The "fever" of palm oil in Peru threatens the ancestral Amazon



While the forests of Peru become new sources of palm oil, the most demanded in the world, the inhabitants of the Amazon are threatened by the growing deforestation and speculation that this lucrative crop encourages.

"We no longer have access to the territory of ancestral use, it has been devastated by exploitation", explains in an interview with Efe Carlos Hoyos Soria, founder of the Native Community of Santa Clara de Uchunya (Ucayali), located in the middle of the Amazon jungle, biggest in the world.

Hoyos arrived in Washington this week, along with other members of his community, to ask the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to recognize the place where his people are located and thus be protected from the expansion of crops. Oil palm.

This business has not stopped growing in Peru since 2012, once the soils of Malaysia and Indonesia ceased to be profitable for the incessant demand.

In cosmetics, food and even as fuel for vehicles, palm oil is present in almost everything, but its appearance in the daily life of the indigenous communities of Peru has shaken thousands of people who, for the interests in their fertile lands , they can lose their home and even their lives.

"We are not against the investment, we just want the State to grant us ownership of the ancestral territory of our community to be safe from speculation and land trafficking," he says.

According to Hoyos' version, land traffickers, interested in acquiring fertile land to sell to agricultural companies, opened fire while he was guarding the surroundings of his house, but the threats have reached more: a neighbor of his community had to flee after they completely burned their home.

"We live from hunting and fishing, nature gives us food, medicines and educates our children," says Hoyos, dressed in traditional clothing, while trying to convey in the American capital the philosophy with which he lives among the Amazonian trees.

This community wants to solve the problem diplomatically before the blood reaches the river, because, Hoyos recalls, "four brothers from another settlement were shot dead."

"We are peaceful people (...) we do not want to reach that point", ditch.

Álvaro Másquez, a lawyer from the Legal Defense Institute in charge of the Indigenous Peoples Area, accompanies the delegation on its trip to Washington.

During a hearing, he asked the IACHR to visit the community and to transmit his request to the Peruvian State, as well as to request information on the judicial proceedings opened against those responsible for attacking and intimidating indigenous people, lawyers and activists.

This lawyer recalled that several judges rejected their complaints until the Constitutional Court agreed to review the case, which will be resolved next year and has opened a space for hope.

A favorable resolution "could solve it, but it only opens administrative opportunities", qualifies Másquez.

Carlos Reaño, Attorney of the Peruvian State, reminded the IACHR that there are precedents in the Constitutional Court with a positive resolution, since Article 89 of the Constitution considers that native communities can make use of the territory.

"There are things that can be improved," accepted the State representative, while reminding that "the legal personality of the community was not registered."

But the State does not seem to have the sole responsibility for the concern of these families.

According to Jamer López, representative of the Federation of Native Communities of Ucayali, the regional government granted land to speculators, and some officials benefit from the activity of the companies.

Lopez also criticized that the denunciations of abuses interposed in police stations and local entities open investigations that "do not reach conclusions" and they are waiting for.

While waiting for the Constitutional to rule and the Peruvian State finished preparing a Sustainable Development Plan for Palm Oil, in addition to waiting for the IACHR to prepare the report announced this week, the lives of more than 1,300 communities, warning López, will continue to be disturbed by the most controversial but most used oil in the developed world.

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