Date: Sun, 26 Apr 98 12:20:29 CDT
From: email@example.com (Rich Winkel)
Subject: PERU: Indigenous Ashaninkas Displaced From Their Lands
/** ppn.peru: 202.0 **/
** Topic: IPS: INDIGENOUS-PERU: Ashaninkas Displaced From Their Lands **
** Written 4:14 PM Apr 25, 1998 by newsdesk in cdp:ppn.peru **
Copyright 1998 InterPress Service, all rights reserved.
Worldwide distribution via the APC networks.
Ashaninkas Displaced From Their Lands
By Abraham Lama, IPS
22 April 1998
LIMA, Apr 22 (IPS) - The Ashaninka nation, an ethnic community
which managed to survive years of violence involving Shining Path
guerrillas and drug traffickers, now face the threat of massive
displacement from their lands in the Peruvian forests.
The 40,000 Ashaninkas, who live in mostly single family villages
along the banks of the rivers, form the most populous ethnic
nation in the the jungle regions. They work small subsistence
farms on swampy river banks and their crops might seem chaotic to
strangers. But they reproduce the natural disorder of the
neighboring forests, the ancestral habitat of the Ashaninkas,
where they hunt, fish, and from where their rich pharmacology
During the early part of this century, the indigenous were
enslaved by rubber tappers. Decades later, loggers pushed them
further into the jungle and, from 1987, they were the victims of
forced recruitment by the Maoist guerrillas of the Shining Path
and of criminal action by drug traffickers.
Unofficial estimates say as many as 5,000 Ashaninkas who resisted
the Maoist recruitment and did not escape were killed by the
guerrillas. At the same time, drug traffickers turned them into
peons to open space in the forest and build clandestine landing
strips, which the traffickers used for the illegal export of
According to official sources, between 1994 and 1995 the army
liberated more than 34 communities which were being held captive
by the guerrillas.
Now they risk being swept up in another storm of violence, this
time on the part of colonists and logging interests, their ancient
social enemies who are presenting themselves as agents of progress
and modernization in the jungle.
These new adversaries have used bureaucratic transactions and
legal arguments to win support from judicial and police
authorities in their campaign to oust the Ashaninkas from their
The issue stems from a 1995 decree issued by the government of
President Alberto Fujimori which annulled legal protection of
Ashaninka territoriy, which had been recognized by the previous
The new Land Law "modernized" agricultural property throughout
the country and annulled laws that made the land belonging to
native communities non-transferable and non-tradable. This new
law was adopted to permit them to use their land titles as
backing to obtain credit from private banks.
The 1995 decree not only demands that native communities obtain
official recognition of their lands, but also registered land
titles - which has created a temporal gap, of which lawyers for
the colonists and logging companies have taken advantage to force
the indigenous communities to leave.
At the end of March, a judge decided against seven Ashaninka
communities of the Rio Pangoa Valley, in the province of Satipo,
in the central jungle, and denied them their land titles, arguing
that they had not adequately demonstrated their rights to the
The judicial decision stated that the Ashaninka lands were
"without owner" without taking into account that the indigenous
people have lived there throughout Peru's recorded history. Also
ignored was the fact that the seven communities had initiated
transactions to obtain land titles from the Ministry of
Agriculture more than a year ago.
Guillermo Yaco, leader of one of the affected communities,
expressed dismay at the decision, because he believed the
Ashaninkas had the support of the Ministry of Agriculture, with
whom they had signed an agreement of recognition and whom they had
given 9,000 dollars for the transactions to obtain the land
According to some journalists from the region, the loggers acted
through supposed colonists who presented themselves as members of
a cooperative that consists of native Quechua migrants from the
"In the Ministry they told us that they had spent more than half
of the money that we gave them to prepare the documents that we
presented to the judge. What documents must the colonists have
presented? Perhaps others prepared by the same Ministry," said
Yaco, who announced that they would appeal the decision.
But the colonists have already established themselves on the
Ashaninka lands. Almost immediately after the legal decision was
announced, they arrived with weapons in hand and, with the
support of workers in the logging companies, destroyed some homes.
The situation seems likely to repeat itself in other neighboring
valleys to the Pangoa, and the Ashaninka communities from
Tincaveni, Mancoriani, Santa Fe de Naviroa, Tzonquerneni and
Pueblo Nuevo are also in danger because the same jd believe,
therefore, that recognizing them as the owners of the property of
the forests surrounding their village is a social and economic
The colonists who come from the Andean highlands, most native
Quechuas, make fun of their apparently chaotic farms, in which
the Ashaninkas "grow corn, annatto, rice, any thing, all mixed
together and close to their banana plants and other fruit
The Ashaninkas say that this form of cultivation "is good for
the jungle because that is the way the jungle is," and because
it does not erode the land as occurs in the land cultivated by
the colonists, who try to repeat the procedures they use in the
Andean valleys where they come from, which causes the rapid
erosion of the land.
"We never burn the forest in order to create farms, we live in
the forest and we respect it. They say we are lazy because we
abandon some farms, without understanding that we do so in order
to allow the land to rest," said Santiago Contiricon, vice-mayor
of the Ashaninka village of Santa Cruz.
[c] 1998, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS)
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