Amazonas: Awajún communities demand illegal miners withdraw from their territory to avoid possible confrontation

Amazonas: Awajún communities demand illegal miners withdraw from their territory to avoid possible confrontation
Amazonas: Awajún communities demand illegal miners withdraw from their territory to avoid possible confrontation

Illegal mining in the El Cenepa district generates fragmentations among the Awajún communities. Photos: Inregión/ Moccic

On May 29, the Cenepa Border Communities Development Organization (Odecofroc), which brings together 63 Awajún native communities, issued a statement in which it requests illegal miners who exploit gold in various communities in the El Cenepa district, in Amazon —exactly on the border with Ecuador— to withdraw to avoid possible confrontations.

According to the portal Amazon WatcherOdecofroc’s statement is published after a previous communication, made exactly in September of last year, to all pamuks —apus or bosses— to urge illegal miners to leave the area within 24 hours.

However, many miners remained in the place, which led the indigenous organization to carry out several operations with the support of the National Police of Peru, the Armed Forces and communal authorities in the last months of 2023 to force their withdrawal.

Statement released by ODECOFROC.

In the statement, the Awajún warned that any conflict that occurs will be the exclusive responsibility of the illegal miners and the apus or families that allow them entry.

Likewise, in dialogue with the portal Amazon Watchera representative of Odecofroc reported that the situation is alarming, since it has been counted up to 60 dredges along the Cenepa River.

In this sense, in order to reduce the risks and threats, the representatives of the Awajún communities personally delivered the statement to the owners of the rafts used for the extraction of illegal gold, hoping that they will withdraw peacefully.

However, the communities of Huampami and Kusukubaim They are still evaluating the possibility of a mobilization against illegal mining in the district, including the participation of other communities, with the support of the police and other local actors.

The Awajún Kusu Kubaim community is the most threatened by illegal mining, reports ODECOFROC. Photo: Public Eye

Along these lines, although all the Awajún communities that live in the district of El Cenepa are at risk, Kusu Kubaim is the most affected. However, the remoteness of this community makes it difficult to monitor illegal gold extraction, which is why Odecofroc has committed to closely monitoring its situation.

According to an analysis by the anthropologist Rodrigo Lazoillegal mining in the Cenepa River basin has increased significantly in recent years due to significant support from some Awajún communities for this illicit activity.

According to Lazo, the context surrounding support for illegal mining includes an unmet demand for basic services and an unequal power structure within communities, where certain leaders and families have dominance over resources and decisions.

Under this scenario, State interventions, such as interdictions by the Armed Forces, have not managed to reduce the presence of miners, who usually hide their equipment to avoid intervention. Added to this is the absent state presence and fruitless efforts that fuel the resentment and acceptance of illegal mining as a form of complaint.

In this sense, Lazo highlights that the acceptance of illegal mining not only responds to economic needs, but also to structural factors, such as the lack of infrastructure in health, education and communications and the vision of illegal mining. as a form of pressure on the State to invest in their communities.

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