Ojo Público has published a detailed report into the Saweto case; this concerns the assassination of five indigenous whistleblowers after they denounced years of illegal logging in their territory without any meaningful response by state authorities. The case highlights the role of corruption and indifference with regard to indigenous rights violations and deforestation.
The Ojo Público study, prepared with support from the NGO Proética, details the efforts made over six years by Edwin Chota, leader of the Saweto community on the Peruvian-Brazilian border, to persuade regional and national officials to investigate illegal logging in his community. This endeavour led to Chota’s assassination, along with four other indigenous people, in September 2014.
Despite the international outrage generated in the meantime, little has changed since then. Six weeks after the assassination. the Ucayali regional government excluded 48,000 hectares of community land from the logging concession granted to Eco Forestal Ucayali SAC.
The Saweto Action Plan, which was intended to promote health, education, transport projects and programmes in favour of women and social inclusion, has produced scant results. Work has still not begun on a 35 km trail linking Saweto with its Brazilian counterpart Apiucha. A proposal to build houses for 25 families involving an investment of S/.10,000 (roughly US$3,000) per family has barely begun.
Twelve years after the process began, last year the community obtained legal title to its territory. Illegal logging charges which, if sustained, would involve five years imprisonment, have been laid against three persons. A fourth accused, the logging entrepreneur and founder of Eco Forestal Ucayali, José Estrada Huayta, was excluded from the process. A government prosecutor finally began an investigation into those suspected of the assassinations last year.
The Ojo Público investigators conclude that these long delays and lack of action on the part of state authorities demonstrate a clear pattern of indolence, indifference and impunity.