Greenpeace offers apology for Nazca lines action

Feature story - December 13, 2014
Greenpeace has offered its sincere apologies to the people of Peru for the distress caused by the action about climate change carried out at the famous Nazca lines.

The action took place on the occasion of the climate conference in Lima, where government leaders have a historic opportunity to tackle the effects of climate change. Unfortunately, this important message has been overshadowed by our rude and inconsiderate action.

Meeting with the Minister

We have met with the Peruvian Ministry of Culture to offer our apologies. We will cooperate fully with an independent investigation into the impact of our activities in this area. Greenpeace always takes responsibility for the consequences of our actions.

We have agreed with the ministry that we will no longer distribute or use photo or video imagery of the action. Our full statement can be read here.

The Consequences of Climate Change

Greenpeace was present in Lima to draw attention to the consequences of climate change, which are already being felt worldwide. While the conference was proceeding, nearly a million people were evacuated from their homes in the Philippines after tropical cyclone Hagupit became the third typhoon in three years to hit the coast. For many people climate change has become a matter of survival.

Nazca lines as a symbol for climate change

The Nazca lines were chosen as an artifact of a civilization that vanished thousands of years ago, to underscore the existential danger to human civilization from climate change.

Concerns over the Nazca lines

The Peruvian government suspects that our activists may have damaged the heritage site. The activity upset many people, and many people voiced their concerns. We understand that everyone wants to know what happened as soon as possible. For that reason we are offering the timeline below outlining what happened and when. We will continue to update it as events unfold.

December 8, 2014

Just before dawn in Peru – Greenpeace activists, nationals from Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Spain, Germany, Italy and Austria, place a message, consisting of 45 cloth letters on the ground, next to the famous Nazca lines. They use yellow colored stones to hold the letters in place, and use a GIS system to ensure everything is laid out in the right place. Once an aerial photograph has been taken, they leave, taking everything they brought with them.

December 9, 2014

Morning in Peru – Photographs circulate in the media claiming that the protesters have damaged the site. It is impossible to tell from the photographs whether the marks indicated are new or not. There are no indications of damage to the ancient lines themselves.

Around noon in Peru – The Peruvian Ministry of Culture accuses the activists of having damaged the site and sends a press release calling on the Peruvian population to help identify the protesters. They also state that the protesters can not leave the country. In response, Greenpeace in Peru began an internal inquiry in response to these accusations.

December 10, 2014

02:00 am Peruvian time – The people of Peru make their distress, anger and disappointment clear. The Greenpeace delegation in Peru offer their apologies for the activity.

Morning Peruvian time – Greenpeace has a meeting with the Peruvian Ministry of Culture and offers again its sincere and unreserved apologies. Please see Greenpeace's apology.

December 11, 2014

Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace International Executive Director, travels to Lima, to provide additional personal apologies and talk with the Peruvian government on possible next steps.

December 13, 2014

Peruvian Ministry of Culture visits site to assess potential damage. Photographs are published in El Commercio.

December 14, 2014

Kumi Naidoo appears on Peruvian National Television programme Punto Final.

December 15, 2014

Kumi Naidoo, in Lima, apologises for Nazca lines action.

Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo meets with the Peruvian Ministry of Culture and commits to a full review of the decision that saw this activity at the Nazca Lines go forward when it should not have, and pledges that everyone who was involved will be approached and asked to account for their roles. Until a proper investigation is complete, Greenpeace declines to comment on any individuals.

19 December 2014

Kumi Naidoo and two other Greenpeace representatives travel 460 km from Lima to Nazca, at the request of the local prosecutor, to make a statement about the activity at the Nazca Lines. Naidoo tells the prosecutor the name of the person who appears to have co-ordinated this activity.

Speaking to the media after meeting the public prosecutor in Nazca, Naido said:
“I came to Peru in the wake of the Nazca Lines activity to offer my full apologies to the people of Peru and all of those who have been shocked and offended. The Nazca Lines activity should never have happened. I also came to Peru to begin an investigation into what went wrong, and why we didn’t stick to protocols that should have prevented such an activity from going ahead.”

“The person who appears to have co-ordinated this activity agreed that his name could be given to the prosecutor. He is prepared to account for any mistakes made. He assured me he thought due care had been taken. He understands that this might not have been the case. He will co-operate fully to find out whether protocols for activities were followed, and if not, why.”

