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3 Aug 2020


Peru: Illegal mining and forestry on Indigenous land continues during pandemic, Indigenous leader murdered

“Forest crimes persist in Peru following Indigenous leader’s murder” – 3 August 2020

…A gunshot ended the life of Indigenous leader Arbildo Meléndez Grandes in Peru. On a Sunday in early April this year, he went hunting and fishing for his family and was allegedly shot by the person accompanying him. Meléndez was the leader of the Indigenous Cacataibo community of Unipacuyacu, which is located near the border between the Ucayali and Huánuco regions. “Ever since he assumed the role, he has received threats,” said Zulema Guevara Sandoval, Meléndez’s wife, in an interview with Mongabay Latam. Guevara said that when her husband was named president of Unipacuyacu, he decided to push for the land title to their communal territory — a request that had gone unaddressed for more than 20 years since the community was recognized in 1995. Meléndez also faced land-grabbers entering the community’s territory to illegally cultivate coca plants. Unipacuyacu is one of the communities in the region that has fallen victim to narcotrafficking. In November 2019, Mongabay Latam reported on the same problem in the community of Puerto Nuevo, located in the same area. Meléndez’s death is one of a series of environmental crimes associated with criminal groups that have been reported since a state of emergency sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic began in Peru. In the Madre de Dios region, various operations undertaken against illegal miners reveal how they have managed to continue to operate, despite the lockdown measures imposed by authorities. In Ucayali and Loreto, recent seizures of timber confirm that illegal loggers have found the emergency to be an easy way to evade justice…The operations carried out in Peru’s Amazon region are showing that illegal activity has not stopped, despite the lockdown measures ordered nationwide…