Alarmed at the reappearance of vast private estates or latifundios, the National Confederation of Agriculture (CNA) has called for cancellation of a ministerial resolution on the grounds that it infringes the rights of the local indigenous population of Nauta, on the River Marañon. In October 2019, the president of CNA, Antolin Huascar, accused a Czech national of usurping Kukama-Kukamiria territory in complicity with the Loreto regional government.

The resolution of the environment ministry 032-2020 MINAM affects 67,000 hectares of indigenous forest land as a private conservation area.

An indigenous representative described how Marcela Kasparova and her father had invaded their territory two years previously, displacing the inhabitants and destroying their subsistence crops. There has been no prior warning from the environment ministry (MINAM), still less any consultation about this privatisation of their hereditary lands.

At issue here, however, is not the titling of state lands in favour of private individuals but land traditionally claimed by indigenous peoples who have the right to demand that the state recognise their traditional ownership.

For Conrad Feather of the Forest People’s Programme there is a pattern in the Peruvian Amazon of appropriation of collectively held untitled community lands by third parties. “Sometimes it is for oil palm and agribusiness and at other times there is a ‘green grab’ no doubt with carbon credits in mind”, he says.

He goes on “ What is consistent is the State has no mechanism for safeguarding those untitled lands and preventing them from being handed out or sold off – there is neither a due diligence mechanism nor a prior registration procedure for untitled lands– this is what we (FPP and our indigenous partners alongside the Institute of Legal Defense (IDL)) are trying to push for. If we could get something in place it would serve as interim protection while land titling processes remain eternal and inadequate!”

Usurpation is a serious issue given that 40 years on from the legislation that enabled land titling, approximately one third of indigenous territory remains untitled and therefore vulnerable to all kinds of scams. Decades of foot dragging over titling by the agriculture ministry stems from vested interests, all too often corrupt, but the involvement of MINAM in the alienation of indigenous territory is a worrying development.