Survival International: Peru “abjectly failing” in its duty to protect uncontacted Indians in remote Amazon

Though more then one hundred days have gone by since the Peruvian government promised to examine the impact of illegal logging on uncontacted Indians in the remote Amazon, a report has yet to be released, said Stephen Corry, the Director of the UK-based NGO Survival International.

“The Women and Social Affairs Ministry sent an investigation team to the Purús jungle (in the Department of Ucayali) after we showed them pictures that proved that non-contacted Indians living in that area had fled to Brazil,” said Corry in comments to daily Perú21. “Nonetheless, three months have gone by and we have no idea what conclusions the expedition came to.”

In May, revelations that uncontacted Indians from Peru had fled to Brazil to escape from encroaching illegal loggers were accompanied by extraordinary photos of an uncontacted tribe in Brazil that sparked an international media frenzy. The photos, taken during a fly-over of a remote part of the Amazon, featured red-painted warriors pointing arrows drawn back in longbows and aimed at the plane above.

Shortly after, Peru promised to send an investigation team to the area, and to publish a report.

But, though the report’s publication was scheduled for June, nothing has been made public.

“You could call them the world’s first ‘uncontacted refugees’,” said Corry. “Their land and homes are being destroyed – what choice do they have but flee into Brazil? The Peruvian government is abjectly failing in its duty to protect them.”

And, since the fly-over, more evidence has come to light.

On September 29, arrows belonging to the uncontacted Indians fleeing from Peru were recovered by José Carlos Meirelles, the head of a protection post established Brazil’s Department of Indian Affairs, or FUNAI, to monitor the movements of uncontacted Indians in the region.

Footprints, and the remains of a fire on the site where approximately six or seven Indians camped overnight were also found.

“What is happening… is a monumental crime against the natural world, the tribes, the fauna and is further testimony to the complete irrationality with which we, the ‘civilised’ ones, treat the world,” said Meirelles, who argued that evidence that illegal logging is taking place in the Ucayali region of Peru has been collected by FUNAI officials for several years.

“We did the overflight to show their houses, to show they are there, to show they exist,” added Meirelles. “This is very important because there are some who doubt their existence.”

Peru President Alan García has publicly suggested that uncontacted tribes don’t exist, saying they have been “invented” by “environmentalists” opposed to oil exploration in the Amazon. Other state officials have compared them to the Loch Ness Monster.

But, according to Survival International, there are fifteen uncontacted tribes in Peru, “all of them under threat from logging and oil and gas exploration,” as well as Western diseases to which they have no resistance.

“The government is not trusted with the noncontacted (Indians),” said Alberto Pizango Chota, President of the Interethnic Association for the Development of Peru’s Jungle, or Aidesep. “It is doing whatever it can to see them disappear and, this way, it can give their lands away for oil exploration.”

“The Peruvian government must not be allowed to bury this issue or to turn their backs on the uncontacted tribes,” said Corry. “What exactly is the government doing? These are some of Peru’s most vulnerable citizens and they are fleeing the country – calling them ‘uncontacted refugees’ would be no exaggeration.”

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