“This activity showed Greenpeace in a terrible light. It is simply not what Greenpeace is. Greenpeace stands for the protection of natural heritage, for indigenous peoples’ rights and the protection of our entire fragile planet. We failed to live up to that and we are deeply sorry.”

During the meeting with the prosecutor, Greenpeace International was informed of the Peruvian government’s decision to commission an independent assessment of any damage to the site caused by the activity, and that it would be invited to nominate two archaeologists to be part of the assessment team.

7 January 2015

The Peruvian government declares that it intends to press charges against at least three people involved in the activity.

The three are Mauro Fernandez (an Argentinian working for Greenpeace Andino as a climate campaigner), and two independent journalists - Rodrigo Miguel Abd (a photographer working for the press agency Associated Press) and Herbert Augusto Villarraga Salgado (a Pulitzer Prize winning videographer working for the press agency Reuters). Greenpeace has made it clear that neither journalist had any role in planning or delivering the activity.

12 January 2015

The Foreign Press Association of Peru expresses surprise and upset regarding the decision to include the photographer from the news agency Associated Press, Rodrigo Abd, in the process brought against Greenpeace.

19 January 2015

Greenpeace submits material explaining its internal governance structure (as requested), and statements from four participants in the activity to the prosecutor in Nazca. The statements includes clarification about the identity and role of key participants.

Inter American Press Association (IAPA) urges the Peruvian justice system not to indict Associated Press photographer Rodrigo Abd, on the grounds that “restrictions on the movement and work of journalists are contrary to freedom of the press.”

The Ministry of Culture approves a plan for the protection and conservation of archaeological, historical and paleontological heritage of Nazca and Palpa (including the Nazca Lines) from various threats.

20 January 2015

“Greenpeace identifies activists in Peru Case” Bloomberg and AP stories were mainly of interest in the US.

24 January 2015

María Reiche association denounces that a RedBull team illegally entered the Nazca lines in May 2013.

26 January 2015

AP's photographer hearing happens before the Nazca prosecutor. Reuters and AP journalists will go to court again Feb. 9.

The Culture minister sent an investigative team to the site, and the outcomes from that have been submitted to the Prosecutor.

27 January 2015

The Culture minister sends an investigative team to the site, and the outcomes from that are submitted to the Prosecutor. Our lawyer tries to get a copy without success. All we know is their opinion, that we caused, ‘Irreversible damage that cannot be restored’

30 January 2015

Meeting held in Hamburg regarding legal and general strategy.

Two archeologists are acting in our behalf: one German and one Peruvian that lives in Colombia. So far he can only look at photos, since we can’t enter the area without permission (i.e., until the official joint investigation takes place)

2 February 2015

Mauro is release upon his own recognizance by an Argentine Federal Judge. On Jan 8th he was issued a 6 months arrest warrant by a Peruvian judge.

5 February 2015

Peruvian media publishes that Interpol arrested Mauro in Argentina. We write a reactive statement correcting the news. All relevant media publish it.

The Prosecutor Office accepts a request from the Ministry of Culture to start a preliminary investigation against Kumi Naidoo under the charge of cover up. The Ministry alleges that Kumi Naidoo had, but did not reveal, the complete list of participants who had taken part in the event of December 8th, 2014.

6 February 2015

Public Minister gives Mauro’s legal address to the National Judiciary and seeks for extradition.

9 February 2015

Prosecutor drops request to jail journalists.

18 February 2015

After having handled over four individual statements, Kumi Naidoo sends two more documents to the prosecutor.

24 February 2015

Maria Reich association posted a photo on Facebook of the impact of the Dakar Rally on the Nazca Lines, and Dakar Rally Association responds on their web site.

25 February 2015

The permanent chamber of the Supreme Court decided to vote for the request for extradition of Argentine citizen Mauro Fernandez.

26 February 2015

The Supreme Court of Peru allowed the extradition request against Mauro Fernandez.

5 March 2015

Appeal hearing for Mauro’s extradition case takes place. Two experts present documents to support our defense: an Amicus Curiae sustaining that, according to the Peruvian Criminal Code there was no crime during the activity; and the first archeological report arguing that a possible impact can be reversed.

11 March 2015

Mauro's arrest warrant is confirmed by the Nazca Court of Appeal. This decision does not change his legal situation: he continues being released on his own recognizance.

15 March 2015

Outside Magazine publishes a story about Kumi, the Nazca activity and Greenpeace.