Can Peru Control the Murderous Resource Rush on its Forest Frontiers?

10 October 2014

Six weeks ago, a powerful voice for conservation and governance on Peru’s ragged, violent Amazon rain forest frontier was silenced, adding the name Edwin Chota to the lamentable list of campaigners and others killed around the world in places where a rush for valuable resources takes place in the absence of enforced rules.

Chota, a leader of the Ashaninka Indian village of Saweto near the border with Brazil, was murdered with three companions on Sept. 1.

As Scott Wallace so vividly reported for National Geographic in 2013, Chota was adept at organizing patrols to confront loggers on tribal territory, echoing the work of Chico Mendes, the rubber tapper who similarly fought — and died — just across the border in Brazil in 1988.

A critical issue in the Peruvian forest is land title. “As long as we don’t have title, the loggers don’t respect native ownership,” Chota told Wallace in 2013. “They threaten us. They intimidate. They have the guns.”

And they use them.

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