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Sun May 9, 2021, 04:27 AM

Violence against Peru's indigenous communities surges as drug traffickers move in

Issued on: 08/05/2021 - 09:16

Herlín Odicio (president of the Cacataibo native communities’ federation) and Berlín Diques (president of Orau) © Herlín Odicio/ Luis Miranda and Berlín Diques

Text by:
Olivia Bizot
10 min

Nine indigenous leaders in Peru’s central Amazon have been murdered in the past year and many more have received death threats as their ancestral land is seized by drug traffickers. Covid-19 restrictions have made the remote region even more vulnerable as governmental efforts to protect the land have been hindered. In the face of mounting pressure, authorities have recently taken action, but our Observers say that more needs to be done.

The latest attack was reported on April 23, 2021 in the eastern region of Ucayali, where alleged drug gangs set fire to the home of Elmer Gonzales, who belongs to the indigenous Cacataibo ethnic group. The traffickers also left a warning that read “I am Colombian. Elmer, I want my load” (see photo below). Meanwhile, Fredy Yaycate, from the same community was kidnapped and found several days later with signs of torture. They are now among a growing number of Cacataibo people who have gone into hiding, fearful for their lives.

We spoke to the President of the Native Federation of Cacataibo Communities, Herlín Odicio, who was forced into hiding in April after death threats and attacks on his land in Ucayali escalated.

In February 2021, the government of Ucayali released a report that identified 46 clandestine airplane runways in the region, used to transport coca into neighbouring Brazil and Bolivia. The report also revealed that narcotrafficking in Ucayali caused the deforestation of 42,600 hectares of land in 2020.


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