The Guardias Indígenas of COSHICOX protect their territories of life against 'colonial invasions' of Mennonites in the Peruvian Amazon

The Guardias Indígenas of COSHICOX protect their territories of life against ‘colonial invasions’ of Mennonites in the Peruvian Amazon

For several years, the system of Guardias Indígenas of the Shipibo-Conibo communities (COSHICOX) in the Peruvian Amazon has been monitoring, carrying out surveillance and resisting the growing threats to the local communities. The communities have been invaded by commercial fishermen, illegal loggers, land traffickers, drug traffickers and foreign communities such as the Mennonites who appropriate the land in much the same way as a colonial expansion. In less than eight years after the first families of the Mennonite religious group began to irregularly occupy the Shipibo-Conibo’s ancestral territories, the Mennonites have cleared at least 4,000 hectares of forest with no permit to either modify the landscape or to harvest the forest.

Aggressions against the communities have become increasingly serious and some Mennonite agricultural projects are backed by the local police and supported by the Regional Directorate of Agriculture. For instance, the Caimito community is well known for being at the forefront of the fight against a government-imposed conservation area. In the summer of 2023, Caimito was attacked by the Mennonites with heavy machinery that felled trees and cleared the rainforest. In this video you can see how the police accompanies the Mennonites and backs them up when they are confronted by the Guardias Indígenas who block their way.

In 2023, many community members and their allies continue to protest peacefully to demand an end to the Mennonite invasion of their territory. A four-day mobilization took place in August 2023 after representatives of the Shipibo Conibo, Ashaninka, and Asheninka indigenous peoples signed the Masisea declaration.  The declaration demands that the Peruvian government and the international community take measures to guarantee the territorial property rights of the indigenous peoples of the Peruvian Amazon and to stop land grabbing by Mennonites and logging of the rainforest by illegal loggers and drug traffickers.

In 2021, the Feyerabend Foundation assigned a first small support to the initiative of the indigenous organization COSHIKOX that formally created its Guardias Indígenas to protect its territories of life. The Guardias Indígenas and the members of the local communities are still active and not backing down: after the first Mennonite incursion, they continue to protest, block the passage and camp day and night on the border of their territories to stop any new arrival of foreigners. In retaliation, the police has begun investigating community members!  Furthermore, instead of celebrating the autonomous work of the Caimito Guardias Indígenas to stop illegal commercial fishing in their lagoon, the police insists on dismantling their efforts.

All the details of the mobilization of the indigenous and peasant communities against the Mennonites can be found in two new Internet platforms designed in 2023 to inform everyone about what is happening to the Shipibo-Conibo people and expand their international support network. As of June 2023, new Guardias Indígenas have been sworn in in four more communities. These communities – each with an important lagoon – are forming their self-governed and self-managed ecological areas. The Legal Defence Institute accompanies them in this work, which is necessary because the Peruvian government unfortunately criminalizes and represses the people who peacefully demand justice and respect for indigenous territories, and their rights to live with dignity as peoples. The government does not even exempt itself from presenting unusual accusations of ‘organized crime’ against those who peacefully protest impositions and even the assassinations of human rights and environmental defenders.

In 2023, the Feyerabend Foundation has decided to offer a second urgent support to back up the Guardias Indígenas of COSHICOX with various materials, fuel, transportation expenses, and legal advice. The Foundation thanks the Guardias Indígenas for their courageous and valuable efforts for nature conservation and sustainable and dignified living – far from the paper projects that absorb large financial resources but disappear in the face of illegal colonization by groups with important political backing.

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