Indigenous leader shot to death outside her home in Ucayali

By April 20, 2018


Olivia Arévalo, indigenous leader and wise woman of the Amazonian indigenous group Shipibo-Konibo, was shot and killed on Thursday outside her home in the Victoria Gracia community, Ucayali.

The Indigenous Federation of Ucayali (FECONAU) reported the event on Facebook Thursday night in a public denouncement. They stated that the tragic event happened at around 12:30 p.m. Thursday, when an unknown subject shot the indigenous leader five times in the chest before escaping on a motorbike.  

Arévalo was a well-known advocate for indigenous rights in the community who fought for environmental protection against her peoples’ native lands.

The organization made a call to motivate the Peruvian state to guarantee the lives of other indigenous leaders from the Shipibo-Konibo town, who are also receiving death threats and harassment.

Peru’s Congress held a minute’s silence in memory of Arévalo on Friday, and legislator of political party Nuevo Peru (New Peru) Tania Pariomi highlighted the fact that this is not an isolated case.

“Indigenous leaders in the Amazon have been receiving death threats for a good while now,” she stated, adding that five farmers had also been killed in the region, presumably due to illegal land trafficking.

Congress recently gave the OK to make a highway cutting through this same land that Arévalo dedicated her life to protecting. In the Ucayali region, among other Amazonian areas, more than 680,000 acres of land could be at risk of deforestation, studies have shown.

The Ministry of Culture said in a statement on its website that they stood by their promise to guarantee the rights of indigenous towns in the country, and expressed their solidarity with her relatives and the Victoria Garcia Community inYarinacocha, Ucayali.

“We are in contact with the corresponding authorities in order to clear up the facts of the event as quickly as possible,” the statement read.

The Peruvian Ombudsman also called for action to be taken in the apprehension of those responsible in a tweet published Thursday.

“We strongly condemn the cruel assassination of Oliva Arévalo, member of the indigenous town Shipibo-Konibo,” the Ombudsman said. “We are immediately following up with the Peru Police and Tribunal for them to investigate the event in detail. We ask the authorities to provide protection for the affected family.”

Peru has had numerous problems with violence towards indigenous populations in the Amazon, as the super-diverse landscape is a mine of untapped resources for illegal loggers or miners who have few scruples. However, the areas are often populated with indigenous communities who believe that their land is sacred and must be protected, and refuse to be bullied.

Survival International has reported that these communities are under immense threats, as oil and gas concessions cut across over 70% of Peru’s Amazon region. This not only puts uncontacted tribes at risk, but many communities are threatened with violence if they do not leave their native region.

Although Peru has created some large nature reserves recently, it is very difficult for the state to catch the illegal miners in the region.

As this is a high profile case, there is the hope that the authorities will take it seriously and try and fight against this threat which has been affecting indigenous people in Peru for a long time.