Authorities in Peru are now investigating the killing of an environmental advocate and indigenous leader who died late in August. The advocate, Edwin Chota, died along with three other men in a remote area of the Amazon jungle that Chota had sought to protect from illegal logging.
Now, illegal loggers are being blamed for the murder of the four Ashaninka natives. Chota was the leader of the Ashaninka Indian village, which is near the Brazilian border. Chota fought for his people’s right to gain titles to their land and expel illegal loggers who have continued to raid the forests on the Brazilian border. According to The New York Times, “Mr. Chota had been working to have the authorities grant his village formal title to their traditional lands in an effort to prevent incursions by loggers,” of his most recent efforts to protect the environment.
“This is a terribly sad outcome. And the saddest part is that it was a foreseen event,” said Julia Urrunaga, Peru director for the Environmental Investigation Agency, an international conservation group. “It was widely known that Edwin Chota and other leaders from the Alto Tamaya-Saweto community were asking for protection from the Peruvian authorities because they were receiving death treats from the illegal loggers operating in their area,” she explains.
National Geographic and The New York Times had featured Chota in many reports, detailing the death threats that were made constantly against him and members of his community “The law does not reach where we live,” Mr. Chota said last year in an interview with The New York Times. “They could kill us at any time.”
The exact circumstances of the deaths are not clear but one local indigenous leader, Robert Guimaraes Vasquez, told newspapers that some illegal loggers and bound and then shot Chota and companions in a sports field that was actually in the village, in from of the inhabitants.