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Date: Sun, 26 Apr 98 12:20:29 CDT
From: rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: PERU: Indigenous Ashaninkas Displaced From Their Lands
Article: 33364
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.1839.19980430121810@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

/** 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 derives.

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 cocaine paste.

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 lands.

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 Constitution.

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 property.

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 titles.

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 Andean region.

"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 waste.

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 trees."

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.



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