companies like Petroperu wield over citizens and their voice.

This talk is part of the Political Ecology Group meetings series.

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