Peru’s government said Tuesday that 14 shamans in the country’s north-eastern jungle region of Loreto have been murdered in the past 20 months, newspaper La Republica reported.
Deputy Intercultural Minister Vicente Otta Rivera said the murders occurred in the Balsa Puerto district, near Yurimaguas in the Alto Amazonas province.
The provincial prosecutor’s office said that the murders were allegedly ordered by the mayor of Balsa Puerto, Alfredo Torres, and carried out by his brother, Augusto, locally known as “the witch hunter.” Only seven bodies have been found, however —either shot, stabbed or hacked with machetes. The seven other shamans have been reported missing.
Rogger Rumrill, a leading researcher on Amazonian issues, said the murders are related to “protestant sects” that Torres and his brother belong to, the daily said.
“For these protestant sects, the shamans are people possessed by demons, so they have to be killed,” Rumrill said.
The shamans, folk healers who are repositeries of ancient herbal lore, are from the Shaui community, one of the 13 ethnolinguistic groups in Peru’s Amazonia. They had been planning to form an association to share their knowledge collectively.
Speaking on Radio Programas Peru, Torres denied any responsibility in the murders and said that the killings were revenge by families of people who the shaman had unsuccessfully tried to heal.
“For many years they have practiced the ancient custom of killing the witches, making them responsible for the death of some family member who was receiving treatment from the shaman,” said Torres.