Eye on the Amazon

Shipibo Leader Demands #LandRightsNow in Amazon and End To Repression of Indigenous Activists

Ronald Suárez at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York City. Photo credit: Amazon Watch

Amazon Watch has had the pleasure of knowing Shipibo indigenous activist Ronald Suárez for many years. In 2005 he participated in a communications course we offered in Peru in cooperation with the human rights communications organization Witness. Ronald has since gone on to make several documentaries highlighting the threats in his Ucayali region of the Peruvian Amazon. In 2016 he was elected to serve as President of the Shipibo Konibo Xetebo Council, which represents some 38,000 Shipibo people.

Over the last several weeks, we were honored to support Ronald's activities at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York City and during the Peoples Climate March in Washington, DC. We supported Ronald in getting his message to broader audiences through participation in a public forum, meeting Leonardo DiCaprio, and circulating his statement before the U.N. to English-language audiences. His trip was organized and financed by the Shipibo Conibo Center in New York City.

Ronald's speech highlights issues facing indigenous peoples across Peru and the Amazon writ large. He underscores the global dynamic in which indigenous leaders, land defenders, and environmental activists are increasingly threatened by economic and political interests – sometimes even facing death for their work. Ronald himself has received death threats and returns to Peru concerned for his own safety.

This article was originally published by the Peru-based Servindi on May 4th, in both Spanish and English.

Shipibo Leader Issued Amazonian Demands at the UN Permanent Forum

Ronald Suárez Maynas, president of the Shipibo Conibo Xetebo Council, outlined the serious threats facing the Peruvian Amazon during the 16th session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, currently being carried out in New York City through May 5th.

The indigenous communications expert from the Shipibo people, and one of the founders of the Peruvian Network of Indigenous Communicators (REDCIP), demanded that the Peruvian government guarantee and expedite processes of communal land titling, put the brakes on natural resource extraction, and suspend all mega-projects that pose a threat to uncontacted indigenous communities, especially projects tainted by corruption.

Suárez explained before the Permanent Forum how indigenous territories are being subject to violence and the rights of indigenous communities threatened. He demanded that governments, in particular the Peruvian government, recognize the self-determination of his indigenous people.

Below we include the speech of Ronald Suárez, whose presence received much coverage amongst the media during the Permanent Forum as during the Peoples Climate March in which he participated at the side of the famous actor Leonardo DiCaprio, winner of the Oscar and active defender of indigenous peoples facing climate change.

Madame Chair, sisters, brothers –

I represent the voice of 35,000 inhabitants of the Shipibo Konibo Xetebo indigenous people, in the region of Ucayali within the Peruvian Amazon. Ucayali is characterized by high levels of violence carried out against indigenous peoples, primarily related to the seizing of land and extraction of forestry resources.

These threats have been increasing in recent years and well-known indigenous leaders from my region have been assassinated for defending their territories. Other activists face a situation of permanent intimidation.

There are different but related factors behind the violence, including racial discrimination, lack of access to justice, laws and policies that promote natural resource extraction while threatening our rights, the interest that transnational agro-industrial corporations have in accessing our lands, water, and other natural resources, and the lack of government capacity to protect us from abuses.

To mention one example: Currently, the territory and lives of members of the community of Santa Clara de Uchunya are facing serious problems because their ancestral territory has been under assault by the agro-industrial companies that form the Melka Group – known by the nickname "Forest Eaters" – which are still members of the London Stock Exchange.

As part of this systematic policy, some 13,000 hectares of forest were cut down. Where are we going to live? If our homes are destroyed, what future awaits our upcoming generations?

In this context as an indigenous people we have initiated a process of self-government which looks to exercise our self-determination.

For this we demand our integral recognition to allow us to consolidate our economy and our own organization.

Today, we demand that the Peruvian government:

  • Guarantee and accelerate the processes of territorial land titling.
  • Halt the expansion of natural resource extraction projects.
  • Suspend the implementation of infrastructure megaprojects, such as IIRSA, the Inter-Oceanic Train, which place in serious risk those indigenous peoples who are living in voluntary isolation.
  • Address the fact that these projects are associated with cases of international mega-corruption.
  • Promote a sustainable future through a feasible and alternative development plan that respects nature and recognizes our collective knowledge and medicinal plants.

Ichabires Irake (thank you very much)

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