Press: Indigenous leaders from community of Santa Clara de Uchunya investigating invasion and destruction of their forests escape assassination

Santa Clara
Santa Clara
By
Ivan Flores Rodriguez

Press: Indigenous leaders from community of Santa Clara de Uchunya investigating invasion and destruction of their forests escape assassination

On the 11th December a community delegation from the community of Santa Clara de Uchunya accompanied by representatives of FECONAU and IDL conducted a field visit to confirm reports of invasion of their lands farmed by community members close to the banks of the river Aguaytia.

When approaching the site, three shots were fired at the delegation by the invaders. One of the invaders is well known to community members as an ‘enforcer’ associated with the operations of the palm oil company (currently known as Ocho Sur Pe SAC) which has converted an area of almost 7000ha of forest into an oil palm plantation on community lands without community consent.

Edinson Mahua, representative of FECONAU was grazed by a bullet and suffered minor injuries. Delegation members bravely approached the invaders and challenged them. The invaders responded that they were there with the knowledge of the Regional Agrarian Agency and were in the process of securing certificates of possession to 620 hectares of forest land.

The 7000ha of land currently converted to a palm oil plantation were obtained using the same modus operandi in which land invasions were followed by fraudulent issue of a ‘possession certificate’ by the agrarian authorities, the conversion to a private land title and the subsequent sale to the palm oil company thereby facilitating the accumulation of almost 7000ha of forest and its subsequent conversion to a palm oil plantation.

One community member who participated in the delegation responded to the latest incident. “Our primary forest is being finished by these land traffickers and then they will sell these lands to the oil palm company. We are surrounded now on all sides by them, we are an island but we have faith that we will recover our lands and then restore them and that these criminals will go to prison for what they have done”.

The attempted murder is the latest in a string of violent threats aimed at leaders and supporters of the community of Santa Clara de Uchunya who have been opposing the land grab of their traditional lands for conversion to oil palm which began in earnest in 2013. Numerous calls for protection of vulnerable leaders has been made, yet to date police protection was only granted to one community member from Santa Clara in August 2017 but this remains unimplemented.

The underlying cause of the conflict has been the practice of the Regional Agrarian Agency in Ucayali (DRAU) who have continued to issue land certificates to settlers on the traditional lands of the community. These land titles were then subsequently sold to the oil palm company. Such practices are common in the Peruvian amazon and are connected with a powerful criminal network of land trafficking which is operating in the region of Ucayali and lies at the heart of multiple and ongoing land disputes. Despite commitments to protect forests and indigenous territories, the Peruvian government at national and regional levels has historically failed to legally recognise indigenous lands and an estimated 20 million hectares of indigenous lands remain pending for land titling.

Meanwhile the government has failed to design or implement any effective safeguards to prevent these unprotected lands from being issued to third parties while land titling remains pending or is ongoing. Indigenous communities like Santa Clara and their organisation FECONAU are calling on the Peruvian government to urgently address these applications for land titling. At the same time they are demanding the introduction of measures to block the issue of any rights to 3rd parties while such land titling remains pending in accordance with Peru’s legal obligations to protect indigenous peoples’ land rights

Community members have continued to refer to the case of 4 murdered ashaninka leaders from the community of Saweto in 2014 and pointed out in frustration “Do we have to die before the State decides to resolve our problems?

For more information see: http://www.forestpeoples.org/en/featured-topic/struggle-shipibo-communi…

Contact details:
 
Robert Guimaraes Vasquez, FECONAU, 00 51 961 598323, psrgvasquez[at]gmail.com
Conrad Feather, FPP, 00 44 7792979817, conrad[at]forestpeoples.org

Alvaro Masquez Salvador, IDL: amasquez[at]idl.org.pe