Indigenous activists under threat
Urgent update: A video (Spanish only) recording a formal visit to the oil palm plantation of Plantaciones de Pucallpa in Ucayali by Peruvian environmental prosecutors and officials documents how the company has continued to maintain and cultivate its plantation operations in violation of the suspension order of the Ministry of Agriculture issued in September 2015.
In the video, assertions are made by private security personnel and individuals working on the plantation that the land belongs to their employer, who is a private individual and not Plantaciones de Pucallpa. Officials of the Ministry of Agriculture, accompanying the investigation on 5 May 2016, explain however that according to an official database this is land belonging to Plantaciones de Pucallpa and that it has continued to maintain its operations in contravention of the September 2015 suspension order issued by the Ministry of Agriculture.
The suspension was ordered after field and satellite investigations had revealed that deforestation of over 5,000 ha of probably primary forests had been conducted without the required authorisation.
Authorities and representatives of the Shipibo indigenous village of Santa Clara de Uchunya had denounced the operations of the company as it overlapped their untitled traditional lands. They reported that the investigative team, which included police personnel, were followed back towards their village by almost 100 individuals, many of whom carried machetes and wooden poles. Two days later Robert Guimaraes, president of FECONAU, the local indigenous federation that represents Santa Clara reported that:
“On Sunday night when the community began to celebrate Mother’s Day, three individuals who were masked and armed arrived in a boat at about 9pm and at the house of an old man asked for Washington Bolivar and myself Robert Guimaraes and whether we were in the community… this environment of hostility and intimidation comes clearly from Plantaciones de Pucallpa SAC.”
The official investigators also visited the locations of several adjacent plots of land that had in December 2015 been issued to private individuals with ‘possession rights’ by regional authorities on the basis that there was evidence of occupation. This was denounced at the time by residents of Santa Clara who pointed out these areas were also part of their traditional lands and were subject to their ongoing application for land rights and that there was absolutely no evidence of any occupation of this area by third parties.
The position of the community was confirmed by the field visit when community members from Santa Clara reported that the prosecutors concluded that “In none of the 17 certificates of possession was any economic activity found, nor was there any well defined boundary, nor did they know the exact location of their land parcels.”
“All of this confirms what we know to true,” said Jamer Agustin, coordinator for FECONAU. “This constitutes further evidence of the land trafficking modus operandi promoted by companies like Plantaciones de Pucallpa and all facilitated by the corruption of our own authorities. First they promote occupation of the land, then they obtain certificates falsely documenting that these lands have been historically used and occupied, then these are used to secure land titles and then eventually these companies buy these lands and their title deeds and claim that the lands were already deforested to avoid restrictions on conversion of primary forests.”
FECONAU and Santa Clara de Uchunya are calling for urgent measures from Peruvian authorities to guarantee the physical integrity of community leaders and Mr Bolivar and Mr Guimaraes as well as urgent action from Peruvian authorities to enforce its suspension order and annul the 17 land parcels awarded on the land claim of Santa Clara de Uchunya . Finally, they demand resolution of the community’s land claim and restitution of their ancestral lands in accordance with their rights as indigenous peoples and Peru’s legal obligations.
FECONAU has released a statement (Spanish only)
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Jamer Agustin, 0051954903423, email@example.com
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