Greed for natural resources fuels attacks against indigenous people in Peru


On 3rd February, 60 armed men forcibly entered the territories of the Meantari community in Satipo province, threatened 25 families from the Asháninka indigenous group and expelled them from their ancestral land. In January, both the community and the National Forest and Wild Fauna Service (SERFOR, Servicio Nacional de Selva y Fauna Silvestre) had denounced illegal logging in the area. The armed incursion appeared to be motivated by an attempt to recover illegally procured wood that had been seized by SERFOR. The attackers wanted to force the indigenous dwellers to reveal where it had been stored. On 6th February, the coordinating indigenous body, Central Asháninka del Río Ene called for solidarity and demanded the Public Ministry, the Ombudsman and the National Police to act immediately in order to protect the life of the inhabitants of the Meantari community, to ensure the integrity of their territory and put an end to illegal logging.

Indigenous peoples' rights remain under threat due to the advances of legal extractive industries as well. Despite the fact that Peru has ratified ILO convention 169, an international agreement on the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples, a series of legislative decrees recently enacted by President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski are seen as constituting an imminent risk for many indigenous Peruvian communities. Among other things, the decrees seek to promote economic activities including mining and infrastructure construction by easing access to land for priority projects. The AWAJUN indigenous community of north Amazonia and the Muqui Network, a coalition of human rights organisations, have launched a campaign against the decrees and demanded that the government do a more rigorous analysis of the possible consequences of their implementation. 

Additionally, the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Forest (ADESEP, Asociación Interétnica para el Desarrollo de la Selva Peruanaurged the Peruvian government to meet its obligation to create five indigenous reserves in the Amazon Uncontacted Frontier, where uncontacted indigenous tribes live. AIDESEP alleges that ever since the Canadian oil company Pacific E&P was granted the right to explore Yavari Tapiche, a proposed indigenous reserve in the frontier, the Peruvian government has made no effort to protect the uncontacted tribes in the area, which could be wiped out by disease if they come into contact with outsiders.

Peaceful Assembly

On 12th January, police arrested 72 people and dozens were injured after riot police repressed a peaceful demonstration in Puente Piedra, Lima. Demonstrators were protesting against toll collection on a road that crosses an urban area. Protestors claimed that the company in charge of toll collection, Rutas de Lima, had not complied with road improvement requirements established in the concession contract as a precondition for operation, and complained that the lack of an alternative route made this a violation of the constitutional right to freedom of movement.

During a previous demonstration on 5th January, 700 members of the security forces had been mobilised. For the second march, approximately 2,000 of them were deployed. As an unidentified group of hooded individuals attacked the police, tear gas and rubber bullets were used to disperse the demonstration. The Human Rights Coordination of Peru (Coordinadora de Derechos Humanos) issued a public statement condemning the use of police violence against citizens marching for their rights.

Corruption revelations are also a trigger of mobilisation in contemporary Peru. The domestic repercussions of the Oderbrecht case - in which several former public officials, including former President Alejandro Toledo, were accused of receiving bribes from the Brazilian company to facilitate business in the country - recently led to the formation of the Coordination against Corruption, a network that brings together NGOs, unions, youth organisations and public personalities. The Coordination is currently organising a national campaign against corruption and impunity and calling for a national decentralised march to be held on 14th March.