Peru: loggers attack “uncontacted” indigenous people

Uncontacted indigenous peoples in the Peruvian Amazon are being killed and having their houses burned to the ground by illegal loggers, according a statement from the International Indigenous Committee for the Protection of Peoples in Voluntary Isolation (CIPIACI). The loggers have invaded the Murunahua Territorial Reserve, a remote area near the Brazilian border set aside in 1997 for uncontacted indigenous peoples, and built an illegal network of roads, the statement charges.

CIPIACI accuses Peru’s government of denying the reality in the region. “The recent declarations from functionaries and personnel of the National Institute of Natural Resources (INRENA) and the General Direction for Original Peoples and Afro-Peruvians (DGPOA) about peace in the Peru-Brazil border zone are not accurate and only worsen the the problematic situation faced by populations in isolation.”

The statement says the loggers are forcing uncontacted tribes to seek refuge across the border in Brazil. These incidents are occurring very close to the area where the photos of an uncontacted tribe in Brazil were taken recently, making headlines around the world.

Survival International director Stephen Corry, said “If ever the Peruvian government needed a wake-up call, this is it: killings, the destruction of homes, the invasion of the Indians’ land. The government needs to get its act together, accept responsibility for its most vulnerable citizens, and do whatever is necessary to ensure the Indians can live on their own land in peace.” (Survival International, CIPIACI, July 8)

Survival International has been threatened with litigation regarding its publishing of the photos of uncontacted peoples earlier this year. From Survival International, July 1:

The British journalist who wrongly reported that the story of an uncontacted tribe which has been known of for years had been ‘told and sold’ as if it had only just been discovered, sparking press stories around the world of a ‘hoax,’ has now threatened to sue Survival International for trying to correct his mistake.

In a phone message to a Survival staff member on 27th June, Peter Beaumont, Foreign Affairs Editor of the British newspaper The Observer, said, ‘I’m getting extremely irritated about the way in which you’re associating me with the allegation that you may have been responsible for a hoax. If you use that word once more… I will be taking legal action and I will sue you for defamation or libel.’

The photos of an uncontacted tribe living near the Brazil-Peru border attracted worldwide coverage when Survival released them several weeks ago. They were taken by a Brazilian government official to refute claims that such people do not exist. Illegal logging in Peru is the greatest threat to the uncontacted tribes of the region.

On 22 June Mr Beaumont reported that the tribe had been wrongly described as ‘undiscovered’ when its existence had been known of for many years, and that the Brazilian official and Survival had now ‘admitted’ and ‘conceded’ this.

In fact, neither the Brazilian government nor Survival has ever claimed that the tribe was ‘undiscovered’ or ‘unknown.’ They said only that the tribe was ‘uncontacted,’ which was correct. They have ‘admitted’ and ‘conceded’ nothing, because there is nothing to admit or concede.

Mr Beaumont’s article has sparked a wave of damaging media coverage which describes the photos as a ‘hoax,’ a ‘stunt,’ a ‘joke’ and a ‘fake.’ Some reports have said that the photos were ‘staged.’

See our last posts on Peru and the struggle for the Amazon.