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Uncontacted peoples in jeopardy
Azzurra Carpo
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Government hands over logging concession in Amazon isolated indigenous peoples´ lands.

Indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation lack their most basic rights in Peru. The situation is so grave that the Inter-American Human Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the country’s Ombudsman’s Office have urged the government to take measures to protect their lands.

In late March, the IACHR urged the Peruvian government to take urgent measures to protect the indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation on the Madre de Dios Territorial Reserve — particularly the Mashko Piro, Yora and Amawaka — in the southeastern Peruvian Amazon. There, they face death threats and contract with new diseases as a result of contact with illegal logging of mahogany. On this reserve alone, there are 2,000 illegal loggers.

The Inter-Ethnic Association of the Peruvian Amazon (AIDESEP) said that the case was presented to the IACHR in 2005 by the Native Federation of the Madre de Dios River, or FENAMAD, “faced with the repeated conflicts between isolated indigenous peoples and illegal loggers” after the latter entered the reserve, a nearly 830,000-hectare (2 million-acre) area that the government created in 2002.

But up until now, “the Peruvian government has taken no concrete action to protect these peoples,” AIDESEP said.

Alberto Pizango Chota, the organization’s president, said that the IACHR has “already urged the Peruvian state to take steps because illegal logging does exist. And it’s not only a problem right now; it has always been a problem. I speak in the name of an association that represents 1,550 native Amazon communities. The Peruvian state doesn’t want to do anything. It doesn’t want that this is seen as a problem. There is an important human issue here: because of that wood our indigenous brothers living in isolation are being killed.”

Claims never investigated
Percy Assen, a lawyer with FENAMAD, said that in 2000, the organization presented the Attorney General’s office a case claiming genocide against the loggers that was never investigated. Other suits were presented in 2002 and 2003 that were declared inadmissible.

“We’re asking that hydrocarbons lots on the reserve be excluded [from exploration], that the 4,500 loggers in the area be removed and that the ecological police of Madre de Dios be present to help preserve the area.” He also asked for police control points along several area rivers.

Víctor Kameno Manuaje, a FENAMAD member, says that the “state does not guarantee their security, their life, or their territory” and that on one hand it recognizes various territorial reserves in favor of the isolated peoples, but on the other it gives these same reserves to oil and lumber companies.

According to lawyer Hernán Cuba Chávez, of the Ombudsman’s Office, these isolated peoples “don’t appear in statistics, they turn out not to be citizens, they don’t have documents.”

And forestland concessions given by the National Institute of Natural Resources are adjacent to areas where logging is illegal. This is an invitation for illegal logging, particularly because these reserves lack control posts, police trained in protecting natural resources and indigenous peoples.

“We the indigenous propose the world an economic model that includes ecological and human well being,” said Pizango Chota.

“We live in times of climate change: we want to keep living. We have to leave this criminal development system that makes it impossible to live in peace and harmony with nature. For the state, the natural resources belong to the nation, but, what’s up with the people?”


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