Upper Amazon Conservancy / ProPurús
Four indigenous Ashéninka leaders were found dead in the Peruvian Amazon due to their efforts to obtain legal title to their native community of Alto Tamaya Saweto and prevent continued illegal logging in their lands.
Last week, Edwin Chota, leader of the Asheninka community of Saweto, was murdered along with Jorge Ríos Pérez, Leoncio Quinticima Melendez, and Francisco Pinedo as they traveled on a forest trail to attend a meeting in the Brazilian community of Apiwtxa. Edwin had spent over a decade fighting to secure title for Saweto, and they were killed just days after a visit from Peruvian forestry officials to document continued illegal logging on their lands.
The four men were walking a remote rainforest trail through their ancestral homelands to meet with their Ashéninka cousins in Apiwtxa, Brasil to discuss logging and drug trafficking threats along the Peru/Brazil border.
The Alto Tamaya Saweto community had recently made important progress in their long struggle for territorial rights, having met this summer with the Presidency of the Council of Ministries (PCM), the new Peruvian Forestry Service (SERFOR), and the state forest su-pervisory organization (OSINFOR) to advance Saweto’s decade long efforts to downsize forests of permanent protection (BPP) and legally exclude the inactive forestry concessions overlapping their territory.
Edwin Chota and Jorge Ríos featured in the April 2013, National Geographic Article, 'Mahogany’s Last Stand'. “As long as we don’t have title, the loggers don’t respect native ownership,” Chota said. “They threaten us. They intimidate. They have the guns.”
The target of frequent death threats, Chota was repeatedly forced to seek sanctuary among the Ashéninka’s tribal relatives in Brazil.
The Peruvian state must guarantee that Saweto’s legal and administrative proceedings continue while also ensuring the security of this indigenous population who live under the constant threat posed by illegal loggers and drug traffickers.