Violence against indigenous people in Peru

Asháninka representative from the province of Satipo murdered

Last Saturday, April 8, Asháninka representative Santiago Contoricón Antúnez was murdered – a representative of the indigenous community Puerto Ocopa in the region of Río Tambo, Satipo Province, in the middle of the Peruvian jungle. According to the Peruvian intercultural communication service SERVINDI, he was shot in the head in his own home at around 7:30 pm. The perpetrators were able to escape on a motorbike. Although the exact reasons behind the crime are not known, it is assumed that organized crime or illegal land traders are behind the murder. “Timber companies and the drug mafia have been building an illegal road along the Brazilian-Peruvian border for over a year – as a means to transport drugs, illegal wood, and other goods to the east more quickly, in order to ship the wares to Europe,” stated Dr. Eliane Fernandes, STP expert indigenous peoples. “The road crosses several indigenous territories – including that of the Asháninka in Peru and Brazil. Indigenous people who try to defend their territories against criminals and other intruders are increasingly becoming victims of intimidation, attacks, and even murder.”

In the case of the murdered Asháninka representative, Peru’s Ministry of the Interior has (according to a statement by the ministry) sent a special homicide division to the community Santiago Contoricón to help investigate and solve the crime. Following the murder, Asháninka from the region had apparently informed the police that the indigenous community Puerto Ocopa had received threats from persons who are said to be involved in illegal logging. According to SERVINDI, Santiago Contoricón was a well-known and respected Asháninka representative who had already fought against terrorism in his younger years – and he will be remembered for playing an important role as a leader of the Asháninka’s resistance during the armed conflict with the ‘Shining Path’ (1980-2000). He served as the mayor of Rio Tambo for a while and was a member of the regional council of the province of Satipo. The inter-ethnic association for the development of the Peruvian jungle (Aidesep) demanded the authorities to start working on the case as soon as possible to ensure that the crime will not go unpunished. Aidesep thus demanded: “No more deaths of indigenous leaders!”

Dr. Fernandes can only support these demands. In a few days, she will travel to Brazil to support the Asháninka representative Benki Piyãko. Because of his activism, the winner of the Weimar Human Rights Award has been constantly receiving death threats as well.