Peru seeks to protect Mashco-Piro tribe from displacement
The Peruvian government seeks to protect Mashco-piro an Amazonian tribe which has been living in isolation for years and recently began to leave its territory, probably driven by mining and illegal logging.
It is an ethnic group of hunters and gatherers who speak an unknown language. Consisting of about 800 members, for years the tribe has lived on a reservation of Madre de Dios (on the border with Brazil), the region with the largest illegal gold production in the country, but now it is moving.
"They are probably driven out of their territories by the presence and attacks of illegal loggers or new native communities settled around the reservation," said Lorena Prieto, head of the Direction of indigenous people in isolation of the Ministry of Culture.
Concern aroused in 2014, when an unidentified group left the reservation in Madre de Dios and has been sighted permanently having contacts with some community members and tourists who gave them food and clothing.
Illegal mining has devastated 55,000 hectares of forests in the region. Peru is the largest gold producer in Latin America and the fifth largest gold producer in the world.
Exposed to all
Given its condition of isolation, Prieto warned that the immune system of the mashco-piros would be "very vulnerable to germs that carry other people."
They may also find inhabitants of native communities as hostile, because they do not speak their language or because they would see unknown to them animals, such as dogs.
"The small groups of mashco-piros have been sighted in the Yanayacu gorge near the Shipetiari community in the same region, alarming some 150 Machiguenga Indians who live scattered in the villages," said the specialist.
In December 2014, 200 mashco-piros invaded the community of Monte Salvado and threatened the one in Puerto Nuevo, whose inhabitants barricaded themselves with weapons to repel a possible attack.
The tension was settled when the government evacuated the 39 villagers of Monte Salvado and 22 of Puerto Nuevo, leaving the mashco-piros masters of the situation for a few weeks. Then they withdrew, taking food and animals. Only then the evacuees could return.
After the critical situation the Shipetiari community has faced, the Ministry of Culture has developed a plan to organize the villagers, find an interpreter to communicate with mashco-piros on their arrival and thus know "why they are leaving the reservation area and whether there are sick or injured who need help."
"A team of medical specialists has been assembled to help them if they need it," explained the official.
The Direction of Indigenous People is holding consultations with Brazilian experts and anthropologists to ensure the integrity of indigenous people.
"The rights if the indigenous people in isolation are protected by the United Nations, including the right of self-determination to live in isolation, that the state must respect and protect," Prieto said.
In the region of Madre de Dios there are 4 thousand and five Indians, most of the ethnicity of the harakbuts (1628), followed by the machiguengas (705) and yines (607), according to official figures.
It is known that there are three tribes living in isolation in the region. Although there are no firm statistics, according to estimates by the Direction of Indigenous People there are three groups of machiguengas of 150 natives, nahuatls of 300, and mashco-piros of 800.
When the mashco-piros invaded Monte Salvado, the Native Federation of the river and tributaries of Madre de Dios (FENAMAD) alleged that it was "a desperate action, because their lands have been invaded by illegal woodcutters and drug traffickers, which have turned the place in the pathway for drug transportation to Brazil."
According to FENAMAD the situation further complicates by the fact that the touristic routs in Madre de Dios will cause encounters with mashco-piros. The government promised to investigate the matter which poses risks to the natives.