A Jungle Tiananmen


It was several days after the deaths in Bagua, and we were in a tiny car flying down a washboard gravel road—some left-of-nowhere oil company throughway punched into the Peruvian Amazon—when the paramilitary cops flagged us down. Everybody in the back was asleep: Plinio leaning on Alcides, Alcides—snoring—leaning on me. I elbowed Plinio. There are three rules for reporting in the Amazon: 1) add two screwups to every plan; 2) there is no such thing as a “little problem”; and 3) you never—ever—go in without an Indian guide. Plinio was mine. He was wiping sleep from his eyes as the cop, in military pants tucked into black boots, approached the car, a machine gun over his soldier. I wanted to go home. “It is routine,” Plinio said. “It is the state of emergency. He’s checking our IDs. Just remember our story.” He meant to remember the lie we’d concocted: that my partner, Duncan, and I were making a documentary about the Amazon’s threatened biodiversity. In fact, we were there investigating the impact of Peru’s booming oil industry on the forest’s indigenous villages. Many people don’t realize that Peru controls most of the Amazon’s headwaters—a massive chunk of the rainforest second only to Brazil’s portion—or that Peru’s past two pro-business presidents have bet the ranch on the area’s oil-rich energy lodes.

more from Kelly Hearn at VQR here.